South Carolina enters Rupp Arena today with the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats awaiting the Gamecocks.
The game is the afternoon showing on ESPN during a college basketball Saturday that lacks any big-time match-ups.
The Gamecocks have already played the Wildcats once and UK will be the first repeat opponent for USC this season.
On January 24, the Wildcats came to Colonial Life Arena and walked away with a 58-43 win. The Gamecocks were in that game for about a half and some change before Kentucky's suffocating defense really started to lock down and USC started a too familiar second half offensive drought. Frank Martin's team played very well in the beginning of that game, making freshman Karl Anthony-Towns completely ineffective and attacking Willie Cauley-Stein to get him in early foul trouble. It was a freshman guard that did the most damage to the Garnet & Black. With the UK defense locking down, freshman guard Devin Booker began to drain his outside shots, helping pull Kentucky away from South Carolina. His double-pump shotgun celebration after makes was too common in Colonial Life Arena that afternoon for this to be considered a game.
The Gamecocks can guard. We all know that. That January 24 meeting is the lowest scoring output Kentucky has produced all season. Saturday's matchup vs. the Wildcats will feature two of the top 10 defensive teams in the country in terms of opponent field goal percentage with USC eighth in the nation in that category and UK ranking first. Only five teams in the modern era of college basketball have played defense as good or better than this Kentucky team. Three of those five teams ended the season as National Champions.
That's what is at stake for Kentucky. They've had several close calls this season (Ole Miss, Texas A&M, LSU) and it begs the question as to whether they would still be undefeated if they were in a superior basketball conference. At stake for South Carolina is pride. At 12-11, this season has already been filled with plenty of disappointing moments, blown leads, extensive scoring droughts, and confusing decision-making. The Gamecocks have only won twice ever in Rupp Arena (2-25). A win would be great but they don't need that. They just can't be embarrassed. Progress needs to be shown and after a close-at-times home win against a Missouri team that isn't very good and was missing two players, I am a little concerned.
Ease my pains on this Valentine's Day, Gamecocks. Ease my pain.
The game will be broadcasted at 2pm ET on ESPN where Adam Admin and Dick Vitale will have the call baby!