The South Carolina Gamecocks entered Tuesday night’s game against fifth-ranked Kentucky knowing they had a tough task ahead of them. The scorching hot Wildcats, winners of eight in a row, made it nine as they handled the visiting Gamecocks to the tune of 76-48.
South Carolina’s offense, which had been asserting itself in recent weeks, was smothered by Kentucky’s defense. The Gamecocks shot just 36 percent from the field, including 28 percent in the second half when a woeful stretch saw USC miss 10 consecutive shots. The second half on a whole was a nightmare for South Carolina, which trailed by as many as 20 points and had only scored seven of its own roughly halfway through the period.
While early foul trouble to some key players didn’t help, the Gamecocks did themselves no favors. Kentucky slaughtered South Carolina on the boards, holding a 50-27 rebounding edge, and also outperformed USC at the foul line, where the Gamecocks were just 5 of 14. Even worse, South Carolina was badgered into 19 turnovers, which the Wildcats cashed in for 26 points.
Freshmen Tre Campbell and A.J. Lawson were the only double-digit scorers for USC, with 12 points each. Hassani Gravett had just two off the bench, and Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar could only muster eight points between them (four each).
This was the Gamecocks’ fourth loss to a top-five opponent this season, and really, there’s not a whole lot you can say about it. Over their past eight games, Kentucky has now held seven opponents below 40 percent from the field, and the Gamecocks just weren’t talented enough to keep up. The first half ended with South Carolina trailing by a respectable 39-28 margin, but the Gamecocks don’t have the horses to weather the long scoring droughts they suffered in the second half — and especially not against an opponent of Kentucky’s caliber.
South Carolina (11-11, 6-3 SEC) will look for a bounceback when it hosts Arkansas on Saturday.