– Kentucky beat South Carolina today 79-64. At the conclusion of the game, one of the studio commentators described the Wildcats’ performance as “Ho Hum.” While I know the feed inside the studio can’t be great, I can’t help but think he skipped the second half.
– Yes, the final spread was only 15. Yes, Kentucky had 15 turnovers. Yes, Kentucky was out rebounded 30-32. All of those things being true, Kentucky still dominated this game. There wasn’t a moment in the final 27 minutes where the outcome was in doubt.
– South Carolina controlled things early and opened up to a 4-0 run. Kentucky responded in the third minute and started a 5-0 run, capped by a MKG to T.Jones monster mash in the fifth minute. As the clock crawled toward the second TV timeout, Doron Lamb and Bruce Ellington got things going behind the three point line (Ellington finding nylon twice in this period) and the Gamecocks put on a rebounding clinic. After a Malik Cooke jumper in the tenth minute, Carolina cut the lead to 3 (13-16).
– Following the third TV timeout in the thirteenth minute, the Big Blue giant woke up and opened up a can of instant offense. In the period bewteen 7:16 and halftime, Kentucky was 6-9 from the field, 3-4 from the free throw line and 6 rebounds. Anthony Davis ended the period on his own terms, throwing down a bone crushing oop in traffic to extend the deficit to 16. At the break, Kentucky led Scar 34-18.
– In the first half, Kentucky shot 56.5% from the field, 40% from behind the arc and 66% from the charity stripe. Carolina, on the other hand, struggled a great deal. South Carolina made just 25% of their field goals, 10% (!!) of their 3 point attempts and 50% of their free throws. Amazingly, the Gamecocks managed to out rebound the Cats 19-15 in the first period, while Davis’ 3 blocks led all players.
– If the first half was ‘uncertainty,’ the second half was ‘Point Blank. Period.’ In an effort that seemed to be in response to a live blog comment decrying UK basketball as “not fun,” Kentucky’s Big Blue superheroes delivered the buckets in bunches. The Cats pushed the lead to 20 in the third minute of the second half and refused to let the lead fall below 16 until the tenth minute. At one point, early in the second period, the Cats improved the FG% to 65%. In the twelfth minute of the second half, UK’s 3PT% was at 50%. In the fifteenth, Kentucky pushed the lead back out to 20. The Cocks closed the deficit to 15 in the final minute, and Kentucky zipped em’ up 79-64.
– South Carolina shot considerably better in the second half. The Cocks were 17-32 from the field (53%) and 5-12 from distance (41.7%). The Cats improved their first half numbers and posted a 61% FG% (16-26), 50% from behind the arc (3-6) and 76.9% from the stripe (10-13). Kentucky out rebounded Scar 15-13 in the second period and Davis added 4 more blocks.
– Terrence Jones led all scorers with 20 points (8-9 FGs, 1-2 3PTs, 3-5 FTs) and added 3 rebounds. Teague, Davis, Lamb and Gilchrist scored 17, 12, 10 and 9 respectively. Vargas looked good with a steal and a pair, Miller added 4 points and Wiltjer had 5 points and a rebound in 8 minutes. Kentucky was 29-49 from the field (59.2%), 5-11 from behind the arc (45.5%) and 72% from the stripe.
Looking back at the ‘five things to watch for’ from the preview:
1. Which Terrence Jones showed up today?
– It’s safe to say that the real Terrence Jones stood up today. Jones put up 26 against St. John’s but his 20 point effort is his second highest total of the season. His 8-9 performance from the field is good for 88.8%, a career best.
2. Did Davis continue to dominate with rebounds?
– While the team was ultimately out rebounded by USC, Davis’ 10 boards led all players. However, 8 of those 10 came on the defensive side of the court; MKG and Jones grabbed two offensive boards each. Again, Kentucky out rebounded Scar 15-13 in the final 20 minutes.
3. Did Teague control the ball and tempo?
– There isn’t a member of the BBN that is upset with Teague for scoring 17 points. Anytime a Wildcat sets a career high, the Big Blue Faithful should be pleased, especially when the guy is 60% from the floor. Teague matched his season average with 4 assists, but fans should be really happy with his turnover count: 2. And any night a guy shoots for 1.000 from the 3 line is never bad.
4. Did Kentucky’s 3 point shooting improve? (Must be higher than 36%)
– Yes. Kentucky was 5-11 from behind the arc (45.5%). What’s more, the 15 points garnered from those shots comprised roughly 19% of Kentucky’s 79 point total. If you’ll recall, their average on the year is 21%, so the Cats didn’t simply “shoot more threes.” They were just more efficient.
5. Did Kentucky cover? (Do they beat expectations?)
– No. If the spread was -21, Kentucky got close, as they pushed the lead to 20 several times.
Be happy. Go cats.