South Carolina may be 11-10, but they’re 6-2 in SEC play with wins over Mississippi State, Florida, and Auburn. After a brutal non-conference run, Frank Martin has his team playing as well as anyone in the SEC, according to John Calipari.
“Frank has South Carolina playing so well right now,” Cal said on this morning’s SEC Teleconference. “They do what they do defensively. They’re disruptive, they play physical, they rebound with five guys but he’s also got them playing fast, so now you’ve got a team that can stop you from scoring and disrupt your offense yet they’re making threes. Their freshman is playing well, their seniors, their upperclassmen are playing well. They’re playing as well as anybody in our league.”
That freshman is A.J. Lawson, who’s second on the team in scoring with 13.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. First in scoring is senior Chris Silva, who averages 14.1 points and 7.0 rebounds. Silva had 32 points and 14 rebounds in South Carolina’s big win over Auburn last week and 28 points and 10 rebounds in a blowout loss to Tennessee the week prior. He had 27 points and 8 rebounds in South Carolina’s win over Kentucky last season.
“He presents a major challenge for us,” Joel Justus said of Silva today. “He’s very physical. He gets fouled a ton. He has a great sense, number one, of creating fouls, drawing fouls. He’s a little bit like an Ashton Hagans in that he just kind of pops up, blocks a shot, gets a steal. You know him over and it’s a charge. He’s just a pest on defense, very similar to what people are describing Ashton of being, a little bit of a pest in the low post.”
Kentucky’s freshmen have played well vs. physical teams this season, but Calipari warned that South Carolina will provide a different type of challenge than they’ve seen this season.
“They’ve done pretty well. But this disruptive play is different in that they try to keep you from catching balls, they try to push your offense way high, they collapse on drives to make you make decisions on your own. For inexperienced young people, it’s a hard game to play. We’ve struggled with South Carolina every year I’ve been here.”