I don’t know what to say after that one. I really don’t. If I didn’t have an obligation to write a bunch of words after each game, I’d type “I want those 2.5 hours of my life back,” hit publish, close my laptop and then go watch 1,000-lb Sisters on TLC. But that game needs a documented recap in KentuckySportsRadio.com’s records, so let’s find a way to summarize that hideous display of basketball (and officiating) that we all just watched on the SEC Network. If you were there in person, you should inquire about a ticket refund.
Here we go. This is going to suck. We’re not even going to number anything. Who cares.
Kentucky lost to a horrible South Carolina team.
In case you just wandered in here off the streets, let’s begin this adventure by pointing out the overarching theme to the evening: tenth-ranked Kentucky lost a basketball game at nothing-ranked South Carolina, 81-78. That is the same South Carolina that hadn’t won at home since Dec. 1; the same South Carolina that lost to Houston by 20 at home, then Stetson by 9 at home, and then Florida by 13 at home.
We’re going to break company policy and talk officiating right out of the gate.
My goodness, how bad was the officiating tonight? There are only 40 minutes in a college basketball game and the crew somehow found a way to call 54 fouls. Take a breath, guys. Maybe let the 10 college students around you have a chance to, you know, play basketball. It’s why they were there, on the basketball court, wearing basketball uniforms. The rest of us tuned in for them, not you.
That’s not to put the loss on the officiating crew because Kentucky still should’ve won the horribly-called game. This isn’t a sore loser thing. The refs just gave us an unwatchable product, which is becoming an all-too common problem in the sport, and robbed both teams of any flow to the game. It was bad both ways: missed calls, ticky-tack calls, wrong calls, the hell are you doing calls and even an eye-roll for Ashton Hagans for having the audacity to make his case after a whistle.
I’ve never in my life seen a ref do this. Wow ???? pic.twitter.com/RIdrC5oEZu
— Big Blue Drew (@BigBlueDrew33) January 16, 2020
Then again, that’s exactly what South Carolina wanted. Frank Martin’s team loves to muck it up and throw its opponent out of rhythm. Mission accomplished.
But the defense started off so well!
Kentucky didn’t allow anything to start the game, holding the Gamecocks without a made basket until almost seven minutes into the game. South Carolina did get two free throws to end the shutout after over five minutes of nothing in the scoring column, but only because it was already in the bonus. Yes, South Carolina was in the bonus before making a field goal.
Unfortunately, Kentucky wasn’t exactly lighting it up on the other end to capitalize on its D. The Cats had six turnovers in the first six minutes, in addition to all of those fouls.
Turnovers and Fouls would be a great name for a book about this game by the way.
The second half defense was butt.
South Carolina scored 60 points only once in the four games before Kentucky came to town. In the other three games in that four-game span, the Gamecocks’ final point totals were 59, 56 and 55. You see, South Carolina is a very low-scoring team, one of the worst shooting teams in the continental United States.
South Carolina scored 56 in the second half against Kentucky.
The really good teams hit the gas and speed off ahead when up 14 in the second half. Kentucky did the opposite.
Rather than putting the pedal to the metal, Kentucky took a quick glance in its rearview, slammed on the brakes, turn its head over its right shoulder with its right arm around the passenger seat, and drove the complete opposite direction in reverse.
Coach Cal said it himself after the game: Once Kentucky got up 14 early in the second half, the lead should’ve been stretched to 20+ and everyone’s happy on the plane ride home. This team did the exact opposite of that and let South Carolina get back in the game, then went even further and watched South Carolina go on to win the game.
Foul trouble played a big role in giving up the lead, as did the never-quit in South Carolina. You can commend the Gamecocks for fighting back — cockfighting back, rather. But you gotta put things away for good when you can or you set yourself up to lose on a banked-in prayer at the buzzer.
Also, that buzzer-beater is the most South Carolina way to win a basketball game. Was there any doubt that Cuisinart or whatever his name was would fling one in? That dude had a career game. 26 points on 22 shots when he averaged nine points and eight shot attempts per game all season. Of course it’s THAT guy who beats you when South Carolina’s star, AJ Lawson, was a complete non-factor, which is another reason this outcome is so bizarre.
Are we still going? Let’s keep going.
Shout out to Immanuel Quickley.
Quickley tried to will Kentucky to victory all by himself there at the end. He had a team-high 20 points and at one point made his 13th three-pointer in his last 14 tries (not all in this game obviously). In a game full of negatives, one of the few positives is Immanuel Quickley’s emergence into a star is still pushing forward. He’s averaging a team-best 19.0 points with 16 3-pointers over the last five games.
Poor Keion Brooks was robbed of another important tip-in.
A couple of times in a matter of seconds, actually.
He and Whitney seem to be taking one step forward, two steps back; although Brooks was big on the glass in the loss. He matched Richards’ team-high seven rebounds, but missed all five of his shot attempts.
Whitney, man. I don’t know how much longer he can play.
One loss in SEC play isn’t the end of the world.
It happens just about every year: Kentucky goes on the road to play a team riding a losing streak, only to run into a lively crowd that shows up once a year, often at a weird time on a weeknight, and it ends in a loss. This was that game and it just happens that way sometimes.
The season goes on with a bounce-back game at Arkansas on Saturday.