The Last Time South Carolina Beat Kentucky
Frank Martin’s only victory over the Wildcats was in Columbia, a 72-67 win over Julius Randle, James Young and Co. in 2014. The Cocks do have a relatively recent three-game winning streak over the Cats, starting with their last victory in Rupp, a one-point win over Billy G’s Cats in 2009. The streak ended when the Cats avenged their road loss to Devan Downey in 2010.
The Last Time These Two Played
John Calipari lost his freaking mind.
Then the Cats played their most complete game of the 2016 season, dominating the Cocks on both ends of the floor to win in Columbia 89-62. It also included the best highlight of the season, a play that is one of the best of the Calipari era.
Top Defense vs. Top Offense
If you haven’t heard about it yet, you’re gonna hear about it a hundred times today. The Cocks’ No. 1 defense must defend the Cats’ No. 2 offense. Seth Davis thinks defense will win, but I tend to side with an elite guard-oriented offense, especially at home.
Clean the Glass
As John Calipari noted in yesterday’s press conference, South Carolina lost their entire front line from last season. In their place, Frank Martin has a freshman (Malik Kotsar) and a sophomore (Chris Silva) who average a combined 12 rebounds per game.
South Carolina is one of the worst teams in the country at keeping their opponents off the glass, allowing them to get second chances on 30.3 percent of their shots, leading to 9.8 offensive rebounds a game. UK is sixth in the country in offensive rebounds per game (12.9), grabbing over 36 percent of their missed shots.
An International Team
John Calipari has hosted quite a few foreign players during his time, but this year Frank Martin has more. South Carolina has five international players, all from different countries: Estonia, Gabon, Senegal, Canada and Australia.
There isn’t a rich basketball tradition at South Carolina, but they still have diehard fans. Of all their fans, Gamecock Jesus is the best. As the kids might say, “he has no chill.” Mrs. Tyler was honored to sit behind him in 2014.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
I feel like I beat this dead horse before each game, but ball security is kind of a big deal and the Cocks aren’t very good at it. They give it away 13.6 times a game (196th in the nation). SC’s game notes point out they committed “only” 15 against Florida after 22 and 20 in consecutive games.
You’d think Kentucky could run them off the court with points of turnovers and offensive rebounds, but there’s a reason this stat hasn’t killed the Cocks: they force 17.1 (!) turnovers a game.
Must Stop Thornwell and Dozier
The Cocks’ two-headed monster in the backcourt leads their offense. A McDonald’s All-American and Top 20 recruit, Columbia-native P.J. Dozier has found his rhythm in his second season, averaging 14.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
Sindarius Thornwell is South Carolina’s experienced leader. They haven’t lost when he’s in the lineup. He leads the team in points (18.2), rebounds (6.9) and assists (3.3) per game.
Watch them Run
They don’t average a ton of possessions per game, but according to South Carolina beat writer David Cloninger, the South Carolina excels when pushing the pace with their experienced guards. Even though pushing the pace against UK is usually a death sentence, expect to see them run whenever they can force a Kentucky turnover.