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South Carolina

College Basketball



Kentucky isn’t getting much respect on a national level, but it continues to scratch out wins in the SEC and that’s all it needs. Tuesday’s Game at South Carolina is another good opportunity for the Wildcats to earn a road win. Still, while the Gamecocks have been inconsistent, they’re coming off a win at Georgia and find themselves in an important part of their season.

In its next Four Games including this one, South Carolina takes on Four of the better teams in the SEC with three of them coming at home. If it can win two of those Games, it may not be a lost season after all with a spot in the NIT still there for the taking. As for the Cats, they have a decent shot to win the SEC with only the loss at Tennessee in Conference play. With more difficult road Games ahead, they’ll need this one to get a respectable seed come March.

Given the look of both teams, this has the makings of a defensive battle. Similar to last season, the Gamecocks rank as one of the better defensive teams in the country. On the other spectrum, they have been much worse offensively with an effective field goal percentage just above 47, which is one of the worst rates around. That’s the first route for Kentucky winning this Game with the length and size of its lineup. The Wildcats allow less than 30 percent from behind the three-point line and that’s going to be an issue for a team that already has trouble making shots. South Carolina has failed to top 71 points in all five of its SEC Games this season, while Kentucky has reached 74 in three of its last Four.

That said, the Cats don’t have the same type of talent as previous seasons and don’t have anyone that can take over Games against good defenses. That was seen in the 76-65 loss to Tennessee. Quade Green has missed the last couple Games, but point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has taken a bigger role in stride and has quietly turned into one of UK’s better offensive players with 38 points, 10 boards and 11 assists in the last two Games. Per usual, he should have a size advantage on whoever guards him, whether it’s Wesley Myers or Frank Booker.

The best matchup to watch will be South Carolina’s leading scorer Chris Silva (14.2 ppg) against Kevin Knox or whoever John Calipari wants to use on him. Anyone from PJ Washington to Wenyen Gabriel to Sacha Killeya-Jones could be used to thwart what Silva does. And if Silva has trouble getting easy looks, that’s going to make things even more difficult for the Gamecocks to pull off a win. In the win against Georgia, Booker and Hassani Gravett came off the bench to Scorea combined 28 points, which was the ultimate difference. With the length of Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo on the perimeter, getting easy looks may not be a possibility for those guys.

This Game should be a fight all the way through, not dissimilar to Kentucky’s recent 74-67 win at Vanderbilt. If that’s the case, it also means that the Gamecocks probably don’t have enough offensive weapons to keep up on the scoreboard. The only way they have a chance is if their defense really steps up and the score is in the 60s for both teams.

Our Pick – Kentucky -1.5