USC Has No Answer For Wildcats
Even though Kentucky is having a "down" season by their lofty standards, they are still 14-3 and ranked in the Top 25, and hardly the team you want to face when you need to break out of a slump. Kentucky has also improved over the course of the season, and is expected to make some noise in March. They certainly looked dangerous as they invaded the Colonial Center.
The tale of the first half came from behind the arc. Kentucky's Joe Crawford came out on fire and hit three early triples as Kentucky raced out to a 17-6 lead. Up to that point, Carolina had seen shot after shot rim out, but the team found its stroke. Evka Baniulis, Tre Kelley, and Brandis Raley-Ross all hit three pointers to get the Gamecocks back in the game. They drew to within 5 at 24-19, but Kentucky quickly responded. The Wildcats were able to take a 37-27 lead into the halftime break.
The ten point deficit, while not desirable, was still manageable for Dave Odom's squad. The Gamecocks had to be encouraged by the fact that it seemed as though every shot fell for the Wildcats, while everything rimmed out for the Gamecocks. The numbers backed up the perception, as the Gamecocks attempted six more shots, but shot just 33.3%, while Kentucky shot 58.3%.
Once again, however, it was the first few minutes of the second half that ruined the night for Carolina. Kentucky opened with a 9-3 run that forced Odom to call a timeout just 3 minutes into the half. The timeout did nothing to slow down Kentucky, as the Wildcats gradually expanded their lead. With ten minutes left in the half, the crowd was filing for the exits, and soon Odom and Tubby Smith were emptying their benches.
The loss was the fourth consecutive double digit defeat for the Gamecocks, each by a worsening margin. Carolina lost by 16 to Kansas, 24 to Georgia, 34 to Florida, and 38 to Kentucky. "We've just gone through a horrible two weeks," Odom said. "We've got to get that changed. We've got to grab control of the game again. Our game is out of control and we've got to get it back."
When asked what he has to do to accomplish that, Odom admitted, "It's hard to talk to them, and have them be positive. If I don't keep my confidence and say good things to them, and don't continue to coach them, they will not have a chance to [break out of the slump]."
The Gamecocks two lowest scoring outputs of the season came in the last two games, when they scored 50 and 49 points. The 34 point loss was the worst home loss since a 1915 game against Wake Forest, a mark that stood for a mere three days before being surpassed.
- Chad Gray saw his most extensive action as a Gamecock, and responded by scoring his first point on a free throw at the 10:56 mark of the first half. He finished with 3 points, all on free throws, and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes of action after only playing 10 minutes all year.
- Tre Kelley "tweaked" his knee late in the game. It is the same knee he previously injured, but is not related. The injury is not expected to be serious.
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