BOZICH | Kentucky defense silences South Carolina gimmicks - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Kentucky defense silences South Carolina gimmicks

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COLUMBIA, S. C. (WDRB) – The South Carolina basketball team invested in the Gimmicks 101 Playbook while trying to topple Kentucky Saturday.

They passed out white rally towels to anybody who wanted to wave one. Sandstorm blasted on the sound system. The players wore camouflage shorts. The fans that did not wave rally towels waved those Big Head posters instead.

Sandstorm blasted on the sound system. Football coach Steve Spurrier addressed the crowd at Colonial Life Arena at halftime. A pack of students tried the bare, paint-your-chest gimmick. Middle-aged men wore red wigs. Relentless pre-game ovations echoed for ESPN announcer Dick Vitale.

Sandstorm blasted on the sound system.

Gimmicks won't beat John Calipari's top-ranked Kentucky basketball team – especially when you don't have shooters.

South Carolina doesn't have shooters. And the Wildcats flashed past the Gamecocks, 58-43, Saturday afternoon. After flirting with several possessions of zone defense, Calipari switched back to his man-to-man. South Carolina had no chance.

"We didn't want to get away from who we were," Calipari said. "That's no who we are and I don't need to trick anybody. What we did was we just made sure we told our guys they're a driving team."

"It's hard to beat anybody, let alone the Number One team in the country when you shoot 22 percent," said South Carolina coach Frank Martin. "Kentucky's good. They're real good defensively."

Mark it down as South Carolina's second-largest defeat of the season. With about two minutes to play the primary sound in the arena was the chant of, “Go Big Blue,” from the 5,000-or-6,000 Kentucky fans who helped pack the arena.

Bump Kentucky to 19-0 for the first time since the John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins' 2010 season.

Make the Wildcats 6-0 at the one-third mark in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina made only 12 of 53 shots, which translates to 22.6 percent. The Gamecocks had four field goals in the second half.


"What makes them so effective is their bigs," said South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell. "When you're driving in the lane, you can't see."

Be assured that Kentucky will enjoy another week ranked Number One with games at Missouri (Thursday) and Alabama (in Rupp Arena next Saturday) looming.

Credit Devin Booker with 18 points and Aaron Harrison with 13. Marcus Lee blocked four of the nine shots the Wildcats swatted.

For the Wildcats, the most unsettling moment of the game came late in the first half. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina's best player, elevated from the right-wing for a three-point shot.

He made it. The Gamecocks led 24-23. There was 4:31 remaining in the first half.

The rally towels waved. Spurrier cheered. Sandstorm blasted.

How long did the lead last?

About as long as it took for Tyler Ulis, UK's freshman guard, to swipe the ball from a South Carolina guard and dance downcourt for a layup. That was about a minute later.

South Carolina did not score another point the rest of the half. They missed seven shots. They threw the ball away three times. Kentucky scored the next 11 points, roaring into halftime with a 34-24 lead.

"It was a surge," Calipari said. "Basically we locked them down for about six straight possessions and we scored. That's how we got it big."

"If you drive them on the first or second pass, you're going to get swallowed up by their size," Martin said. "That's why their good. They're so big at every spot and they're athletic."

Little changed in the second half, except eventually some of the crowd started to leak toward the exits.

In fact, South Carolina went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal. The Gamecocks finished the game with three three-point shots, which is not surprising because Kentucky defends the three like a state secret. This was the 10th game this season Kentucky limited its opponent to fewer than five three-pointers.

For the Wildcats, it was a victory worth noting because the Wildcats stumbled here last season during a game John Calipari watched from the locker room after he was ejected.

This was also the same arena where the Wall-Cousins team lost for the first time to a South Carolina team coached by Darrin Horn five seasons ago.

Not this time. The Wildcats move forward, still in pursuit of perfection.

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