Kentucky will aim to bounce back from a recent lopsided road loss when it returns home Tuesday to face struggling South Carolina in Lexington, Ky.
The Wildcats (10-5, 1-2 SEC) aren’t currently relevant in races for the conference or national championships, something that’s a bit abnormal for a program that has missed the NCAA Tournament just three times since 1992 and has won five SEC titles in the last decade. To get back in the AP Top 25 poll, Kentucky needs to stack up victories and avoid defeats like the 78-52 one it suffered at Alabama on Saturday.
In that loss, Kentucky shot just 28.8 percent from the floor and 25 percent from behind the arc. Alabama outscored the Wildcats 36-20 in the paint, too.
“We did what we wanted to do but we missed every shot,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “You can’t have your starters go 3 for 27, three of your starters (Oscar Tshiebwe, Jacob Toppin and Cason Wallace) that you’re banking on to make baskets and expect to win.
“I’m disappointed that we did not play better because I thought we were ready to play a good game on the road.”
While Kentucky is 9-0 at home at Rupp Arena this year, it is 1-5 away from it.
Tshiebwe leads Kentucky in scoring and rebounding this season with 15.8 points and 13.2 boards per game. He was stifled at Alabama though, finishing with just four points and six rebounds in 23 minutes.
To beat Kentucky, South Carolina (7-8, 0-2 SEC) will likely have to stop Tshiebwe, too. He had 18 points and 14 rebounds in a 10-point win for the Wildcats in Columbia, S.C. last season.
South Carolina has lost two straight games to open SEC play, most recently an 85-42 home setback to then-No. 8 Tennessee. Meechie Johnson scored 19 points, but the Vols outscored the Gamecocks 20-2 on second-chance points.
The game also featured a rare poor performance from freshman GG Jackson II, who shot 0-for-8 and had four turnovers in 22 minutes. Jackson was previously the only freshman in the country who had scored in double digits in every game this season.
“He didn’t respond well,” Gamecocks coach Lamont Paris said of Jackson. “His body language was not good, so I’m gonna play the guys that are acting like they want to play really hard and play for you and try to win, and that’s what it was. He didn’t respond well to it.”
–Field Level Media