In many ways, South Carolina’s final regular season game was microcosm of the entire season.
Once again playing short-handed, the Gamecocks flashed their talent in an up-tempo back-and-forth first half. But as has been the case through much of the season, Frank Martin’s team wasn’t able to find a way to finish.
Playing on the road against a Kentucky team (9-15, 8-9 SEC) that has faced its own struggles this season, the Gamecocks allowed yet another 90-point effort, losing to the Wildcats, 92-64, and falling to 6-14 (4-12) on the season.
With the SEC men’s basketball tournament set to begin Wednesday in Nashville, the Gamecocks currently project as a No. 11 seed. However, they would drop to a No. 12 seed should Vanderbilt defeat Ole Miss Saturday night.
3 Observations from USC-Kentucky
1. Gamecocks short-handed yet again
In a surprise shortly before the game, it was announced that Jermaine Couisnard wouldn’t play due to a rib injury he suffered in Thursday’s practice. Couisnard, who just recently returned from an ankle injury, put up a season-high 23 points in USC’s win at Georgia and had seemed to improve on his shooting struggles from earlier in the season.
Worsening matters for the Gamecocks, fellow guard Seventh Woods suffered what appeared to be an upper leg injury late in the first half and did not play in the second half.
It appeared South Carolina would catch a break on the injury front when Kenutcky point guard Devin Askew didn’t draw the start for the Wildcats. However, Askew still managed to play off of the bench, and fellow guards Davion Mintz and Brandon Boston Jr. both scored at least 20 points.
2. Gamecocks can’t protect perimeter
The Gamecocks matched Kenutcky nearly blow for blow in the first half, trailing by just eight points heading into halftime while shooting at a 41.4% clip from the field. The Gamecocks didn’t shoot many 3s in the first half — missing all five attempts — but with the way they were attacking the paint and scoring on the fast break, they didn’t need to.
However, in the second half, USC’s poor perimeter defense once again opened the scoring floodgates. Coming off a loss to Arkansas in which USC allowed the Razorbacks to make 15 3-pointers, South Carolina allowed open shot after open shot in the second half at Kentucky. The Wildcats sunk eight of their first 10 3-point attempts after halftime to create separation and pull away with the win.
Mintz and Boston were the main culprits, combing for 12 of Kentucky’s 13 3-pointers in the game.
3. McCreary highlights poor offensive showing
South Carolina sophomore forward Jalyn McCreary had by far his best game of the season, scoring a career-high 14 points with a smooth scoring touch near the basket. Forward Keyshawn Bryant added 16 points in yet another strong showing for the junior.
However, without Couisnard and Woods, the Gamecock backcourt sputtered, especially shooting from deep. The Gamecocks finished with just two 3s for the game on 17 attempts.