USC put up a decent enough fight in the first half against Kentucky Saturday at Rupp Arena, even leading 22-20 with 9:12 to play. But that would be the Gamecocks’ final lead of the day. The Wildcats led 36-28 at the half then outscored USC by 20 in the second half of a 92-64 win. The 56 points by Kentucky are the most allowed by USC in a second half this season. And it’s the sixth time in SEC play this season the Gamecocks have yielded over 90 points.
With their 9th loss in their last 11 games, the Gamecocks finished their worst regular season under Frank Martin at 6-14 overall and 4-12 in the SEC.
A familiar combination of shortcomings did in the Gamecocks once again, poor overall shooting and a lack of a strong, physical defensive effort. They shot 38% and made just 2 of 17 from three point shots. The guard combination of AJ Lawson, Seventh Woods, Trae Hannibal and TJ Moss shot 3-31 from the floor. Woods suffered an upper leg injury in the first half and did not return. And the Gamecocks were without guard Jermaine Couisnard who suffered a rib game injury in practice this week.
Conversely, the Wildcats shot 49% for the game, 59% in the second half. And they made 13 of 27 three-point attempts. The Gamecocks stayed within reach early in the second half trailing by 10 with 15:57 to play. But the Wildcats doubled the lead over the next five minutes with a 17-7 run making the score 63-43. Kentucky pushed the lead to 33 with three minutes to play.
Keyshawn Bryant led the Gamecocks with 16 points. Jalyn McCreary had his best outing of the season with a career high 14 points. Leading scorer AJ Lawson managed just 6 points on 2-10 shooting, 0-5 from three, and that breaks a string of 12 straight double figure games for him.
Freshman guard Brandon Boston led Kentucky with a career high 21 points. The Wildcats broke a two game losing streak with the win and are 9-15 overall and 8-9 in the SEC.
Next up for USC will be the SEC Tournament in Nashville. Depending on how Texas A&M and Vanderbilt do today, the Gamecocks could be the 11th season and play the last game on Thursday night. Or, they could be one of the bottom two seeds and play in the Wednesday night game at 7:00 PM. The tournament bracket will be released after tonight’s games.