USC Men's Basketball

South Carolina-Kentucky basketball: How, what to watch as USC goes for rare Rupp win

South Carolina coach Frank Martin previews Kentucky game

South Carolina Gamecocks men's basketball coach Frank Martin previews his team's matchup against Kentucky in Rupp Arena in Lexington.
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South Carolina Gamecocks men's basketball coach Frank Martin previews his team's matchup against Kentucky in Rupp Arena in Lexington.

Game info

Who: South Carolina (11-10, 6-2 SEC) at No. 5 Kentucky (18-3, 7-1)

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Rupp Arena in Lexington

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area

Series: Kentucky leads 51-12

Last meeting: Jan. 16, 2018 — South Carolina 76, Kentucky 68

KenPom prediction: Kentucky 82, South Carolina 65

STORYLINES

1. A (potential) struggle to score

South Carolina has averaged 80.5 points in its six SEC wins this season. And just 68.5 in the two losses.

Kentucky enters Tuesday winner of eight in a row. The Wildcats have held five opponents on this streak to 55 points or fewer. They’re second in the SEC in field goal percentage defense.

“They do a very good job of not denying, but kind of shooting the gaps and getting steals and stuff like that,” said USC senior guard Hassani Gravett. “When you are driving, they try to play really physical. And they do a really good job at rebounding.

“So making sure we get on the glass is critical.”

2. The Rupp challenge

USC is 2-27 all-time against the Wildcats on the road, including a 2-24 mark at Rupp. It’s been 10 years since Devan Downey gave the Gamecocks their last win in the 23,500-seat cathedral.

Frank Martin’s teams are 0-3 at Rupp, losing games by an average score of 80-56. UK is 12-0 at home this season.

“I’m worried about our freshmen going into that building,” Martin said. “Because you walk in there, it’s impressive.”

USC will start two rookies — A.J. Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant — Tuesday. Carolina’s last trip to Lexington came with then-freshmen Maik Kotsar and Rakym Felder in the starting lineup.

“Rah Felder, who I always felt was a kid that wasn’t rattled by too much, he was in a twilight zone when that game started his freshman year,” Martin said. “And I had to start him because that’s the game P.J. (Dozier) came down with the neck (injury). And (Felder) was in a twilight zone. I couldn’t believe it.”

Felder committed a team-high four turnovers as the Gamecocks lost by 17.

3. Silva vs. Travis

Tuesday will feature a rare high-profile matchups of seniors.

USC’s Chris Silva, who is averaging 23.5 points and shooting better than 64 percent his last four games, will share the post with Kentucky’s Reid Travis. The 6-foot-8 graduate transfer from Stanford had 18 points and 12 rebounds in a UK win against Kansas on Jan. 26. He’s fourth on the team in scoring and second in rebounding.

KENTUCKY

Coach: John Calipari (696-205 in 27 seasons overall; 10th season at Kentucky — 293-67)

Projected starters: G Ashton Hagans (7.5 points per game), G Keldon Johnson (14.2), G Tyler Herro (13.5), F Reid Travis (12.0), F P.J. Washington (13.5)

Last game: Beat Florida 65-54 on Saturday in Gainesville

KenPom ranking: 9 (No. 17 in offense efficiency, No. 8 in defense efficiency)

NET: 6

Notes: In SEC games only, the Wildcats lead the league in scoring defense, rebounding defense and field goal percentage defense. ... Kentucky is 238-40 all-time against non-ranked opponents. ... Washington is averaging averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds over UK’s last four games.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Coach: Frank Martin (241-154 in 12 seasons overall; seventh season at USC — 124-100)

Projected starters: G Tre Campbell (6.1), G A.J. Lawson (13.2), F Keyshawn Bryant (9.1), F Chris Silva (14.1), F Maik Kotsar (8.4)

Last game: Beat Georgia 86-80 on Saturday in Athens

KenPom ranking: 102 (No. 90 in offense efficiency, No. 122 in defense efficiency)

NET: 103

Notes: South Carolina already has more road SEC wins this season (three) than it had all of last year. The record under Martin is five, set in 2016-17. ... The Gamecocks have shot better than 50 percent from the floor four times this season, including twice against SEC opponents. That happened just twice last year — and never in league play. ... In SEC games only, Silva is ninth in the league in both scoring and rebounding.

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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