Men's Basketball

Cats Get Win with Less Than Best on Tuesday

by Tim Letcher

Kentucky has played very well against some quality opponents of late. The Cats had a big win at Kansas, a good win at Alabama and a solid win at home against Tennessee.

In each of those games, the Cats showed that they are serious contenders to make the Final Four and to make a run at a championship.

But it’s almost impossible for teams to have their very best each time out. The Cats experienced that in a win over Vanderbilt and an overtime victory over Mississippi State.

On Tuesday night, the Cats experienced the latter once again. Kentucky had less than its best at South Carolina but the Cats still managed to pull out a 86-76 victory inside Colonial Life Arena.

Sure, there was plenty of good. Oscar Tshiebwe had another double-double (18 points, 14 rebounds), Sahvir Wheeler had 11 assists and six Cats scored in double figures.

There was also some not-so-good. The Cats were outrebounded 41-40, including 22-8 on the offensive boards. South Carolina had 17 second-chance points, compared to 13 for the Cats. Kentucky committed 16 turnovers, leading to 23 Gamecocks’ points.

But the bottom line, on this night, was that the Cats won again, earning their 20th victory on the season despite having less than their best. Keion Brooks Jr. was impressed with how his team responded on Tuesday.

“This just shows that we’ve proven we can win in multiple ways, even when we’re giving up 22 (offensive) rebounds,” Brooks said. “But we pulled that one out which shows we can win in many different styles of games.”

Kentucky had a double-digit lead in the first half, only to see South Carolina cut it to five at the half. And, early in the second half, the Gamecocks tied the game at 43 apiece. Brooks knew that the Cats had another run in them.

“Basketball is a game of runs, you’ve got to keep playing,” Brooks said. “They tied the game up, they went on a run, then it was our turn to go on a run. We didn’t do anything too different, we just kept playing. We just weathered the storm.”

UK head coach John Calipari knew that Tuesday’s game was good, long-term, for his Cats.

“It’s a great game for us, we need to be in games like this. There was a stretch, Sahvir did not play well. TyTy struggled some.”

Calipari also attributed some of Kentucky’s struggles in this game to the opposition.

“We shot 56 percent from the floor and 40 from three,” Calipari said. “(But) that’s how (the Gamecocks) play. They’re rough, they physically go after rebounds. They’re not worried about missing shots. I’m just glad we’re done playing them.”

Kentucky has put on some dazzling displays of basketball in recent weeks but Tuesday was not one of those instances. Still, with less than their best, the Cats got a win, on the road, in the SEC.

 

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