No. 17 Kentucky stumbles at South Carolina; more Saturday night hoops
Kentucky coach John Calipari wasn't around to watch the end of Saturday's matchup with South Carolina. That was probably for the best for Coach Cal, as his Wildcats fell to the SEC's last-place team, South Carolina, on the road 72-67.
Calipari was ejected midway through the second half before the Gamecocks, who hadn't beaten a ranked opponent since 2011, held off a late Kentucky surge and sunk the Wildcats. South Carolina entered the night 11-17 on the season, but its students were ready to storm the court once the upset was complete.
The stats don't tell the whole story of Kentucky's struggles on Saturday. The 'Cats outrebounded the Gamecocks 41-23, including 17 offensive boards. They hit 33 free throws. South Carolina shot only 39 percent from the floor. But it was Kentucky's poor shooting that did Calipari's roster in; his players managed to hit only 26 percent (14-of-52) of their shots on the road.
The Wildcats, who again boasted the nation's most celebrated freshman class entering this season, have now lost two straight and three of their last five. Those undefeated hopes for Coach Cal's squad have turned into middle-of-the-road expectations for its tournament seed. Whatever Kentucky's issues are, these 'Cats are trending in the wrong direction just before tournament time. Calipari took to Twitter after the game and assured fans that the program still has time to turn around.
I wish I didn't get thrown out of the game so that I could fight with our team.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 2, 2014
We have a short turnaround to prepare for Alabama so we have to get back in the gym Sunday and start working on getting better. — John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 2, 2014
Proud of the guys for not giving up but we all have to figure out what do we each have to do to get this team right. — John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 2, 2014
No. 1 Florida 79, LSU 61: Is there a more complete team in the country than Florida? The Gators looked the part of a top-ranked team in a rout of LSU on Saturday. Florida pushed on the gas early against the Tigers, scoring the game's first eight points and building on that deficit for a 21-9 lead. The Gators led 41-25 at half, having connected on nine of their 14 3-point attempts up to that point. In the end, Florida finished shooting 57 percent from the field and dishing out 18 assists. It also hit 13 3-pointers. Don't be surprised if the Gators show up as the only team left standing in several office-pool brackets in a couple of weeks. Billy Donovan's squad is getting it done on both ends of the floor and is in the middle of a school-record 21-game win streak.
VCU 67, No. 10 Saint Louis 56: The Billikens saw their school-record 19-game win streak come to a halt on Thursday against Duquesne. After the team's loss to VCU on Saturday, Saint Louis suddenly finds itself riding a losing streak. The Billikens turned the ball over a whopping 17 times against the Rams, effectively nullifying a subpar shooting night by VCU (39 percent from the floor, including 19 percent on 3-pointers).
Illinois 53, No. 18 Michigan State 48: The Spartans are on some sort of roll right now, and it's not a good one. Michigan State dropped its sixth contest in 10 games since sitting at 19-2 in late January. Illinois' defense had plenty to do with that on Saturday, as the Illini held its fourth straight opponent to fewer than 50 points. The Spartans shot 36 percent from the field and turned the ball over 16 times. Aside from Gary Harris, who dropped in 19 points, no Michigan State player scored more than seven points. Senior Keith Appling, in particular, scored only five points and has not been the player he was prior to spraining his wrist weeks ago.
Tom Izzo: "Keith Appling is a major problem right now because he just can’t do what he could do."
— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) March 1, 2014
No. 16 Michigan 66, Minnesota 56: The Big Ten has featured a lot of nonsense this season, but the matchup between Michigan and Minnesota appeared to unfold as expected. The Wolverines clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title as Nik Stauskas scored 21 points. A win Tuesday at Illinois or next Saturday at home against Indiana will give Michigan the outright regular season title.
Kansas State 80, No. 15 Iowa State 73: Another monster game from Melvin Ejim couldn't keep Iowa State from a loss on Saturday. Kansas State snapped the Cyclones' four-game win streak despite 30 points and 15 rebounds from Ejim. DeAndre Kane added 24 points and eight boards of his own in the loss, but it was a case study in teamwork that got things done for the Wildcats. Five players scored in double figures for K-State. including Shane Southwell (13 points) and D.J. Johnson (12) off the bench.
Oklahoma 77, No. 24 Texas 65: Oklahoma gained ground on second place in the Big 12 by completing a season sweep of Texas on Saturday. Buddy Hield knocked down four 3-pointers and scored 17 points for the Sooners as they took advantage of 16 Longhorn turnovers while giving up the ball only seven times on on offense. No. 23 SMU 75, UCF 55: It's been 21 years since SMU has gone dancing. This year is looking like the year for Larry Brown's Mustangs, who disposed of UCF on Saturday for their first home victory as a ranked team in almost three decades. Now SMU must prepare for its home finale against Louisville next week, which would be a nice way to cap the Mustangs' regular season.