No. 1 Kentucky's stifling defense locks down South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier summed it up best,“Does every guard have to be 6-[foot]-7?!” he cried at halftime of the Gamecocks’ battle against No. 1 Kentucky, when USC trailed 34-24.
At Kentucky, the answer is often yes. McDonald’s All-Americans preferred, too. Future NBA lottery picks also welcome.
The Wildcats rolled to a 58-43 win Saturday afternoon in front of 18,000, many of them clad in Kentucky Blue. Freshman Devin Booker -- listed at just 6-foot-6, for what it’s worth -- led all scorers with 18, veteran guard Aaron Harrison (a sophomore also listed at 6-foot-6) chipped in 13 and three steals as Kentucky (19-0, 6-0) leaned heavily on its defense to create problems.
It’s the Wildcats' common denominator.
“You drive into the lane and you can’t see the passes out because they’re so long,” said South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell, who led the Gamecocks with 14 points and seven rebounds. “They’re long enough to deflect the ball and big enough to get out there on the catch.”
Don’t opposing coaches know it. South Carolina coach Frank Martin spent the last 48 hours telling his players attacking Kentucky on the first or second pass of an offensive set was a bad idea, lest they be “swallowed up by size” when they got into the lane.
“It’s not the 7-footer at the rim that’s the problem,” Martin said. “It’s the 6-[foot]-7 guy guarding you.”
Translation: Come April all those guards -- most of whom are actually listed at "6’6," despite what Spurrier thought he saw -- should be even better.