Kentucky-South Carolina notes: Gamecocks called 'physical, bruising'

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 28, 2014 

Auburn South Carolina Basketball

South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell (0) drives into Auburn forward Allen Payne (2) Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, during an NCAA college basketball game at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/The Birmingham News, Julie Bennett)

JULIE BENNETT — AP

John Calipari didn't like how Kentucky reacted to Arkansas' physical play. South Carolina figures to give the Cats a chance to reassure their coach.

The Gamecocks fit a description traditionally given lowly Southeastern Conference teams: in rebuilding mode, but, boy, they'll bruise you if not beat you.

"Tough, physical, hard-nosed team," Auburn Coach Tony Barbee said of South Carolina. "Going to beat you up on the defensive end of the floor. You've got to be ready for the fight."

Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy described South Carolina as "physical, bruising, I would say a Big 12 basketball team."

South Carolina Coach Frank Martin took pleasure in the reference to the Big 12.

"He and I were both in the Big 12," said Martin, who coached for Kansas State before moving to South Carolina in 2012. "One thing I can tell you about that league: extremely athletic, extremely physical.

"I think our league is like that, too. ... You play Florida and you're not physical, you've got no chance."

Martin put Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee in the same category.

"Our program is starting to get kids playing with the same physicality as our teams played with at Kansas State," he said.

UK fans may recall Kentucky beating Martin-coached Kansas State in Las Vegas in 2008. Kansas State pressured UK relentlessly. K-State had 27 fouls. UK had 31 turnovers and won (survived?) 74-72.

South Carolina sees in Sindarius Thornwell, a 6-foot-5 freshman who averages 13.5 points, a foundation piece in the rebuilding project.

"Complete player, to me," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said of Thornwell. "He can shoot. Can put it on the floor. He likes contact. He's solid defensively."

When told of Stallings noting that Thornwell likes contact, Martin said, "I love it. That's why Sindarius has taken a leadership role. He and I, we connected. He believes in what I believe in, and I believe in what he believes in."

Calipari and at least some UK players apparently do not share the same beliefs about physical play.

"The game got physical (and) we couldn't make one-footers," Calipari said of UK's loss to Arkansas on Thursday. "'It's physical,' So what? 'There's bumping and grinding.' Then don't play.

"You know you can't miss 12 one-foot shots. 'The guy bumped me, grabbed me, hit me in the face.' So what? Let someone else play."

Rebounds

Kentucky's 26 offensive rebounds against Arkansas marked the most by a UK team since the 28 against High Point on Dec. 27, 2000.

The last time a UK team grabbed as many as 26 offensive rebounds against a league opponent came in the 1998 SEC Tournament. The Cats grabbed 26 in beating Alabama in the quarterfinals.

"We talked about not getting annihilated on the glass," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said, "and we did that for a period."

In league games, Kentucky leads the SEC with an average of 14.4 offensive rebounds per game. In all games, UK ranks fifth nationally with an average of 14.93 offensive rebounds per game.

Carrera struggles

South Carolina's Michael Carrera, a 6-5 sophomore, scored 18 points in a game against UK last season. That marked the most scored by any freshman against the Cats.

His average of 6.4 points is down from the 9.9 as a freshman.

Earlier this season, South Carolina assistant coach Matt Figger explained: "We attempted to move him to small forward. For Michael down the road, it is the best position as far as money earning. He struggled. We moved him back to the stretch four-spot."

Free throws

Willie Cauley-Stein offered a philosophical thought on UK's 12-for-22 free-throw shooting against Arkansas.

"We've had it in the past where one game, everybody's free throws are going (in)," he said. "The next game, they split. The next game, everybody misses. It just depends on the day, I guess."

Cauley-Stein acknowledged how missed free throws can deflate a team.

"It takes a lot from you, especially when you know you can make them," he said.

By contrast, South Carolina's Brenton Williams has made 87 of 91 free throws this season (95.6 percent accuracy). That brought a philosophical take from Martin.

"Some guys can shoot," the South Carolina coach said. "Some guys can't. He can shoot. ... He's oblivious to everything going on around him."

When asked if Williams was the best free-throw shooter he's coached, Martin said, "Hands down. Not even close."

Etc.

■ Losing guard Bruce Ellington to football hurt on-ball defense. "Bruce always gave unbelievable effort on the defensive side of the ball," Figger said.

■ Mark Jones and Jimmy Dykes will call the game for ESPN.

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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