South Carolina visits No. 2 Kentucky in SEC opener

Having steamrolled their way through the non- 12 schedule, the second-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will open SEC play this afternoon against the visiting South Carolina Gamecocks.

Since beginning the season a disappointing 2-5, South Carolina has turned a corner by going 6-1 since. The Gamecocks are in the midst of a four-game win streak, although beating up on the likes of Southeastern Louisiana, Wofford, USC-Upstate and South Carolina State isn't likely to have the team any better prepared for the monumental task it faces in this contest. USC is 8-12 all- time in SEC openers, but the Gamecocks have won each of their last three such affairs under current head coach Darrin Horn. This game marks the Gamecocks' third of the season against a top-five foe, the other two being losses to both North Carolina and Ohio State.

Once again, Kentucky enters the new SEC slate after running roughshod over the majority of its non-league foes, the most recent of which being Arkansas- Little Rock (73-51) at Freedom Hall in Louisville this past Tuesday. The Wildcats have enjoyed tremendous success at both ends of the court this season, and they currently lead the nation in blocked shots with an eye- popping 9.4 per game. Kentucky is 60-18 all-time in SEC openers, and the team is in the midst of a 44-game home winning streak -- the longest current streak in the country.

Kentucky owns a commanding 44-10 advantage in the all-time series with South Carolina, which includes a 23-2 mark in Lexington. The Wildcats swept last year's two games, which included a 90-59 shellacking of the Gamecocks at Rupp Arena.

South Carolina has played exceptional defense this season, yielding a mere 60.5 ppg despite the opposition hitting 37.4 percent of their three-point tries and 42.0 percent of their total shots. From an offensive standpoint, the Gamecocks are netting 64.4 ppg on the strength of their 43 percent shooting effort, which includes a 34.5 percent showing from beyond the arc. Malik Cooke is the only player averaging double figures for USC, but even his 13.1 ppg aren't going to scare many opponents, particularly those of Kentucky's stature. One guy to keep an eye on is freshman forward Anthony Gill, who despite averaging just 8.4 ppg, leads the team with 5.1 rpg and is shooting 52.5 percent from the field. In posting a 79-51 win over SC State earlier this week, all 12 players who saw action scored, led by Cooke and Damontre Harris who tallied 11 points apiece. The Gamecocks hit half of their total shots in the game, compared to just 34.6 percent for the Bulldogs, and USC nailed 11 treys while taking advantage of 17 SCSU turnovers.

Arkansas-Little Rock was feeling pretty good with itself after the first half in Tuesday's neutral-site clash with the mighty Wildcats, as the Trojans held a 30-27 lead at the break. Unfortunately for them, the sleeping giant awoke, more than doubling up UALR in the second to stake claim to a 22-point victory. Anthony Davis led Kentucky with a monster double-double consisting of 22 points and 16 rebounds, while Darius Miller came off the bench to add 15 points and six boards and in the process joined the 1,000-point club at Kentucky. Terrence Jones tallied 10 point and six caroms, and Michael Kidd- Gilchrist finished just one point shy of recording his own double-double as he chipped in with nine points and 10 rebounds. UK responded from a poor opening half (.393 FG percentage) to shoot a sizzling 60.7 percent from floor in the second. The 'Cats easily won the rebounding battle (50-23), and took the game despite committing 19 turnovers compared to just nine by UALR. The Trojans shot a mere 31.1 percent from the field. Kentucky is the only team in the country with six players averaging double figures in scoring, and Doron Lamb leads the way with 14.9 ppg. As a result, Kentucky is putting up 81.0 ppg while allowing just 58.7 ppg.