By LARRY VAUGHT
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Five of the last seven games, Kentucky freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been brilliant.
He scored 101 points — 20.4 per game — and had 23 assists, 23 rebounds and nine assists in those games. He was 33 of 62 from the field and 31 of 38 at the foul line.
Kentucky won all five of those games.
In the other two games, Gilgeous-Alexander had nine total points and was 4-for-15 from field with 11 turnovers. Kentucky lost those games at Tennessee and South Carolina.
The common theme — both Tennessee and South Carolina were physical — very physical — with Gilgeous-Alexander and it bothered him.
He was 3-for-9 from the field against South Carolina when UK blew a 14-point lead midway of the second half. He had a career-high six turnovers, including four charges that irked Kentucky coach John Calipari.
Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox tried to explain what happened to Gilgeous-Alexander at South Carolina.
“The last few games Shai’s been really killing it and getting to the basket. They did film and they strategized and every time he tried to go to the basket, they just collapsed and the defender stayed in front of him and he got a lot of offensive fouls off that,” Knox said.
Exactly right. So why did he do that?
“We worked on getting skip passes, but he just kept going on. He’ll keep working on that. I know he’ll bounce back, but they did their research, they did their film and did a really good job collapsing the paint when we drove and taking charges,” Knox said.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said a lot of what was wrong with Gilgeous-Alexander was UK freshman point guard Quade Green missing his third straight game with a back injury.
“The guy they miss is Quade,” Martin said. “Watching them play with and without him it’s a different team. Especially when they play a team that gets out and guards them. It puts too much of a burden on the freshman (Gilgeous-Alexander),” Martin said.
Calipari said not having Green and Gilgeous-Alexander’s poor play basically left UK without a point guard for much of the game. But he said after Tuesday’s game that was not why UK lost.
“We had our chances to win anyway. I mean, that wasn’t the – look, there were balls that we should have had rebounds. Like, I’ve never seen so many dumb fouls,” Calipari said.