Cats will face South Carolina with no Alex Poythress, history of foul trouble

UK Head Coach John Calipari yells at UK guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) during the UK Men’s Basketball vs. Florida Gators game at Rupp Arena. UK defeated Florida 80 – 61

Josh Ellis

No. 22 UK (18-6, 8-3) v. South Carolina (21-3, 8-3) 

Tipoff: Saturday, 12 p.m., Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, South Carolina TV: ESPN Radio: UK Radio Network 

Three points of emphasis for the UK-South Carolina on Saturday: 

Getting to the charity stripe

One of South Carolina’s strengths is getting to the free throw line, which means the Gamecocks get their opponents in foul trouble — a category UK has struggled with throughout the season.

South Carolina averages 29.8 free throws per game, and scores 25.8 percent of its points from the charity stripe (5th nationally). With Isaiah Briscoe (2.75 fouls per game), Skal Labissiere (3.12 fpg) and Marcus Lee (3.17 fpg) all struggling with foul trouble, keeping the Gamecocks off the line will be a necessity for a Cats’ win. 

No Alex Poythress

UK head coach John Calipari said after Tuesday’s victory over Georgia that senior forward Alex Poythress will be held out “about two weeks.” The news not only means he will miss Saturday’s game, but also Tennessee on Feb. 18 and at No. 15 Texas A&M on Feb. 20.

Poythress, who averages 10.0 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game, has been the only bright spot in the UK frontcourt as of late. Lee, Labissiere and Isaac Humphries will need to step up in the senior’s absence. 

Defensive stronghold

The Cats are coming off their best defensive performance of the season, holding Georgia to just 48 points on 22 percent shooting. UK has now kept opponents from scoring more than 60 points five different times this season.

Another imposing performance from the UK defense, especially on the road, would help propel the Cats forward as the regular season begins to wind down.