3 things to watch: UK vs. South Carolina

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Three things to watch when UK plays South Carolina in the SEC opener (4 p.m., SEC Network):

1. Start strong — Everyone remember that first half against Arkansas-Little Rock? So does UK. And it doesn’t want to repeat that performance.

I wouldn’t anticipate UK falling into an insurmountable deficit, because South Carolina isn’t that good. It’s lost to Elon, Tennessee State and Southern California. However, it has won six of the last seven games. The Gamecocks are also tested against top teams, as it played then-No. 1 North Carolina and then-No. 2 Ohio State. It lost both — UK starting strong would help it achieve the same result.

2. Blocks — Anthony Davis’ virtuosity at the art is well known, but South Carolina’s Damontre Harris is capable of blocking shots as well. He ranks 25th nationally with a 10.8 block percentage. The problem for Harris, though, is that he plays 23.8 minutes per game, so his totals aren’t eye-popping. Regardless, the two centers defending the paint will be worth watching.

3. Rebounding — South Carolina rebounds effectively on the offensive end (grabbing 37.4 percent of all available offensive rebounds, 38th in the nation) but terribly on the defensive end (allowing opponents to grab 35.2 percent of available offensive rebounds, 267th in the nation). As such, their total margin is relatively even.

Meanwhile, UK gave up 10 first-half offensive rebounds to Arkansas-Little Rock. South Carolina could do the same if UK doesn’t bring more energy.

If one team can control the boards on both ends, it could be the difference.

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