Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
Despite an offensive outburst from Sindarius Thornwell, the Gamecocks suffered their first SEC loss on Saturday.

Reactions to South Carolina’s loss to Kentucky; Hamsah Nasirildeen de-commits

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Gamecocks fall to Wildcats

It wasn’t pretty, but honestly, it could’ve been a lot worse.

No. 5 Kentucky topped No. 24 South Carolina, 85-69, on Saturday night. The Gamecocks absorbed their first conference loss in falling to 15-4 overall (5-1 in SEC play).

Related: Recap, box score from 85-69 loss at No. 5 Kentucky

With PJ Dozier out, senior Sindarius Thornwell more than shouldered the load — exploding for 34 points, as one of only two Gamecocks scoring in double figures.

“Sin’s a winner. He’s a winner. He loves the big stage, he loves to compete and he loves to play. He loves to play within our structure and not just go out there and do whatever he wants to do,” said coach Frank Martin on his team’s star forward. “Ninety percent of what he did today was through our structure. He understands it so well that he is extremely aggressive in it.”

Related: What Frank Martin said after South Carolina’s loss at Kentucky

Kentucky’s wunderkind PG Malik Monk did his best to answer Thornwell’s offensive output, scoring 27 points, but getting far more help from his supporting cast than his Carolina counterpart.

It was a disappointing way to end what could’ve been an incredible week for the Gamecocks. But given the circumstances, I find solace in the game never got totally out of hand.

Dozier out vs. Kentucky

Good vibes. Excitement. A chance to move to 6-0 in conference play. First place in the conference on the line.

Related: South Carolina has ‘gotta keep treating’ PJ Dozier’s back spasms

Then, in the hours leading up to the game, Carolina’s upset bid was dealt a devastating blow. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before …

In the most typical South Carolina thing to ever happen, star point guard Dozier was disclosed as out for the Kentucky game — thanks to back spasms.

Disbelief. Shock. Sadness. It was a roller coaster of emotions when I read the news.

“It’s not a comfortable thing,” Martin said. “We’ve just gotta keep treating it and hope that things cool off and try to get him ready for Tuesday.”

Alas, the loss hurts in the short term, but it’s not an unexpected defeat. What matters more, in terms of the Gamecocks’ tourney résumé, is delivering against those less-challenging SEC teams.

Now, let’s just get Dozier back ASAP.

Top-5 SEC showdown

The No. 5 Lady Gamecocks had the weekend off but probably didn’t relax too much — especially with No. 4 Mississippi State looming.

South Carolina (16-1, 6-0) will play host to an undefeated Mississippi State (20-0, 6-0) squad on Monday night.

The Lady Gamecocks should have G A’ja Wilson back in the lineup at full strength, if coach Dawn Staley’s comments are any indication …

Points will be at a premium with the SEC’s top two scoring defenses on the floor, so Wilson’s return should provide a much-needed boost for the Lady Gamecocks.

Nasirildeen de-commits

Oof, the hits just keep coming for the Gamecocks …

It was quick (and mostly painless, I guess), as the 4-star safety didn’t beat around the bush in flipping his pledge to Florida State.

Related: Hamsah Nasirildeen changes commitment to Florida State

At least Nasirildeen didn’t string the Gamecocks along to signing day. Better to open that spot sooner than later to allow coach Will Muschamp to try and find another player to fill that slot.

Jest aside, this is a massive blow to the Gamecocks’ 2017 class. The loss makes hanging on to 4-star DB Jamyest Williams even more of a priority, if that was even possible.

From SEC Country:

“With his decision to de-commit, Nasirildeen is the sixth 2017 prospect to withdraw a pledge from the Gamecocks. At No. 111, he’s the highest-rated prospect in the group. Five of the six are rated as 4-star recruits. South Carolina is also fending off Georgia in an effort to hold on to 4-star cornerback Jamyest Williams, who will announce his final decision on signing day.”

Gamecocks in the playoffs

A pair of former Carolina players played supporting roles in the NFC Championship on Sunday: FB Pat DiMarco for the Falcons and TE Jared Cook for the Packers.

DiMarco had a rare catch-and-gallop for 31 yards on Sunday, while Cook caught 7 balls for 78 yards and a score.

Related: Former South Carolina fullback Patrick DiMarco headed to Super Bowl with Atlanta

With the Falcons moving on, DiMarco will be the Gamecocks’ lone representative in the Super Bowl.

“DiMarco is in his fourth season with Atlanta, after being signed by San Diego after leaving South Carolina. He played a season with the Kansas City Chiefs before joining the Falcons in 2013. He was named to the Pro Bowl last season, also earning second-team All-Pro honors.”

Recruiting updates

“It was pretty good, I enjoyed myself, I have some serious thinking to do about where I want to be and just taking it one day at a time right now,” former UNC CB Mike Hughes told Phil Kornblut. “(Muschamp) emphasized how much I would make a difference on the team being the dynamic player that I am and all the areas I would help.”

In other South Carolina recruiting news:

Cocky tweets

Darius English is that dude …

Literally my exact reaction to the former Gamecock’s catch in the NFC Championship …

Bryson Allen-Williams chooses to see the glass half-full; I tend to agree with him …