USC men drop further out of Top 25; women fall to No. 3

Head coach Frank Martin and the South Carolina men play at Missouri on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

COLUMBIA — The effects of South Carolina’s blowout loss to Kentucky were evident in AP Top 25 voting Monday, even though the Gamecocks men remain in the thick of the race for their first SEC championship since 1997.

An 89-62 loss to Kentucky on their home floor dropped USC further out of the Top 25, with the Gamecocks receiving just 39 voting points Monday — as opposed to 128 a week ago, when they came up four points shy of tying for the 25th spot. But despite the rankings, South Carolina remains alone in third place in the SEC standings, one game behind leaders Kentucky and LSU.

The South Carolina women dropped to No. 3 Monday after a week that included the Gamecocks’ first loss of the season, 66-54 at home to unanimous No. 1 Connecticut. Notre Dame, whose only loss is a 10-point setback to the Huskies in Storrs, Conn., moved into the No. 2 spot over the Gamecocks by seven points. Despite the drop, the USC women have now been ranked in AP’s top five for 38 consecutive weeks, including 33 straight weeks in the top three.

The Gamecocks men (21-4, 8-4 SEC) try to regroup from the Kentucky rout in a 7 p.m. game Tuesday at Missouri (9-16, 2-10), the league’s last-place team, which snapped a nine-game losing streak with a victory Saturday over Tennessee. USC has rebounded from each of its previous three losses with victories, including one on the road at Texas A&M.

“They’ve bounced back from our losses in a good way,” USC head coach Frank Martin said Monday. “We’ve got a group that’s been through it, that’s been through the wringer. Does that mean we’ll win? I have no idea. But they’ve responded to adversity for the last three years. Obviously, Saturday we didn’t play well and got beat. It is what it is. If we follow the script we’ve been in this year, we’ll come back and play halfway decent. Hopefully, it’s good enough to win.”

The Gamecocks are in third place, one game ahead of a four-way tie for fourth that involves Texas A&M, Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Florida, the latter being USC’s opponent Saturday at noon at Colonial Life Arena. In his newest NCAA Tournament forecast, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi on Monday projected South Carolina as a No. 7 seed, playing VCU in Raleigh, N.C.

“Our challenge is to stay connected to who we are trying to be,” Martin said, “and continue to fight to put ourselves in place to see if we can compete for a conference championship.”