Tuesday night’s LSU-Kentucky game was a crucial one for both schools. Following a crushing loss to Auburn last week, the Tigers needed a big-time SEC win. Inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU walked away with a 65-60 victory. LSU fell to #21 in this week’s AP poll, and the Wildcats are the SEC’s third-highest ranked team at #16 in the country. Tari Eason led the Tigers with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Xavier Pinson added 11 and Brandon Murray added 10 of his own. For Kentucky, the team took a blow early when Sahvir Wheeler left the game early in the first half after being hurt on a screen. Davion Mintz led the Cats with 16 points. Jacob Toppin added 14 and Kellan Grady added 13 for UK.
LSU-Kentucky: Tigers Survive 65-60
What seemed like a potential double-digit victory late in the second half resulted in a five-point win for the Tigers. In the first half, LSU led 35-30 at halftime behind six points from Murray and five from Pinson. The defense for LSU was crucial in the first half. The Tigers went into the break with 22 total defensive rebounds and seven turnovers forced.
For the game, LSU shot 42.1 percent from the floor on 24-of-57 attempts. The Tigers shot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc and 53.3 percent at the free-throw line. As for Kentucky, the Wildcats shot 36.2 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. In the second half, Kentucky guard Kellan Grady lit up LSU at the three-point line. When the Tigers struggled to defend the arc, Grady was rising up to keep the Cats in the game. To begin the second half, Kentucky went on a 9-0 run to take a 39-35 lead.
However, LSU would bounce back after being down 50-41 with 13:09 left in the game. The Tigers went on an 11-0 run to take a 51-50 lead before Kentucky would score again. With 3:32 remaining, Darius Days hit a clutch three-point shot to put LSU up 59-52. However, Kentucky wasn’t done at that point. The Cats were down 61-53 with 2:36 left and managed to cut the deficit down to 61-60 with under 30 seconds to play. A few fouls by the Cats sent LSU to the free-throw line and sealed the win for the Tigers.
Tigers Defensive Troubles in the Second Half
LSU’s inability to defend the three-point line allowed the Wildcats to get back into the game early in the second half. When UK went on the 9-0 run on nothing but three-pointers, LSU head coach Will Wade needed to make sure his team began playing better. While the team has been solid defensively this season, getting into SEC play and not guarding the arc won’t sit well with Wade and the staff.
Leave no doubt, Kentucky is a solid team under John Calipari. But the Tigers had no excuse to not get back defensively quick enough to contain UK’s long-range shot attempts.
Tough Stretch Ahead
Now 1-1 in conference play, the road only gets tougher from here for the Tigers. Up next, LSU welcomes Tennessee to Baton Rouge on Saturday at 5 pm central time for a key SEC battle. Then, the Tigers face Florida and Arkansas next week. To round out the month, LSU travels to Alabama and Tennessee before hosting Texas A&M to round out the team’s first eight SEC games. To close out January, LSU faces TCU in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
If the program is going to be considered a real contender, getting through the next seven games with at least four or five wins will be crucial. For now, a close win over Kentucky has the team heading in the right direction.
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