Rapid Reaction: Kentucky 60, LSU 51
March, 9, 2012
By David Helman | ESPN.com
NEW ORLEANS -- A look at No. 1 Kentucky's 60-51 win over LSU on Friday.
Overview: Kentucky was on upset alert, at least until it decided it wasn't.
A spirited LSU effort saw the Wildcats fall behind by two possessions early in the second half in their SEC tournament quarterfinal. Faced with the possibility of an early exit, Kentucky turned it on down the stretch to pull away.
The Wildcats actually trailed LSU for a solid chunk of the opening half, as well. LSU's Anthony Hickey, a Kentucky native, put up eight first-half points for the Tigers, with six fast-break points coming off three steals. The steals highlighted the central issue for Kentucky -- it couldn't hang onto the ball. At halftime, Kentucky had more turnovers (nine) than made field goals (seven). Despite that, the Cats still led 25-24 at the half.
Turning point: LSU jumped out on an 11-5 run to open the second half, punctuated by a breakaway layup from Andre Stringer to give the Tigers a 35-30 lead. Kentucky took a timeout, and when play resumed the Wildcats took over. During the next eight minutes of play, Kentucky went on a 17-5 run, highlighted by nine straight points from Terrence Jones.
Key player: Key player by committee. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the Wildcats in scoring with 19 and got to the line pretty much whenever he wanted to, shooting 9-of-12 from the stripe. Jones and Anthony Davis each put up double-doubles. Jones scored nine of his 15 points during UK's rally. Davis absolutely mauled the Tigers on defense, throwing up 12 points and 14 boards to go with six blocks.
Key stat: With 10 minutes to play in the game, LSU's Johnny O'Bryant had four personal fouls and Storm Warren had three. With eight minutes remaining, Ralston Turner fouled out. O'Bryant followed him to the bench two minutes later. The Tigers just couldn't handle the Wildcats' bigs in the post. Justin Hamilton stayed out of foul trouble, but he contributed just four points on a horrendous 1-of-12 shooting effort.
Miscellaneous: The game was played in New Orleans, just about 70 miles away from LSU's campus. Big Blue Nation didn't care. New Orleans Arena was filled nearly to capacity, with roughly 80 percent of those fans wearing Kentucky blue. The Tigers, playing in their home state, had hardly any representation outside of the players' families.
What's next: Kentucky advances to the SEC semis, where it awaits the winner of the Florida-Alabama quarterfinal. LSU will take the short drive along Interstate 10 West back to Baton Rouge, where the Tigers will hope for some sort of postseason invite -- probably the NIT, if anything.