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Kentucky at LSU -- Post mortem

Kentucky did the needful today, and outfinished a game, talented but still raw LSU squad on the road.  Kudos to the Tigers on a hard fought game.  They have some incredible young talent on that team, and Kentucky was very fortunate to win the contest.  When Randolph and Johnson get some age and some weight on their bones, LSU is going to be a contender.  You have to think that Anthony Randolph is now seriously in consideration for Freshman of the Year in the SEC.

For Kentucky, it was simply a must-win for any sort of tournament hopes, and the Cats delivered.  Some will say it was ugly, but I say they are wrong.  Kentucky has been incredibly consistent in their competitive games, operating at an offensive efficiency around 110.  That is enough to get you a win in most games, especially with tough defense, and the Cats held the Tigers to a paltry 44.3% eFG% against a season average of 49%.  Meanwhile, Kentucky's eFG was a very respectable 58%, against a season average of 53%.

This would have been a much easier game if Kentucky hadn't given up so many offensive rebounds.  LSU managed almost 40% of their rebounds on the offensive end, and that is simply unacceptable.  True, the Bayou Bengals have tall, lanky guys, but the fact of the matter is, UK simply didn't do the fundamental things they needed to do rebounding-wise.

Kentucky's defense, particularly in the second half, was excellent.  Every shot was challenged.  Every catch was opposed.  That kind of defense will give you a chance to win almost any game, anywhere.  Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley worked very hard on their respective men, and they held LSU's leading scorer to only 9 ponts on 4-14 shooting.  That is getting it done on the defensive end.

Offensively, Joe Crawford was awesome, scoring 21 points on 8-14 shooting and 3-7 from the arc.  Patterson contributed 14 points, but only managed 5 rebounds.  Derrick Jasper and Ramel Bradley did most of the rebounding, and that is clearly suggests why we did such a poor job on the defensive boards.  Kentucky simply did not block out well, and allowed LSU's big guys to get their hands on almost every ball that came off the rim.

But that is all the criticism I will offer.  This is how a tough team bounces back from adversity, and I am supremely pleased and impressed with this Kentucky team for not letting Vanderbilt beat them twice.  This game will not remove the damage done Tuesday, but it helps a whole lot.  Road wins in the SEC are like finding gold, and even though LSU is not a highly ranked team this year, beating them on the road will help UK in many ways.  It was great to see Jared Carter get in there and contribute, even though it was in relief of a foul-hampered Patrick Patterson.  Jodie Meeks also contributed in the first half, although I am a bit concerned that we didn't see him at all in the second.

All in all, this is a very satisfying win that we desperately needed.  It has to help the battered psyche of the Wildcats after the clunker they threw in last game, and give them the confidence they need to continue thier sojourn through the bottom half of the league season.  If Kentucky can hold serve at home from here on out and steal one of the two remaining road games, our odds of an at-large bid go up dramatically.  12-4 in the league almost certainly gets us in, and 11-5 gives us a good shot, especially if we get deeper than the semifinals of the SEC tournament.