Tonight, the 23-0 Kentucky Wildcats continue their road-warrior ways as they make the trip down to the bayou to face the LSU Tigers, a team that was widely considered Kentucky’s chief competition this season in the SEC next to Florida. Florida has been a big disappointment, but LSU has been only a little worse than most people predicted considering their prodigious talent
LSU, as most of you know, is a very big team, not quite as big as Kentucky but by far the best matchup for them size-wise in the entire SEC. They have at least two future NBA players on their team, which is something only a few teams in this league can say. Coming off the late Florida game and having to travel all the way to Baton Rouge will be by far the most distant and stressful road trip that Kentucky has faced.
|When:||Tuesday, Feb. 10th at 7:00 pm ET|
|Where:||Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, LA|
|Radio:||UK Sports Network|
|Live Audio:||Via CollegeSportsLive|
Season so far for LSU:
Season record: 17-6 overall, 6-4 conference
LSU had two early-season losses to lesser teams on a neutral floor that were unexpected. They did beat West Virginia, a really good team ranked top 25 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings in Morgantown, no mean feat. That was the only really good game on their non-conference schedule, and that win will serve them well come tournament time.
In the SEC, LSU has had a few perplexing losses: On the road at Mizzou in overtime, and at home to Mississippi St. and Auburn back-to-back. Those defeats really hurt the Tigers’ RPI, but they had a nice win against Alabama on Saturday and seem primed and ready for the Wildcats tonight.
Kentucky is 85-25 (77%) against the Tigers historically. The last victory for LSU was last season in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers dominated Kentucky in a game that was notable for a bad ice storm that made travel very difficult. The Tigers are 1-7 versus the Wildcats in the John Calipari era, with the aforementioned game being their only victory to date.
LSU has had two major runs of success against Kentucky: Between 1978 and 1981 where they were 6-4 against the Wildcats (the days of Rudy Macklin and Kenny Higgs), and between 1987 and 1992, where LSU went 7-6, the latter part of which were against LSU teams that included Shaquille O’Neil and Chris Jackson.
|3||Elbert Robinson III||R||C||7-1||270||Fr.||6.7||0.6||1.7||0.5||0.5||0.3|
|+||Eligible transfer/red shirt|
|&||Injured, not available|
|Rank and Records||UK||LSU|
|Strength of Schedule||#21||#95|
|RPI Top 50||9-0||4-2|
LSU Team Notes
- LSU is not an offensively efficient team. They are averaging only about 1.01 points/possession against much lesser competition than Kentucky.
- LSU is the second best defensive team in the league next to UK. They are allowing less than 0.97 points/possession.
- For a big team, the Tigers don’t rebound particularly well, particularly defensively.
- LSU turns the ball over at a prodigious rate, over 21% of the time. That’s a very high number, and speaks to why their OE is so anemic.
- The Tigers don’t shoot the ball particularly well from anywhere, averaging just over 48% from 2 and less than 33% from three. Understandably, they don’t shoot a lot of threes.
- LSU is second only to Kentucky blocking shots at 15.6% of attempts.
- The Tigers are a very young team. Not as young as Kentucky, but very young indeed.
LSU Player notes
- Jarell Martin is the second-leading scorer and rebounder. He has great size and skill, and gets to the line a lot. He can shoot both inside and outside, although his 3-point percentage is an unimpressive 29%
- Jordan Mickey is the leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker for LSU. He is 43rd in the nation in blocked shot percent, and is an excellent offensive and defensive rebounder. He rarely shoots from the perimeter and doesn’t make them when he does. Either Martin or Mickey are used in half of LSU’s possessions.
- Keith Hornsby is the shooting guard for LSU. He is a good 3-point shooter at 37%, and takes the lion’s share of LSU’s threes. He takes very good care of the ball comparatively speaking.
- Josh Gray is the point guard for LSU. He’s a poor ballhandler, turning it over on almost 30% of his possessions, but he assists at a high rate, almost 28% of his possessions. He is not a good 3-point shooter and doesn’t jack many up.
- Tim Quarterman was a reserve for most of the year, but has recently been moved into the starting lineup. He’s the small forward and is mostly a slasher, but he can shoot the three also; just not very well.
- Jalyn Patterson is a freshman combo guard who gets the most minutes off the Tiger bench. He is the most efficient player on the team and shoots a decent 36% from the arc. He’s small, though, at 6‘0" and 173#.
- Alex Poythress is lost for the season with an ACL.
- Trey Lyles is recovering from an illness. He made the trip, but his status is questionable.
No known injuries.
We talked about the quick turnaround for the Wildcats earlier, which prompted Coach Cal to give them both Sunday and Monday off. How that will affect Kentucky is likely to be evident in the start, and Wildcats fans need to hope for UK to get off reasonably well out of the gate, as a slow start is usually a bad sign for this team.
Kentucky will not be able to throw the ball into the post and just jack up short hooks with Mickey patrolling the paint. He’s a great help defender and will swat all the weak stuff out of there, or most of it. Martin is less athletic and more of a position defender, but he has good bulk and will be able to keep Kentucky from muscling a lot inside.
I suspect Kentucky will dare LSU to shoot 3-point jump shots to prove they can make them and attack post feeds from the top. This strategy should work, but the Wildcats can’t afford to let LSU think they can make open threes, because they are shooting worse from the outside than their talent would indicate. We don’t want them to find their eye versus the Wildcats, so Kentucky has to pay attention to any shooters that look like they might be heating up.
Offensively, LSU will give up the 3-ball, and Kentucky’s better size on the perimeter will make those shots available. LSU is last in the league in fouls per game, so they don’t play tremendously physical. Despite his size, Martin is more of a skill player than an inside beast, but that makes him all the more dangerous for that. He can make baseline and free throw jumpers with ease at a high percentage, as can Mickey. Kentucky has to force them to give the ball up and make the perimeter players beat them as much as possible.
This is a very difficult game for Kentucky. If they stick with their knitting, they should be able to win without a great deal of drama, but LSU is more than good enough to pull the upset and will be playing in front of a packed house. That affected Kentucky in Gainesville and I don’t doubt it will affect them here. But if the Wildcats focus on taking care of the ball, getting inside-out looks and keeping 3-point shots to a reasonable percentage, they should be able to offensively overwhelm the Tigers. Defensively, Kentucky must try to force longer shots from perimeter players and take care of the glass. LSU hasn’t been a great rebounding team, but there’s no reason they can’t be in a game like this, and Kentucky has been up and down on the boards.