The Kentucky Wildcats faced their first SEC road test Tuesday night as they took on the LSU Tigers in front of a rocking Baton Rouge crowd.
Unfortunately, Kentucky did little to silence them as they cheered on the Tigers to a route of the Cats. A second-half run did pull the score to within five at one point, but LSU was simply the better team on this night and finished strong to pull off an 85-67 win.
Here's a look at our quick takeaways from the game.
My Eyes Hurt
As ESPN's Jay Williams said during a commercial break, "this is painful to watch. That's all I gotta say."
Or there's this:
January 6, 2016
You could not have asked for a more ugly first half of basketball then what Kentucky and LSU gave us. It was a foul-fest, turnover-plagued, disorganized, horrendous showcase of basketball that felt more like watching a Shannon Dawson-coordinated offense than a top-10 Kentucky team.
Unfortunately for UK, LSU got hot towards the end of the half and built a big lead going into halftime. At one point, the Cats had eight turnovers vs. five made field goals, which only began to show how bad UK was early on.
ESPN's Myron Medcalf tweeted this nugget during that game that shows just how badly UK is struggling to score this season:
The Louisville win and lights out shooting by Ulis/Hawkins might have fooled people into ignoring Kentucky's offensive issues. Per hoop-math.com, they're connecting on 35 percent of their two-point jump shots and 31 percent of their 3-pointers. The Wildcats made 66 percent of their free throws entering this game. Now, they're so long and athletic that they find ways to score, and their defense is solid and most teams can't overcome that. But their offensive footprint is far from sturdy. They can score but, as we're seeing now, when they're cold, things get ugly. And they've been cold too often this season.
Well said, and it summed up what UK looked like offensively for the first half. Nothing came easy, and the second half was mostly the same with UK getting more to the free-throw line and hitting threes to get most of their points.
Lee & Alex Ineffective
Coming into the season, Kentucky vs. LSU was viewed as not only one of the SEC's top matchups, but a showdown featuring several of the nation's top freshman.
While that was true of the Tigers and star forward Ben Simmons, the Cats have relied more on their upperclassman for seemingly the first time under John Calipari.
Forwards Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress have been a big part of that as they've averaged 18.5 points, 15.9 boards and 2.8 blocks per game this season. They'd gotten better as of late with 22 points, 16.9 boards and 3.8 blocks over their last six games (not counting UCLA game for Lee).
But against LSU, those two were no-shows for much of the night, finishing with just four points, six boards and no blocks with five turnovers as both fouled out early in the second half.
I'll bet you UK doesn't win a game this season when those two have stat lines like that.
Skal Didn't Help
With Lee and Alex in foul trouble for virtually the whole game, that led to Skal getting a lot of minutes and a chance to showcase his improvements...if they existed.
Skal once again showed little impact in the paint and looked lost most times he even touched the ball. He finished with just three points on 1-of-3 shooting with two boards and no blocks with one turnover while once again repeatedly being out-fought for the ball on too many occasions.
When you realize that's the same "Skal" everyone was comparing to you. pic.twitter.com/44QD83cKe3— T.J. Beisner (@Beisner_cn2) January 6, 2016
Calipari said it best last week when he admitted he was coaching Skal like a multiple-year player and not like a one-and-done. It would be an insult to the NBA for Skal to declare for it after this season.
Ulis Continues Hot Play
Tyler Ulis has been a ball of fire lately as he came into this game averaging 20.5 points, nine assists and 3.5 steals over his last two games. A hyperextended elbow led to Ulis enduring a slump for much of the past month, but he's catching fire at the right time and is the reason why UK is coming off big wins over Louisville and Ole Miss.
While UK was unable to beat LSU, Ulis did keep up his hot play with 23 points and six assists vs. two turnovers. That's a great line when the opponent knows you're the only consistent offensive player a team has like Ulis has been.
The Cats are back to struggling from the free-throw stripe, and they finished with one of their worst outings of the season tonight in a game they could have come back in had they just hit a few more freebies. The biggest culprit continued to be Isaiah Briscoe, who missed a season-high six free throws and has now missed 16 of his last 20 free-throws.
Yikes. As bad as he's been, UK hasn't been that great as a whole with guys like Alex's 0-of-3 line vs. LSU. This has got to improve and in a hurry if UK is going to even make it past the first weekend in March.
Quarterman Was Difference
Ben Simmons got the hype, but it was Tigers junior guard Tim Quarterman was the difference-maker in this game. He had the typical game of his life so many guys have against UK, and he was what kept LSU from blowing a big second-half lead as the Cats made a furious rally.
Quarterman came into the game having shot over 50% just four times this season while failing to score in double figures in his previous five games. In fact, Quarterman had a grand total of 25 combined points in his previous five games, but erupted for 21 points, 10 boards and seven assists.
Don't let the final score deceive you. This was very much a game in the second half, but Quarterman's big game helped LSU stave off the Cats and escape with a comfortable win.