After an impressive road win, the Kentucky Wildcats returned home to face the LSU Tigers on Tuesday night.
Each team got off to a good start, and in the first four minutes, there were seven lead changes, but it was the Cats who had an early 10-9 lead.
With the Cats leading the Tigers 21-16, Ashton Hagans picked up his second foul, forcing Kentucky to play the final 11 minutes with him on the bench.
However, Immanuel Quickley came in and played very well taking over for Hagans, as he had three points, four rebounds, and an assist in the half. He also did a very good job defending one of the best point guards in the conference, as he held Tremont Waters to seven points on 1-6 shooting.
A three by Skylar Mays would give the Tigers a 30-29 lead with 4:46 on the clock. From that point, the Cats would outscore LSU 11-2 to take a 40-32 lead into halftime.
For the second-straight game, Kentucky came out of halftime without the same intensity that they had to close the first half.
The poor play on both ends allowed LSU to hang around as it was a 54-52 game with just under 10 minutes to play.
LSU took a 58-56 lead with 8:15 remaining, and Kentucky continued to battle until PJ Washington tied the game at 69 with 1:13 to play.
After LSU went back in front, two huge free throws by Keldon Johnson tied the game at 71 with six seconds to play and then LSU hit the game winning tip-in as time expired on one of the worst missed offensive goaltending calls I have ever seen, as LSU wins it 73-71.
Thoughts on the game
Goaltending needs to be reviewable
I must start with that missed call on the final play of the game. The rule is if the ball is still on or above the rim when it is touched then it is basket interference.
Well, that was about as above the rim as you can get.
A complete blown call by the officials cost Kentucky the game and further makes the case that the rules should be changed to allow missed calls like that to be reviewed.
Referees are by no means perfect, but something like that should be reviewable to prevent this from ever happening to another team again. It’s not like it’s a hard thing to determine either. The NCAA classifies it as a judgment call, something they prefer not to be reviable, but it’s one of the easiest judgement calls you could correct, at least in this case.
Kentucky didn’t help themselves
Yes, that was a horrible missed call, but the game should never have been left in the officials’ hands like that.
Kentucky did not shoot the ball well from outside, as they were 5/19 from three and missed a lot of open threes as well. Also, the Cats didn’t cash in from the free throw line going 16/23 leaving a lot of free points on the floor.
Kentucky won the rebound battle 40-33, but the second-half rebounding was atrocious, and LSU had second chance after second chance.
Kentucky could’ve prevented the game from coming down to that last play if they just do the little things that aren’t typically thought of, the plays they consistently made during the 10-game winning streak.
Ashton Hagans continues to struggle
In the last few games, Hagans has started to revert to the way he was at the beginning of the year.
Tuesday, he got into foul trouble early, and in the second half, did not look comfortable running the offense. He also got beat on defense far too often, allowing LSU to run their offense far more effectively than most teams have against Hagans and the Kentucky defense.
Another big difference in this one was in the last few games he has struggled but would have a lot of assists and rebounds. In this one, he had one of each.
For this team to go far in March, Hagans must get out of this slump and play at a much higher level.
PJ Washington dominated again
In a game where majority of the team had a mediocre performance, PJ stepped up yet again.
He finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. He carried Kentucky down the stretch and continued his high-level play.
PJ has been on tear recently, and once the rest of the team clicks together, this team will set sail. It’s scary to think where this Kentucky team would be now had Washington kept his name in the draft last year, which a lot of people thought he would do.
Now, he’s playing like one of the best players in America and still has his team in position to make a run in March if they can regroup from this setback.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Cats as the No. 1 team in the nation comes to Rupp Saturday when Kentucky faces the Tennessee Volunteers. That game will tip-off at 8:00 pm EST on ESPN.
Now, here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is now 20-4 overall and 9-2 in the Southeastern Conference. Tonight’s loss ends a 10-game winning streak – the longest since the 2016-17 season – including a nine-game SEC win streak.
- LSU is 20-4, 10-1 in the SEC.
- Kentucky leads the series 89-27 with tonight ending a three-game winning streak vs. the Tigers.
- UK leads 45-6 in games played in Lexington.
- Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats stay home to host No. 1-ranked Tennessee on Saturday at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.
- For the second time this season, Kentucky will host ESPN College GameDay on Saturday at 11 a.m. The venue will be historical Memorial Coliseum on the UK campus. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. Admission is free
In the First Half
- Kentucky started Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, PJ Washington and Reid Travis for the 17th time this season. UK is now 13-4 with that lineup.
- The teams battled evenly for most of the first half.
- LSU went ahead 30-29 with 4:46 remaining but it proved to the Tigers’ final basket of the half.
- UK held LSU without a field goal for the final 4:45 of the half, assembling an 11-2 run to take a 40-32 lead at halftime.
In the Second Half
- Kentucky began the second half with Immanuel Quickley, Herro, Johnson, Washington and Travis.
- Kentucky edged the lead to nine, largest of the game at 48-39, but LSU chipped away and got its first lead of the second half, 58-56, with 8:15 remaining.
- UK tied the game at 62, but LSU’s Naz Reid broke the knot with a set-shot 3-pointer with 3:45 remaining.
- Trailing by five, Washington scored five straight to tie it again at 69 with 1:12 to go.
- LSU’s Tremont Waters hit two foul shots but Johnson countered with two free throws with six seconds left to tie the game at 71.
- LSU’s Skylar Mays missed a driving layup, but Kavell BIgby-Williams tipped it in at the buzzer for the win.
- Kentucky won the rebounding 39-32 and points in the paint 34-30.
- UK is now 18-2 this season when winning/tying the rebounding and 17-3 when prevailing in the paint.
- UK is 4-2 vs. Associated Press Top 25 foes this season.
- Tonight’s game ended Kentucky’s 17-game winning streak at Rupp Arena, including 14 in a row this season.
- PJ Washington scored 20 points and tied for game-high honors in rebounding with nine.
- It is his eighth 20-point game of the season and his sixth in his last seven games.
- He has nine straight games in double figures.
- Keldon Johnson scored 16 points, including the pressure-packed two game-tying free throws with six seconds remaining.
- With other UK guards battling foul trouble, Tyler Herro played a career-high 39 minutes and totaled 12 points and four assists.
- Reid Travis scored nine points and tied Washington for rebounding honors with nine.
- Calipari is now 295-68 at UK.
- He remains two wins away from tying Joe B. Hall for the second-most victories by a UK head coach in program history.
- Calipari has a 740-208 all-time on-court record.
- UK is 56-28 vs. AP ranked competition under Calipari.