This was an ugly one. We’ll get into why below, but there were a lot of fouls and a lot of missed baskets. Kentucky looked horrible in the first half, but they were able to keep it close thanks to one guy in particular.
After the break, it looked like things were turning around as UK hit six of eight threes to begin the half, but then they went more than seven minutes without scoring. Yeah, like I said, it was ugly.
In the end, Kentucky just couldn't score and they couldn't get the job done, though they did nearly make a miraculous comeback in the final minute that came up just short after a pair of costly turnovers.
Next up, the Cats will return to Lexington to take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday night.
Wheeler goes down early
Sahvir Wheeler, who has probably been UK’s second most important player this season, took a hard screen and left the game just four minutes in with what looked like a concussion.
Wheeler is second in the country in assists and Kentucky’s floor general, but the Cats were forced to push forward without him for basically the entire game. Of course, it’s nice to have TyTy Washington as your backup point guard, but this was a tough road environment against an elite defensive team.
Oh, and Washington went down with his own injury in the second half, forcing Davion Mintz into point guard duties. Washington eventually made his way back, but he was nowhere near 100%.
Wheeler and Washington were sorely missed. Let’s hope for their healthy returns very soon.
Man, I’ve missed SEC officials...said no one ever.
Oscar Tshiebwe picked up two fouls with 12 minutes left in the first half and was forced to sit. Kentucky was in the bonus with 10 minutes left in the first half despite just committing three fouls, but LSU quickly caught up as they quit calling fouls on LSU’s tenacious and physical defense, and started calling cheap ones on the Cats. LSU was in the bonus just a few short minutes later.
There’s a real problem in college basketball and it’s the guys who wear the stripes. Sometimes, it feels like they just like having everyone staring at them. The stars of the show.
If UK was able to make their free throws, they would've been fine, but the Cats couldn't make anything, much less a free throw.
LSU wanted a mucked up game and they got it. Missouri wasn't good enough to do the same, but these Tigers are a good basketball team and they were able to slow the game down and make this one ugly to watch.
Grady just couldn’t keep it going...
Well, in the first half. We all expected a bad game to come—he’s just been so hot recently. After hitting 64.5% of his three-point attempts over the last handful of games, Kellan Grady really struggled in the first half. It happens.
Grady is arguably the best shooter in the country, but it was fair to be disappointed when he went 0-5 from deep and 0-6 from the field in the first half.. As mentioned above, LSU is an elite defensive team, but it’s not like Grady didn't have open looks. He just couldn't buy a basket.
That all changed after the break. Grady caught fire early and often to help the Cats take and extend the lead. I was really nervous that it just wasn't the Davidson transfer’s night, but he never shied away from pulling the trigger. It wasn't enough, but it was a solid outing for Grady.
Toppin had the hot hand
It’s a game of who’s hot and who’s not when Calipari is trying to determine whether to play Jacob Toppin or Keion Brooks on any given night. Toppin’s looked better in some games, Brooks in others, but tonight was Toppin’s night.
The athletic freak shot 6-6 from the floor in the first half alone on his way to 13 points, which was pivotal to keeping UK from getting run out of the gym in the first half. Unfortunately, it didn't carry over to the second half, but he was a very important player in this game regardless.
Brooks, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. As I mentioned, it’s a game of the hot hand each night, but Toppin provides a better overall game vs. Brooks’ better offensive game. The Cats are better when Toppin’s hot because he just provides more.
Let’s hope for a bounce back next time out and all the injured guys are back very soon.