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Kentucky gets revenge on LSU: 4 things to know and postgame cheers

Bryce Hopkins’ breakout game helped Kentucky rally past LSU after a brutal first half.

Bryce Hopkins Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats get their revenge from an early conference loss against the LSU Tigers thanks to a 71-66 win tonight.

It was a very grind-it-out type of game against the Tigers from Baton Rouge. Without their starting backcourt, Kentucky struggled to score and create plays.

After the first half, the ‘Cats had just one assist and hit zero three-pointers. LSU’s third-ranked defense battened down the hatches and forced Kentucky to take unnecessary, bad shots.

The second half was a different tale. Kentucky was the one tightening up on the defensive side of the ball, forcing LSU to take bad shots, not a great recipe for a team who is one of the worst in the country, statistically, at shooting from the outside.

Kentucky forced three of LSU’s key players to foul out in the second half.

The scoring was also more balanced in the second half, with Davion Mintz, Oscar Tshiebwe, Kellan Grady, Keion Brooks, and Bryce Hopkins all chipping in. Tshiebwe recorded his 22nd double-double of the season.

Here is what you need to know from the game.

Wheeler and Washington out again

Kentucky played their second straight game without their starting backcourt. Sahvir Wheeler and TyTy Washington missed their second straight game due to injuries. Hopefully, this is their final game being held out for precautionary reasons, as Kentucky travels to Fayetteville on Saturday for a big showdown with the Arkansas Razorbacks, potentially for second place in the SEC.

Kentucky also struggled mightily to handle the press that LSU threw at them. No one seemed really comfortable with handling the ball. Making the game more than interesting with 30 seconds remaining. It was very poor end-of-game execution and great game film for Arkansas and Eric Mussleman.

It’s hard to see a scenario where Kentucky goes in to Bud Walton Arena and walks out with a win If they’re without Wheeler and Washington for a third straight game.

Scoring struggles

Without the starting backcourt, Kentucky struggled to put the ball in the basket, especially in the first half. LSU held the Wildcats to a season-low 23 first half points. Kentucky did not hit a three-pointer in the first 20 minutes, despite a few open looks.

LSU’s third-ranked defense stymied UK without their play-making guards, really making it difficult to get any easy looks. Kentucky shot just 33% in the first half, with no threes.

Kentucky only hit two shots from downtown, tying for the lowest made this season (@ Notre Dame.)

Hot shooting road teams

There’s something about Rupp Arena that really just makes road teams shine. LSU came into tonight’s game ranked 232nd nationally in three-point percentage. They started off hitting four of their first five and went 5/9 from behind the arc in the first half. Xavier Pinson, who averages 9.6 PPG, had 16 first half points.

Thankfully, they cooled off big time in the second half up until those last few minutes.

Bryce Hopkins

Who do you go to when you need a spark and a bucket?

Bryce Hopkins, of course.

The freshman forward has not seen the floor much in SEC play this season, but was ready when his number was called against the Tigers.

Hopkins instantly provided a spark off the bench, with two and-one baskets within the span of two plays. Hopkins had not scored a single point since January 25th. He ended up with 13 points off the bench.

If Hopkins can start playing like this consistently, he should earn meaningful minutes in the postseason.