By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
The Tigers, losers of three of their last four, will need to play a near perfect ball game Tuesday night, as they host #10 ranked Kentucky, in a huge SEC match up. Unfortunately, they didn't as they fell to the Wildcats, 79-76, in a game that saw the Tigers leave several points off the board with missed easy second chance opportunities under the goal, and a poor night at the charity stripe.
Kentucky would win the opening tip and score first on a quick lay up by EJ Montgomery. LSU would come right back and answer as Darius Days would tie the game at 2-2. At the 17:01 mark, with the Tigers up 6-4, Tyrese Maxey would make a driving lay up and draw a foul on Days. Maxey would can the free throw to give the Wildcats a one point lead. Charles Manning Jr. would make a three point shot to put LSU up 11-9, with 14:24 to go. Two minutes later, with exactly 12:00 left, Emmanuel Quickley would hit a three pointer to give Kentucky a 16-12 leading into the officials timeout. Both teams would continue to run back and forth at each other with Kentucky doing just enough to hang on to a 18-16 lead. With 8:14 to go in the half, Charles Manning Jr. would bang a three pointer to electrify the crowd, giving the Tigers the lead back, 19-18. Kentucky would answer right back with a quick basket. But the crowd would expolde again as Trendon Watford would make a three pointer seconds later to give the Tigers the lead right back, 22-20, with 7:35 left in the half. At the 4:11 mark, Darius Days would score to put LSU up, 26-22. Both teams would continue to trade baskets with LSU holding on to 28-26 lead, but with 1:02 on the clock, Emmanuel Quickley would steal the ball from Javonte Smart. Then, with 31 seconds left, Ashton Hagans would make a three from the top of the key, regaining the lead for Kentucky, as they would lead at the half, 29-28.
LSU would lead off the second half with Skylar Mays scoring two on a goaltending call on Kentucky. The Wildcats would answer with a three pointer on their first trip down the court. From there, Kentucky would open up a 37-30 lead with 18:08 on the clock. Over the next seven minutes, LSU would outscore the Wildcats, 16-15, but would still trail Kentucky, 52-46. Over the next two minutes the Tigers would begin to miss easy shots under the basket, while Kentucky would continue to play well and take advantage, as they would build a 58-49 lead with 9:13 to go in the contest. Trendon Watford would bank in a lay up at the 7:54 mark to pull LSU to within, 58-51. From there, the teams would begin to trade turnovers. The Tigers would continue to miss easy attempts under the basket and wide open looks from behind the arc, while Kentucky would be Kentucky, making the Tigers pay by extending their lead to 71-57 with only 3:47 remaining. LSU would refuse to quit, as Darius Days would can a three pointer with 2:18 remaining to cut the Wildcats lead to, 73-64. The Tigers would then go on a 10-5 run to cut the Wildcats lead down to four, 78-74, with 18.9 seconds remaining. But, the late twelve point deficit would be too much for LSU to overcome, as Kentucky would would seal the 79-76 win at the free throw line.
Senior leader Skylar Mays would lead the Tigers in scoring with 17 points. Darius Days would add a double-double, scoring 13 and grabbing 11 rebounds. Trendon Watford would contribute 10 points on the night. The Tigers would finish 26-66 from the floor for a dismal 39.4% and 7-20 from behind the arc for 35%. LSU also had a poor night from the free throw line which was the difference in the ball game, as they were 17-24 from the line for 70%. The Tigers out-rebounded the Wildcats on the night, 45-33, but simply missed too many easy second chance opportunities in the paint. With the loss, the Tigers fall to 18-8 overall (9-4 in the SEC). The Tigers have dropped four of their last five contest.
Next up, LSU will travel to Columbia, South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks on Saturday at 5pm on ESPN2.