Blakeney’s 31, late comeback not enough in LSU’s 92-85 loss at Kentucky

By Tiger Rag News Services 

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The LSU Tigers scored 58 second half points and shot 62.5 percent in the second half to close a 25-point game down to just six in the final minute in a 92-85 loss to Kentucky Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.

For the Tigers, despite the loss, it was one of their best all-around efforts as they continued to battle to score and find the open looks throughout the contest.

Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson combined for 48 points on the night to lead LSU as sophomore Blakeney recorded his third 30-point game of his career and the first this season. He is one off the 32 points he scored in February 2016 against Florida. This was his first 30 point game on the road. Blakeney has scored 54 points in his last two road games for the Tigers

Sampson had 17 points on the game and with his 4-of-4 at the line has made 13-of-13 free throws in the last two games.

With the win, No. 15 Kentucky moved to 19-5 and 9-2 in the SEC. The loss dropped LSU to 9-14 and 1-10 in the league.

Wenyen Gabriel hit 7-of-11 field goals with three treys and 6-of-7 free throws to score 23 to co-lead Kentucky, while Malik Monk hit 8-of-15 with four treys to get his 23. De’Aaron Fox also hit seven field goals and six assists to finish with 16 points, while Isaiah Briscoe added 14.

Blakeney made 12-of-19 field goal attempts with four treys (on seven attempts) and 3-of-4 free throws, while Sampson was 6-of-12 with a trey. Blakeney also had a team high five rebounds. Blakeney had 22 points in LSU’s 58-point second half, while Sampson had 12 points.

For the game LSU shot an even 50 percent (32-of-64) after making 20-of-32 in the final 20 minutes (62.5%) and 8-of-11 from the arc (72.7%). For the game the Tigers shot 43.5 percent from the arc in making 10-of-23 attempts and a good 11-of-15 from the stripe (73.3%).

Kentucky shot 49.2 percent for the game, including 16-of-28 in the second half. They made nine treys and 21-of-26 from the free throw line. Kentucky out rebounded LSU, 40-26, but the teams were even in points in the paint and most importantly after some recent contests, LSU had a 23-14 advantage in points off turnovers. Each team had 14 miscues, with LSU having just six in the second half while UK turned it over 10 times in the final 20 minutes.

The Tigers turned the ball over four times in the first 4:12 of the game and that gave Kentucky an early 9-2 advantage. Kentucky then outscored LSU by another 9-2 to go up 18-4 at the 13:16 mark. The Tigers were able to get it back down to seven at 26-19 on a Sampson three with 6:42 to go, but the Wildcats outscored LSU, 17-8 the rest of the way to lead at intermission, 43-27.

Kentucky scored the first five points of the half to go up 21, 48-27, two minutes in, but the Tigers had their first run of the half as Sampson and Blakeney began to find their way to the goal on drives that opened up jump shots as well.

The Kats made their final run starting at the midway point of the half with LSU again down 16, 65-49, with 10:29 to play. Fox had a layup and free throw and after a free throw by Wayde Sims, Briscoe hit a three, Edrice Adebayo hit free throws and Monk hit free throws to make the lead 75-50 with 8:47 to play. Kentucky had that lead one other time at 8:08 at 76-51.

Then slowly but surely LSU would kick into gear showing effort and ability throughout the contest, outscoring the Kats, 34-16, the rest of the game.

The first charge came with LSU down 22, 81-59, with 6:25 to play as Sampson got a layup and free throw, Blakeney scored off a Kentucky miss and Duop Reath hit two free throws to make the Kentucky advantage, 81-66, with 4:45 to play.

Kentucky got a three and then an 8-2 run by LSU with three pointers by Blakeney and Epps took the game down to 12, 86-74, with 2:04 to play. After two free throws by the Wildcats, Sims took a Blakeney pass and hit a corner three to cut the game down to 11, 88-77, with 1:23 to play.

After a Fox layup, LSU came down and Blakeney hit his third three to make the margin 10, 90-80 with 43 ticks left. LSU fouled and after a made FT, Blakeney made two of his own to give him 28 points and cut the lead to 91-82 with 19 seconds left.

Patterson got a steal on the inbounds and tossed to Blakeney who topped 30 points with his fourth trey of the night, getting LSU to within six, 91-85, with 14 seconds to play. Kentucky added one free throw for the final margin.

In the final 20 minutes, LSU had more points in the paint (24-20), points off turnovers (19-8), second chance points (6-2) and fast break points (8-2).

Aaron Epps in 17 minutes off the bench gave LSU nine points, while Reath had eight.

LSU plays at home next on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against Arkansas. The game will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network and televised by the SEC Network. Members of the 1991 SEC Championship team from LSU will be on hand for a reunion weekend.

Follow updates on LSU Basketball at and on Twitter @LSUBasketball.

LSU Head Coach Johnny Jones

Opening statement …
“First of all I’d like to let the people back in Louisiana and the New Orleans area know they’re in our thoughts and prayers from the bad weather – tornados that set down there today. A lot of people been affected and I just want them to know we’ll be praying for them tonight.

“I knew it would be an extremely tough game for us. The setback Kentucky was coming off of, there from Florida, we knew they would come in and be focused. That they were. I thought they played a really good first half of basketball. I thought our guys did a good job of remaining focused and continuing to battle to the bitter end there and at least continue to fight and battle, unfortunately we couldn’t overcome the first half deficit there enough to get a victory here in Rupp Arena tonight.”

On the performance of Antonio Blakeney …
“I thought Blakeney did an excellent job tonight of staying aggressive, especially coming off of two what we call subpar games for him. He’s an excellent offensive player and I thought tonight he continued to stay aggressive. I thought they did a great job of trying to get into him and catch him on the perimeter, to not allow him to get comfortable. But I thought because of our spacing, he was able to find some and drive the lanes and get the ball to the basket.”

On what changed in the second half offensively …
“Well we actually ran a couple of other plays and started sticking with it a little bit. We felt we got into a little bit of a rhythm with some screens that were being set. We knew how certain things that were switching were trying to hold on what we wanted to do is just try to find some gaps in their defense and try to attack them. We were fortune enough when we did attack and they rotated right we made some pitch plays and some shots went down for us in the second half that did not fall for us in the first half when we thought we had looks.”

On Wenyen Gabriel producing on the offensive end …
“He’s really good. He’s talented. He can really stretch you on the defensive end of the floor because he can certainly shoot it and I thought he made some big plays for them tonight. I think he, what did he wind up at four? What did he have three 3-point baskets tonight was it? I thought he was certainly a big difference in the ball game finishing with 23 points. A really good solid player for them and thought he played a great role tonight.

On what weaknesses he saw in Kentucky’s defense …
“Not so much, I don’t think you would call it a weakness. I thought it was a strength of ours because we tried to space the floor against them tonight and they tried to lock down on our shooters, which they did a good job of especially in the first half. We only shot 37 percent in the first half because of the job that they did and didn’t give us easy looks. I thought we were better in the second half mixing it up, taking advantage of some things and getting to the rim was one of them because they took away our perimeter guys and were able to attack and get downhill. But I don’t think it was so much a weakness for them that were able to execute a little bit on the offensive end.”

On competing when they fell behind …
“Again, I thought the first half one of the big things we wanted to make sure we did coming out of the locker room was make sure we competed and tried to make sure we got the 50-50 balls and that we made the tough plays tonight. I thought Kentucky did that in the first half. They beat us to 50-50 balls, they got second chance opportunities and I think they may have had 10 points of off second chance points and we can’t give up those type plays like that. We did in the first half. I thought that was one of the reasons why we had the deficit. Second half I thought we competed better, I thought we were on the floor, we came up with more of the hustle plays. I think got to some of the 50-50 balls. We were able to execute on the other end of the floor because of it and I think we wound up with 23 points off turnovers and that was good. Really good for us at least to get back from that deficit.”

#2 Antonio Blakeney, Sophomore, G

On his overall thoughts on Kentucky…
“They are a great team. They’re number one in the SEC right now. They can really score the ball and defend, all while having great players.”

On his high scoring against Kentucky’s defense…
“They are a great defensive team. I was just trying to make aggressive plays and try to get to the rim while they were hard on me all night. I just wanted to make some buckets or some plays for my teammates.”

#0, Brandon Sampson, G

On if the Coach Jones stayed positive with them…
“We were just competing. We just had to come out here and compete. He said if we came up here and played hard we can play with anybody and I think we showed that. Just kind of play hard was his biggest message coming into this game. ”

On Coach Jones biggest message…
“Just not letting the score dictate it, just going out there and giving it all you’ve got, as long as you leave it all out on the court. That’s the biggest thing, just playing hard.”

On what Coach Jones told the team after the game…
“He felt like we left everything out on the floor. That’s a great team at the end of the day. Preseason picked number one in the country so I think we played them really close and I think that showed a lot that we were capable of. So as long as we come out and play with that amount of energy I think we can play with a lot of people.”

Kentucky’s John Calipari
Q. Are you more encouraged that you were up 25, or bewildered by those last eight minutes?
COACH CALIPARI: “Well, first of all, I thought you saw what I wanted and I thought we did some good stuff. Defensively, again, Bam (Adebayo) got his third foul. He just stopped playing down that end. He just, like, ran from layups. Look, he fouled, not us. You’re the one that fouled 94 feet from the basket. You got to go play now or you can’t play. Just stay out.

“Eight minutes to go, what we did, we reverted. I don’t know if we were tired or reverted back. Might have been a combination of both. If I could practice tonight, we would have gone three hours. I would have had them meet me at the gym at 10 o’clock, and I would have gone three hours until one in the morning until people were puking. That’s what I would have done. That’s the old days. I can’t do that.

“But we will practice three hours tomorrow. I told them, if anybody says they can’t go, you won’t make the trip to Alabama. So don’t go, or you’ll go. We’re going to get after this and continue to build what you saw for three quarters of the game.”

Q. Was Wenyen Gabriel fully rebooted tonight?
COACH CALIPARI: “It wasn’t Wenyen. What happened was Isaiah Briscoe created 12 shots and had three hockey assists at halftime. He created three shots. Now, he only had three assists because a bunch of guys missed shots. But he created 12. We’re looking for him to create 18, 20 shots a game. That’s what we want from him. And he started now. After he did that those last eight minutes, he didn’t do any of it. He stopped doing it.

“We had a lot of guys revert. I liked the fact that what we talked about with Malik (Monk), he was doing. Turnovers came down. We had one late. Throw it to them on an out-of-bounds like it doesn’t matter? Whoa! What happens is as an individual you look bad. It’s not our team, you look bad. We got some stuff to do. I’m going to say it again. I know now and I feel comfortable we’re on the right path. Disappointed in the last eight minutes.

“But let’s say this: How about LSU didn’t stop playing. How about Johnny (Jones) just kept them going. They’re making threes and they weren’t afraid …”

Q. In the second half, teams have shot much better against you guys, LSU included. Is that a fatigue thing?
COACH CALIPARI: “Maybe focus, fatigue, not getting back, not talking. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff going on. But, again, what the major thing I wanted to get out of this game and that practice we got ‘til the last eight minutes, then they got tired and reverted back to: I’m going to pass this. When I’ve exhausted every opportunity to shoot this ball, I will then give it to you, maybe by your ankles, maybe over your shoulder, but I’ll give it to you. We got away from that. Today the ball moved. It was crisp. It went to the extra pass. Guys found each other. It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to play that way.

“Then the last eight minutes, we kind of reverted. But, again, they were scoring. They made probably four threes. Hate to tell you, three of them were on Wenyen. Kid, what are you doing? You’re leaving a guy. Tell me what you’re thinking. Oh. So, we got some work to do. But let me say this: I told them, ‘Enjoy the win. We won. We were up 25. What we’re working on, we’re on the right path. Now we got to go.”

Q. Cal, LSU shot 62 percent in the second half.
COACH CALIPARI: “Believe me, I know. I know. I watched it. I’ll tell you that with Bam, when he got a third foul, 94 feet from the basket, reaching for a ball he had no business (reaching for). He couldn’t have got it whether he knocked the guy over, kicked, tripped, whatever. He couldn’t have got the ball, but he fouled. Now he went back and didn’t want to guard because he didn’t want to get a fourth foul. If you can’t play with three fouls, then you can’t be in the game. They were shooting layups. He literally saw the guy coming and moved the other way, like, four times. But I felt better with him in there than playing some other guys, so… Let him learn from it.”

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Cody Worsham

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