No, this wasn’t typical Kentucky, a team often so talented it can name how many points it wants to score.
In a college basketball season of mediocrity or parity, depending where you sit, sometimes simply good, solid consistent effort wins.
Like the No. 10 Wildcats did Tuesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in a 79-76 victory over LSU to solidify UK’s SEC lead and to drop the Tigers to third in the league standings.
Kentucky (21-5, 11-2 SEC) enjoyed near-perfect second half shooting. The ’Cats drained 73.9 percent (17-of-23) of their field goal attempts after halftime, and it was too much for LSU to handle. UK finished the game outshooting the Tigers 47.5 to 39.4 percent.
“He (Kentucky coach John Calipari) usually runs all his pin downs and all that stuff.” said LSU coach Will Wade, whose has now lost four of its last five games to fall to 18-8, 9-4. “We were hoping he was going to run all that because we can run all that. Second half he just said, `The hell with that, we’re just going to spread them and drive them.’ He ran all that over-under stuff, got the mismatch and then drove the hell out of us.”
Because of it, the Tigers’ big defenders got caught at screens switching who they were guarding, creating a mismatch between UK quicker guards and Tigers’ slower front-line players.
Guards Imannuel Quickley (21 points, 7 assists), Tyrese Maxey (14 points) and Ashton Hagans (11 points) combined to score 46 points including 5-of-12 3s.
And there was guard Nate Sestina coming off bench and scoring 11 points, including back-to-back 3s that boosted UK’s lead to 15 points at 67-53 with 5:14 left.
“They didn’t miss much, and we didn’t make it tough on them,” LSU guard Skylar Mays said. “We just have to be better on the defensive end, that’s kind of the reason why we are losing. They played harder than us throughout the game.”
Mays led the Tigers with 17 points, followed by Marlon Taylor and Darius Days 13 each, Charles Manning Jr. 11 and Trendon Watford 10.
The script in the final 3:11 of the first half foreshadowed the rest of the game when UK erased a four-point deficit with a 5-0 run to close for a 29-28 lead.
LSU immediately re-took the lead of a Skylar Mays layup, but the Wildcats’ Ashton Hagans swished a 3-pointer with 19:28 left.
The Tigers never led again, thought they sliced UK’s lead to three points four times.
“This team has a will to win, it gives itself a chance,” Calipari said.