LSU's Strong Road Effort Falls Just Short To Kentucky, 74-71
KJ Williams scored 23 points to lead LSU.
LEXINGTON, Kentucky – The LSU Tigers battled with Kentucky for the full 40 minutes in its first league road test of the season, before falling to the Wildcats, 74-71, Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.
KJ Williams had a strong night for the Tigers making 8-of-13 field goals, including four treys and three free throws to lead all scorers in the game with 23 points.
The game marked the first time all season that LSU had more than three players in double figures as Adam Miller had 15 points on five three-pointers, while reigning SEC Player Trae Hannibal hit 5-of-6 field goals in getting back-to-back double figure games in the league with 12 points and Cam Hayes added 11.
For the second time this season, LSU was able to keep the turnovers to single digits, committing just nine. LSU had assists on 15-of-their-26 buckets as both teams played a fairly clean game throughout.
LSU had a couple of small leads in the first half including 17-15 with 11:36 to go in the stanza. The Wildcats opened an eight-point lead twice in the final six minutes but LSU cut the deficit to just four, 42-38, at intermission.
LSU had possession to open the second half and was able to cut the Wildcat lead to just one, 42-41, on a KJ Williams three-pointer. Kentucky tried to take control of the game back, scoring the next seven points to up the margin to eight and the lead finally went to double digits, 58-48, with 12:30 to play.
But this group of Tigers tried hard to not allow the Kentucky fans to celebrate too much.
Down 60-50 after an exchange of buckets, the Tigers went on an 8-0 run as Miller hit a three-pointer, Fountain followed a miss and scored and then KJ hit a three to make it 60-58 with still 6:29 to play.
Kentucky would eventually get the game back to six points before LSU worked back again as Hayes hit a corner three-pointer and Hannibal got a bucket to make it a one-point game, 67-66, as the clock ticked under two minutes.
Kentucky led 72-68 lead with 25 seconds to play. LSU after a turnover had to play the foul game, having only committed four team fouls. The Tigers were finally able to get Kentucky to the line in the bonus, which the Wildcats missed with still 19 seconds to play.
The Tigers Hayes then was fouled attempting a three-pointer and made all three attempts, putting the Tigers again down just one, 72-71, with 4.6 seconds to play.
The Tigers fouled Jacob Toppin with 3.4 to play, who made both free throws to make it 74-71.
LSU tried to get the ball downcourt to get up a shot but a hurried effort by KJ Williams was off the mark.
LSU is now 12-2 on the season and 1-1 in the SEC, while Kentucky is now 10-4 and also 1-1 in the conference.
Toppin led Kentucky with 21 points, while Oscar Tshiebwe had 19 points and 16 rebounds. Calvin Wallace had 14 points and Sahvir Wheeler had 11 points and nine assists.
The Wildcats finished the game shooting 51.9 percent, making 28-of-54, with 7-of-18 from distance and 11-of-14 at the line. The Tigers were one attempt under 50 percent, making 26-of-53 or 49.1 percent. LSU had another double-digit night from the arc, hitting 11-of-25 for 44.0 percent (KJ and Miller had nine-of-the-11 makes). LSU was 8-of-10 from the free throw line.
LSU, which had 26 points in the paint, was outrebounded 31-22, with Kentucky having a 10-5 advantage in offensive boards.
The Tigers for the second straight game got good contributions off the bench. After out scoring Arkansas, 25-0 off the bench, LSU outscored the Wildcats, 16-4.
LSU will return to the road this weekend, traveling to Bryan-College Station for a game at Reed Arena with Texas A&M. The game is set for 5 p.m. and will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network and televised by the SEC Network.
KENTUCKY VS. LSU
RUPP ARENA – LEXINGTON, KY.
JANUARY 3, 2023
LSU Head Coach Matt McMahon
Opening Statement …
“Credit to Kentucky. I thought it was a heck of a college basketball game. Both teams were probably better offensively than expected going in. Give them credit for finding ways to win; they hit some tough shots there late. We were finally able to get some stops in the last eight minutes a close the gap on the glass a little bit. They just make it so tough on you with Oscar in there on the glass and they hit some tough shots to win the game in the last minute and a half. I’m really proud of our players. We don’t have moral victories so I’m disappointed we weren’t able to find a way to win. I found out a lot about our team tonight. The character, the toughness, the things that need to be the building blocks to how we build this great LSU program moving forward.”
On the performance of Jacob Toppin …
“Credit to [Jacob Toppin]. One of our staff members shared an article with me about how he went through that four game stretch where he was averaging three [points] a game and was really in a bad mindset. So, credit to him for bouncing back with a great performance on Saturday. He’s a very good mid-range shooter, but that’s something that we have to live with. We have to force teams to take some non-paint twos and he was able to knock them down. I think he’s a really good cutter without the basketball and he does a nice job, whether you’re in man or zone, in finding the cracks in the defense. I thought he beat us on a couple shots. It’s basketball, so he’s 3-22 from three on the year, but he blasts that three to ice the game at the end.”
On Kentucky’s offensive performance …
“People keep telling me that they’re struggling, but they’re top 20 in the country in a lot of offensive stats. They shoot 39% from three and have a guy that absolutely dominates in the paint so I really hadn’t seen those struggles. I think they make it tough on you because they do shoot in well from three and they have the best offensive rebounder in basketball when they miss. They won a lot of those 50/50 plays and loose balls. I wish we got a few more of those but credit to Kentucky.”
On returning to the Commonwealth …
“Great to see. It’s been a while. Of course it means something to us. I was in Murray, Kentucky for 11 years of my life. My youngest daughter was born there and she was here with me tonight for the game, along with a lot of people who had become family along the way.”
#12, KJ Williams, F
On playing a game in Kentucky once again…
“It means a lot for me. I started there my freshman year and spent a tremendous four years there. I had great success and built a lot of relationships off the court. I want to give them thanks for all they’ve done for me and coming out tonight and supporting.
On playing against Oscar Tshiebwe…
“It was the opportunity of the lifetime for me to go up against a great player like him. He knows how to get to his spots very well and knows where the ball goes when it comes off the rim. Credit him, he attacks the rim and tries to get the offensive and defensive rebounds. For me, I just tried to go in and play my game—attacking him and trying to box him out so I can give my team the opportunity to crash and get the rebound.”