It had a heavyweight atmosphere when the LSU Tigers came into Rupp Arena to face the No. 5 ranked Kentucky Wildcats. One of the most physical, low-scoring games of the year for LSU ended with one of the biggest wins in program history.
In one corner was the favorite with all the national championships, who are used to being in the big game spotlight. In the other corner you had the hopeful challenger just looking to make a statement. The bout went the full 15 rounds and more.
If you had just watched the first half and turned the TV off, you would have thought that Kentucky was going to roll to another easy win, and for awhile things felt that way.
LSU was dominated in the paint in the first half by Kentucky sophomore forward P.J. Washington, who finished with eight points and six rebounds. The sophomore’s presence in the low post was the key factor why the Wildcats had a 20-6 margin in paint points.
The length and athleticism of Kentucky proved difficult for LSU’s guards in the first half. Sophomore guard Tremont Waters and junior guard Skylar Mays combined for 2-of-12 from the field and neither was able to score more than one basket.
Kentucky led for 17:08, but LSU was able to weather the storm during the first half and battled it back to an eight-point deficit in a half that would end with Kentucky leading LSU 40-32.
The second half was like someone flipped a switch.
Both of LSU’s guards found their touch offensively to combine for 16 points from the field that would help set the stage for an incredible ending to come. LSU became more aggressive in their post defense with active hands that forced Kentucky into turnovers.
The guards played well, but it was not an easy night at first either of the LSU big men who had to fight foul trouble for most of the game. Freshman forward Naz Reid picked up his fourth foul at the 13:50 mark in the second half and had to sit on the bench for most of the half.
Reid dealing with foul trouble late was able to provide some key rebounds and scoring in a game that went back and forth for the last 10 minutes. With the game tied at 62, Reid was left open and knocked down a clutch 3-pointer that put LSU back ahead 65-62.
Both teams traded baskets and fouls at the end of regulation that brought the game to a 71 tie-game stand still. After a pair of free throw makes by Kentucky, there were only 6 seconds that remained for LSU to come down inbounds the ball and score.
Waters was covered and so the inbounds pass went to Skylar Mays as he dribbled down the full length of the court and drove into traffic under the Kentucky basket and put up a contested last second lay-up that would be tipped in by senior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams as time expired to give LSU the win.
The win was the second time ever LSU had beaten a top-five team on the road, with the first also being a win over Kentucky in 1980.