LSU makes No. 1 UK work, but falls in SEC tourney
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
''We can compete with anybody,'' Stringer said after LSU's 60-51 loss to the Wildcats in Friday's second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. ''That's the No. 1 team in the nation we just played against and we were right there, and that's all you can ask for. ... It just didn't fall our way, (but) I'm proud of our team's effort.''
LSU, which forced 18 turnovers, never trailed by double digits and even led by as many as five early in the second half in a feisty performance that left Kentucky coach John Calipari sounding almost as if he was trying to explain away a loss.
''I'll go back and watch the tape and see what adjustments (need to be made), because people will be watching the tape, saying `This is how you need to play them,''' Calipari said.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist helped Kentucky overcome its early lethargy, scoring 10 of his 19 points in the opening 20 minutes before his fellow Wildcats came alive in the second half.
Terrence Jones added 15 points and 11 rebounds, including a personal 9-0 run that gave the Wildcats (31-1) the lead for good as they extended their winning streak to 23 games. Anthony Davis added 12 points and 14 rebounds after a slow start, and Doron Lamb scored 12.
Lamb credited the Tigers with turning up the intensity, adding that the Wildcats perhaps should have anticipated that, given LSU would hardly be guaranteed a postseason tournament berth if it lost.
''It might be their last game of the season and they just came out with a fight and were hungry,'' Lamb said. ''They punched us in the face in the first half, and in the second half we fought back and pulled out the win.''
Storm Warren scored 14 for LSU (18-14), which came in as a 17-point underdog after beating Arkansas in Thursday's opening round. The Tigers led by as much as five points early in the second half before Jones' surge turned the tide.
''I didn't want my season to end,'' Warren said. ''I just pretty much came out and laid it on the line.''
Stringer added 11 points for the Tigers, who might have had a real chance to pull off the upset if they could have shot better than 29.4 percent (20 of 68).
''A tough, tough, tough loss,'' LSU coach Trent Johnson said. ''I thought we competed as hard and as good as we have all year. It's unfortunate for us that we had some shots that didn't go down for us. ... But let's give credit to them, that's not a good basketball team that beat us, that's a great basketball team.''
LSU held a 35-30 lead early in the second half, thanks to an 11-2 run highlighted by Ralston Turner's transition 3-pointer and his driving finger roll.
Then Jones, who scored a season-high 27 points when these teams met earlier in the season, threw down an alley-oop lob from Darius Miller and soon after drove the baseline for another dunk.
Jones' putback gave Kentucky the lead for good at 37-35, and soon after Davis began to find his typically smooth stroke, scoring 11 of his points in the second half. Kentucky never led by more than nine, but never appeared seriously threatened during the final 5 minutes, after 6-foot-9, 262-pound LSU forward Johnny O'Bryant fouled out.
Turner and guard Anthony Hickey, a Kentucky native, each finished with 10 points for the Tigers, who lost for the fourth time in five games.
The Wildcats shot 43 percent (18 of 42) and outrebounded LSU 42-36, but their turnovers were double their average for the season.
Kentucky entered the game not only as a heavy favorite but had the crowd overwhelmingly in its favor, despite the fact the game was being played 85 miles from LSU's Baton Rouge campus.
The Tigers hardly looked intimidated though. LSU forced nine turnovers in the first half and held the Wildcats to under 32 percent shooting while holding the lead for much of the first 20 minutes.
LSU went in front with an early 10-1 run ignited by Hickey's layups and capped by 3s each by Stringer and Turner, the last making it 12-7.
Kentucky got little production early from Davis, who had four turnovers and only one point before being assessed his second foul and sitting the last seven minutes of the period. The Wildcats led only 25-24 at halftime after Lamb's jumper late in the period.
''We played great defense (in the) first half. We had great intensity,'' Hickey said. ''Give credit to Kentucky. Big players make big shots at the end.''