LSU 77, No. 8 Kentucky 72

LSU guard Jeanne Kenney had endured a rough week, emotionally
and physically.

It began with the death of her grandfather, whose funeral she
missed when a snow storm prolonged a road trip. Then she was
diagnosed with a stress reaction in her left foot, leaving her
unsure if she could help LSU against No. 8 Kentucky.

Kenney managed to push all of that aside on Sunday, turning in
the finest performance in her three seasons at LSU on a day when
the upset-minded Lady Tigers could really use it.

She hit all five 3-pointers she attempted on her way to a
career-high 22 points, and LSU upset No. 8 Kentucky 77-72 on
Sunday.

”We needed this win. I was going to play,” Kenney said,
allowing for a slight, appreciative smile. ”I needed my team and
my team needed me.”

Kenney had to miss her grandfather’s funeral on Friday when a
major snow storm in the Midwest postponed LSU’s game in Missouri
from Thursday night to Friday afternoon. Unable to find a flight
home, Kenney went ahead and played Friday in honor of her
grandfather, Cliff Beaulieu, who used to attend all her home games,
and would often remind his scrappy granddaughter to hold her
follow-through on her shot and not take so many charges, because he
worried about her getting hurt.

But Kenney struggled in LSU’s overtime victory at Mizzou, going
1 of 6 from the field.

”My mindset was Missouri was going to be a dedication game, and
then I went in there trying to do too much,” Kenney said. ”So I,
honest to God, tried not to think about that (on Sunday), because
once you put emotions into it, I’m already an emotional person on
the court, and I just needed to do enough.”

Still, LSU went into pre-game warm-ups uncertain if Kenney could
play at all until she told coach Nikki Caldwell, who had already
decided against starting her, that she could give her at least
limited minutes.

Kenney saved the Lady Tigers (17-10, 8-6 Southeastern
Conference) in a reserve role, finishing 7 of 8 from the field and
3 of 4 from the foul line in 26 minutes, and hitting a critical 3
right after Kentucky had tied the game at 64.

”Jeanne responded like her grandfather would have wanted her
to,” Caldwell said. ”Today she was one of the most courageous
players that I have had an opportunity to coach. … Her presence
on the floor was definitely felt by her teammates.”

A’dia Mathies scored 20 and Jennifer O’Neill 15 for Kentucky
(23-4, 11-3) which saw its four game winning streak snapped.

”That was a terrific game. It’s a hard one to lose,” said
Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell, who remained one victory shy of
tying former Kentucky coach Terry Hall’s all-time school record of
178 wins. ”LSU just played a great game of basketball and executed
at critical moments. They had a really good day on offense and we
just couldn’t slow them down. I didn’t think we played
poorly.”

Theresa Plaisance recorded her fifth double-double this season
with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Bianca Lutley added 15 points
for LSU, which shot 52.9 percent (27 of 51) , including 7 of 11
from 3-point range.

Kentucky shot 44.6 percent (29 of 65), but was only 6 of 23 from
deep. LSU also outrebounded a Kentucky team renowned for its
defensive play, 34-32, en route to its second upset of a Top 10
team in two weeks (having beaten then No. 9 Georgia 62-54 on Feb.
10).

LSU did have a potentially significant setback, however, when
starting center Shanece McKinney left the game late in the second
half with an apparent leg injury that required her to get help off
the court. She had five blocks. Caldwell said she wasn’t sure
McKinney would be ready for LSU’s next game against Alabama on
Thursday, but expected her back this season.

LSU never trailed in the second half and led by as much as nine
in the final 20 minutes when Plaisance’s layup made it 49-40.

The Wildcats kept pushing back, with Mathies’ 3 cutting the Lady
Tigers lead to 62-60. Mathies later pulled Kentucky into a tie with
her reverse layup with 4:03 left, but LSU did not wilt, thanks to
Kenney, who drilled a 3 and a jumper in succession to make it 69-64
with 2:13 left. Kentucky never got closer than three points after
that.

”We did a good job fighting to get in our position, but I think
we just had some mental lapses at the end of the game,” Mathies
said. ”When you drop a play, you have to turn around and execute,
and that’s something that didn’t happen.”

The teams were within four points of each other through most of
the first half, with Kentucky taking a 24-22 lead on O’Neill’s
jumper.

That’s when LSU started a 21-6 run covering most of the last
7:10 of the half. It began with Lutley’s free throws, followed by
Kenney’s 3-pointer on her first shot of the game. Danielle
Ballard’s driving scoop and Adrienne Webb’s back-court steal and
quick jumper from the lane gave LSU nine straight points.

Kenney made all three of her shots during the first half, all
from 3-point range, and added a pair of free throws in the final
minute of the period, giving her 11 points in a span of 6:19 and
staking the Lady Tigers to their largest lead of the game at 43-30
before DeNesha Stallworth’s short jumper made it 43-32 at
halftime.