Is Kentucky’s reign atop SEC over? No. 9 ‘Cats fall at LSU

Is there a changing of the guard in the SEC?

John Calipari’s ninth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats had their 22-game SEC winning streak snapped with an 85-67 defeat to unranked LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday night.

It was also the Wildcats’ (11-3, 1-1) third loss in their last seven games — all three defeats to unranked teams.

LSU (9-5, 2-0) features 6-10 freshman phenom Ben Simmons (14 points, 10 rebounds vs. UK), who some predict will be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA Draft. Simmons is joined by junior guard Tim Quarterman (21 points, 10 rebounds), sophomore forward Craig Victor II (15 points, 12 rebounds) and senior guard Keith Hornsby (nine points, four boards) as the Tigers’ top scorers.

Hornsby, whose father is award-winning musician Bruce Hornsby, scored 23 points in the Tigers’ SEC opener, a 90-82 victory at Vanderbilt (8-6, 0-2). Simmons tallied 36 points and 14 rebounds in that win.

"We have come together as a team," Simmons told reporters after the Kentucky win, per The Associated Press. "Everyone got sick of what was happening [a 7-5 nonconference start] and we laid it all out. We put our goals down and everyone has really stepped up and contributed."

Glenn Guilbeau, who covers LSU for Gannett Louisiana papers/USA Today, tweeted:

LSU’s next test is at Florida (9-4, 1-0) on Saturday, while Kentucky will look to bounce back at Alabama (9-3, 0-0) on the same day.

"We weren’t up for the challenge [vs. the Tigers]," Kentucky coach John Calipari said via The AP. "We weren’t ready to compete at the level they competed at, especially our inside people. We didn’t get very much from anybody in there except a lot of fouls."

The Wildcats — who also lost to unranked teams in Ohio State and UCLA in December — will get a chance to avenge the LSU defeat at home on March 5 in their regular-season finale.

Former Wildcat Anthony Davis was on hand to watch and seemed to be surprised at what was going on — the first-round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft plays for the nearby New Orleans Pelicans.

Another tough team the Kentucky will have to deal with in the SEC is No. 22 South Carolina, which improved to 14-0 by winning its conference opener 81-69 at Auburn on Tuesday. Note: Fifteenth-ranked SMU (13-0) is the only other undefeated Division-I team.

Prior to the win at Auburn, the Gamecocks had five players averaging in double figures: Michael Carrera (12.4 points), Duane Notice (12.2), Mindaugas Kacinas (12.0), Sindarius Thornwell (11.4) and Laimonas Chatkevicius (10.8). Thornwell scored a season-high 22 in Tuesday’s victory.

South Carolina hosts LSU on Feb. 10 and Kentucky on Feb. 13.