A quick over/under for Kentucky points: 84.5?
Yes, that's how bad it's gotten for the LSU defense and how tall a task it will be for the Tigers today.
Even with Kentucky playing one of its worst games of the season and the home team controlling the pace of play, LSU still allowed 82 points to the Wildcats in the monumental win back on Jan. 28. Add in a healthy dose of road woes with a dollop of the Rupp crowd and LSU could find itself on the mat often in this one. Any Kentucky final score below 80 would probably be a strong defensive showing here, as crazy as that sounds.
It's just hard to see Kentucky coming out at anything less than full throttle, considering the revenge factor from the previous matchup. Julius Randle, in particular, should be incorrigible inside, while Dakari Johnson will battle Johnny O'Bryant III and try to get him in the usual foul trouble. LSU isn't going to be called for a mere 12 fouls this time, and it's highly unlikely another 50 percent shooting night awaits. JOB won't see single coverage again, that much is for sure.
All of this sounds like a pretty dour prognosis for LSU and it is, but the Tigers do have a few cards to play here. First is the absolute urgency LSU should have in spades against Kentucky. Big Blue still inspires team's best shots, plus this is the absolute last gasp for LSU's NCAA Tournament shots. Closing out and fighting through screens should not be an issue here. Anything less than a 40-minute fight from the Tigers will still be disappointing, despite the tough matchup.
The second card to play is Anthony Hickey. The Kentucky native is always amped to play the Cats and it's just his second time playing in Rupp while donning the purple and gold. He tends to press against his home-state behemoth, which was a problem during the pair of games vs. UK his freshman season. Last year in Rupp, Hickey played a solid game with 15 points and three steals. He was even better last month, controlling the game and knocking down four clutch free throws to cap off an 11-point, six-assist outing. More than the numbers, Hickey harnessed the boundless motivation he has against Kentucky into a manic-yet-precise approach to running the offense. If LSU can get that from him again - and it's not out of the question - then a loss is not given.
I see a fired up Kentucky team steamrolling out of the gate, perhaps even opening up a 15-point lead in the first half. Even with the recent road woes, I don't expect LSU to go down without a fight, using some timely 3-pointers to make a late charge. Under normal circumstances, this program can live with a moral victory leaving Rupp. Because LSU has dug such a hole with some brutal road woes, nothing less than a real victory will mean much for this year's bunch.