Every year, golf's PGA Championship is dubbed "Glory's Last Shot."
That tag just as easily applies to LSU's showdown with No. 11 Kentucky tonight. After a backbreaking loss at Alabama on Saturday, this is truly the Tigers' final chance to score a signature win while it still matters and stop the bleeding that January has wrought.
The task is even more difficult than expected, given Mother Nature's unfortunate intervention. Instead of a raucous and rowdy crowd for a primetime Tuesday slot, the winter storm in the area will likely keep a lot of folks home. That negates the one time a year right now that the PMAC crowd significantly aids the home team's cause.
Hell, even two years ago, a crowd of about 10,000 was rocking when LSU tied up UK's eventual national championship squad late in the first half. The Tigers probably won't have that luxury tonight. They'll have to beat Kentucky straight up.
The Wildcats are exactly the kind of long, active bunch that gives LSU's middling half-court zone offense fits. Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle can match Johnny O'Bryant III and Jordan Mickey inside. UK's bevy of tall guards can close out the 3-point line, and there's enough to depth to survive any foul trouble. LSU needs a lot of good high-low passing and more looks to the elbow for mid-range jumpers. Getting some transition buckets is a must, as well.
Speaking of transition, I wouldn't be surprised to see LSU break out the press earlier and possibly more often. It really spurred the Tigers back into the game on Saturday. Despite Johnny Jones' hesitance to use it regularly, he may not have any choice but to get Kentucky out of a rhythm. LSU must be careful to avoid foul trouble, though. JOB and Anthony Hickey seem to find the bench in the first half of nearly every game because of foul trouble.
This is not a vintage Kentucky team, but it's still good enough to crush LSU when firing on all cylinders. I don't expect that to be the case tonight. It'll take the Wildcats a little time to get warmed up, maybe even until the second half against a desperate LSU crew. It should be close, but the Tigers will have to execute in the half-court in the final 10 minutes.
LSU has backed itself into a corner with some erratic play over these last three weeks. A win here would erase a lot of the damage, not just by being a nice resume boost but sending LSU into the season's final five weeks with a renewed confidence. The schedule eases up after UK, with the likes of Texas A&M, Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt comprising much of the February slate. But a winning streak probably won't matter if LSU can't conquer the Cats. Just give the Tigers one last shot.