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GAME RECAP: No. 19 LSU 73, No. 5 Kentucky 71

LSU goes into Rupp Arena and upsets Big Blue at the buzzer

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

In what is easily their biggest win of this season, last season, and many seasons prior to that, LSU scored a monumental win over the No. 5 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena thanks to a Kavell Bigby-Williams tip in at the buzzer.

The Tigers improve to 20-4 on the year, 10-1 in SEC play and now are in sole possession of second place in the conference. The win snaps Kentucky’s ten-game win streak and drops the Cats to 20-4 and 9-2 in the SEC which is good for third.

The game was decided at the buzzer. After Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 71, Skylar Mays got the inbounds, drove down the court toward the left side of the basket and threw up a shot that wouldn’t go, but Kavell Bigby-Williams reached over a crowd of bodies to tip the ball in right before the buzzer sounded. There was a delay in the call as officials reviewed the play to check for any potential offensive goaltending, but the correct call was made and LSU got out of Rupp with their biggest win in years.

Peruse through the box score and you’ll see that LSU is every bit as good as the Wildcats which makes beating them in Rupp even more impressive. LSU had 24 baskets to Kentucky’s 25. The Tigers made 19 of 22 free throws and Kentucky made 16 of 23. LSU had more steals, blocks and fewer turnovers, while Kentucky won the rebounding and assists battles. But perhaps even more impressive than LSU matching Kentucky blow for blow was that the Wildcats, at famed Rupp Arena, were never able to land the knockout punch. The Cats had an eight-point lead at the half but it felt smaller. The Wildcats were never able to get a double-digit lead; anytime they started to extend their lead, LSU was able to get a basket or two and keep the game hovering around a one or two-possession game. Will Wade and company threw counter-punch after counter-punch until LSU ‘s strength, length in the front court, and offensive rebounding, came through at the very end.

What’s truly amazing was LSU being able to pull off such a monumental win without a truly standout performance. Tremont Waters and Skyar Mays combined to shoot 6-26 on the night. But the ball handling duo combined to hit 12 of 13 free throws, handed out six assists and swiped the ball from Kentucky five times. Naz Reid scored nine of his 12 points in second half and grabbed seven rebounds all while playing with four fouls.

If there’s a performer who stood out, it was Emmitt Williams getting work done inside. Coming off the bench in relief for Reid and Darius Days, who, like Reid, also had four fouls, Williams scored ten of his 12 points in the second half on a perfect 4-4 effort and grabbed five of six rebounds. Williams was able to penetrate the Kentucky interior and made PJ Washington, who scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and Reid Travis get into foul trouble.

This win doesn’t clinch an NCAA Tournament bid, nor does it make LSU champions of the SEC. But it’s arguably the program’s biggest win since the 2006 Final Four run. For LSU, this was the program’s second road win over a top-five opponent since 1980 which was also against these very same Wildcats. The win also positions LSU beautifully for the SEC regular season crown: Tennessee has to come to Baton Rouge next Saturday and the Vols and Cats still have to play each other twice. There’s also this fascinating tidbit from Todd Politz:

The Tigers of LSU came into tonight ranked No. 19 in the nation on the biggest of stages, in the most historic of arenas, against one of the proudest, mightiest, strongest basketball programs in the country and didn’t blink. Hell not only did they not blink, they, not Kentucky, were the ones who delivered the final blow. LSU had a chance to make a statement tonight on national television against a top-five opponent in their building.

Consider the statement made.