LSU coach Will Wade said it was just the same script when the Tigers faced Kentucky in the PMAC Tuesday night. And it was.
Despite another late surge from the Tigers after falling behind big in the second half, LSU struggled with poor free throw shooting and three-point defense to ultimately fall 79-76 to the Wildcats. The loss is LSU’s fourth in the last five games.
“Get Kentucky credit,” Wade said. “(Kentucky coach John Calipari) usually comes in here and runs all his pin downs and all that stuff. We were hoping he was going to run all that because we can run all that.
“Second half he just said, the hell with that, we’re just going to spread them and drive them. He ran all that over-under stuff, got the mismatch and then drove the hell out of us to the front of the rim which was very, very smart. That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame.”
Skylar Mays’ 17 points and Charles Mannings 3-for-3 from the three point line and 13 points were still not enough to secure a victory for the Tigers. LSU went 17-for-24 at the free throw line and 7-for-20 from three on the night.
LSU started the half 0-for-3 from the three point line, before Charles Manning made one to put the Tigers up 11-9 six minutes into the game. Then Kentucky retook the lead before Manning and Trendon Watford hit back-to-back threes to put LSU up 22-20.
LSU finished the half 3-for-10 from beyond the arc. LSU’s largest lead of the game was 28-24 with 4:03 left in the first half, but they couldn’t hold on to it for long.
The Tigers were solid for most of the first half, but turned the ball over four times within the last four minutes and allowed Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans to sink a three to take a 29-28 lead going into halftime.
Hagans had 11 points before leaving midway through the second half with a left thigh contusion, per the Kentucky Kernel.
“They made plays and they were able to execute and we didn’t at that moment in time,” Mays said. “They played harder than us throughout the game. Sometimes in a crucial moment you can expand the lead versus them cutting into and even taking the lead, and that was a big moment.”
The Tigers picked up in the second half where they left off in the first — poorly. They went on a scoring drought during the last 3:11 of the half, going 0-for-4 from the floor, while Kentucky opened the second half on an 8-0 run over the first 1:20.
After going 2-for-10 from three in the first half, the Wildcats started 4-for-4 from three in the second half, and ended the half 7-for-8. Guard Emmanuel Quickley said he felt like it just had to average it out in the second half, finished 7-for-12 on the day himself after starting 2-for-7. Quickley led the Wildcats with a game-high 21 points.
Kentucky couldn’t miss in the second half, getting ahead by as many as 15 points with five minutes left in the game. Even through LSU’s late resurgence, Kentucky found a way to close the game.
“We just keeping making the same mistakes and the same guy keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over again,” Wade said. “The same thing happened with Alabama, same thing happened in this game. It gets frustrating.
“Hopefully (these things) will be improved. If not, we’ll be playing home games in the NIT.”