James Young scored 21 points and Julius Randle collected a double-double with 17 points and 16 rebounds to carry Kentucky to an 85-67 victory against LSU in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
LSU halted a Kentucky outburst when Johnny O'Bryant made a field goal with 6:23 remaining in the first half to reduce its deficit to two points at 26-24. However, the Wildcats took control of the game by outscoring the Tigers 11-1 over the next 2½ minutes. Willie Cauley-Stein started the run with a jumper. Young had a dunk before Aaron Harrison drained a 3-pointer. Dakari Johnson chipped in with a couple of baskets. His second field goal put Kentucky on top 37-25 with 3:52 remaining in the first half. In this brief span, LSU turned the ball over twice and O'Bryant missed a jump shot. The lone Tigers point came on an O'Bryant free throw. The Wildcats took a 42-32 lead into halftime.
KEY PERIOD IN FIRST HALF
LSU got off to a quick start as Shavon Coleman made two 3-pointers and Anthony Hickey had one in the first two minutes. With slightly more than seven minutes elapsed, the Tigers had a 22-14 lead after an Andre Stringer layup. But, LSU failed to score for the next 6½ minutes. The Tigers missed nine consecutive field goals attempts and committed three turnovers. Meanwhile, Kentucky ran off a string of 12 unanswered points. Young made two baskets, including a 3-pointer. Andrew Harrison had a field goal and two free throws. A tip-in by Cauley-Stein tied the score at 22-22 with 8:30 remaining. The Wildcats took the lead for good at 24-22 on an Andrew Harrison jumper on their next possession. Andrew Harrison's two free throws completed the run and gave Kentucky a 26-22 advantage with 6:52 before halftime.
KEY PERIOD IN SECOND HALF
On a few occasions in the second half, LSU cut into Kentucky's lead. The Wildcats finally shut the door on the Tigers in the final seven minutes. Stringer sank one of two foul shots with 7:49 to play to leave LSU behind 61-55. That's when Kentucky went on a game-clinching 15-4 run. Aaron Harrison was the thorn in the Tigers side in this stretch with three baskets, including two 3-pointers. Aaron Harrison's second 3-pointer gave the Wildcats a 76-59 lead with 4:11 remaining. During this stretch, LSU missed four of its five field goal attempts. The Tigers' points came on a field goal by Jordan Mickey and two foul shots by Coleman. LSU came no closer than 15 points during the last four minutes.
LSU'S TOP STARTER
In what could have been his last game in a LSU uniform, O'Bryant contributed 18 points and seven rebounds. O'Bryant was 6-of-13 from the field. Unfortunately, he was also 6-of-13 from the foul line. In three games against Kentucky this season, O'Bryant had 67 points and 28 rebounds. O'Bryant finished his junior season with 1,128 career points. He is No. 31 on the school's all-time list as he passed Don Redden on Friday. O'Bryant has 689 career rebounds, good for 21st place on LSU's all-time rankings.
LSU'S TOP RESERVE
Playing the final game of his career, Stringer accounted for 14 points. He was 5-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-6 on 3-pointers. Stringer finished his career with 235 3-pointers, the third most in school history behind Darrel Mitchell (258) and Torris Bright (237). Stringer had 130 steals in his career, which puts him 16th on LSU's all-time list. Stringer ended his career with 313 assists, the tenth most in LSU history. He closed his career with 1,341 points, good for 23rd on the school's all-time rankings. Stringer passed Bill Newton on Friday.
LSU'S UNSUNG HERO
Mickey showed that he could be LSU's top inside scoring option next season if O'Bryant leaves and he returns. Mickey had 12 points and 13 rebounds - his ninth double-double of the season. Mickey was 5-of-11 from the field and 2-of-4 at the foul line. Mickey blocked two shots to give him 101 for the season - the fourth most in a single season by a Tigers player. The lone LSU player with more blocked shots in one season is Shaquille O'Neal.
Kentucky pounded LSU on the backboards by having a comfortable 48-32 advantage. The Wildcats had a 21-7 edge in second-chance points thanks to their 15 offensive rebounds. Kentucky's three post players - Randle, Johnson and Cauley-Stein, combined for 33 rebounds. The Wildcats blocked 11 shots - six by Cauley-Stein and three by Johnson. Kentucky made 47 percent of its field goal attempts (26-of-55), including 41 percent (7-of-17) on 3-pointers. LSU shot just 41 percent from the field (24-of-59), including 37 percent (7-of-19) on 3-pointers. In 30 of the Tigers' 32 games this season, the team with the higher field goal percentage came away with the victory. The Wildcats also were successful getting to the foul line quite often. Kentucky shot 41 free throws, making 26. LSU was 12-of-24 at the foul line.
The Tigers used their normal starting lineup of O'Bryant and Mickey in the post, Jarell Martin and Coleman on the wings and Hickey at point guard. . .Martin, who was 4-of-7 from the field, had nine points and a season-high four assists. . .Playing his last game, Coleman finished with ten points. He was 3-of-7 from the field, including 2-of-4 on 3-points. . .Hickey made a 3-pointer in the first two minutes of the game, but didn't score again. Hickey was 1-of-7 from the field, including 1-of-5 on 3-pointers. Hickey had 31 points and 14 assists in the two regular season games against Kentucky. On Friday, he had three points and four assists. Hickey finished his junior year with 215 career steals, the fifth most in LSU history. He has 353 assists, the eighth highest in school history. . .After scoring 12 points in the second-round victory against Alabama, Tim Quarterman had one point in 11 minutes against the Wildcats. Quarterman missed all three of his field goal attempts. . .Young was just 6-of-17 from the field, while scoring his 21 points. The Harrison twins combined for 25 points - 14 by Aaron and 11 by Andrew. Kentucky has 15 assists, eight from Andrew Harrison. . . For the third consecutive season, LSU won its first SEC tournament game and lost its second one. The Tigers have won two SEC tournament games just three times in the past 24 seasons. . .LSU allowed at least 80 points for the tenth time this season. The Tigers had a 3-7 record in those games. . .For the second straight year, LSU ended with 19 victories. The Tigers lost 13 games this season, one more than a year ago. . .Kentucky, which is 23-9, will play Georgia in a semifinal game Saturday afternoon.
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
Coach Johnny Jones
"We got off to a great start. Kentucky did a tremendous job in holding its composure and fighting back in the game. They knocked down some tough shots and wound up winning the battle of the boards in the first half. We did a great job of cutting into the lead in the second half. But, again, they made some big plays down the stretch. We didn't make enough plays down there to keep the game close enough to be in striking distance at the end."
"Kentucky wasn't shooting the ball well early. Randle only had one field goal in the first half, but he had four or five offensive rebounds. They were very aggressive getting to the glass. If they are going to miss shots, you have to make sure you get the rebound and hold them at a low percentage. You give them second-chance opportunities and they take advantage of them."
"Randle wasn't shooting the ball too well, but he was able to get his own rebound, put it back and get fouled. Dakari Johnson was getting rebounds and he was able to score some of those. Early on, we were able to get some open shots, open 3s for us. In the second half, we turned them over a few times and got some shots up. That kind of what helped us get back in the game."
"We didn't do a good job of boxing out. We let Randle get his own rebounds. We let Johnson get rebounds and put back easy shots. We really got those guys going. Things didn't turn out this year how I wanted. We just have got to sit and wait for whoever calls us."
LSU will wait to see if it gets invited to the NIT on Sunday night. It is doubtful that the Tigers' 19-13 record will be good enough to receive a bid to the NIT.