It wasn’t pretty, but the Kentucky Wildcats survived a tough game against LSU by a score of 61-50 in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament this afternoon. UK fans overwhelmed the New Orleans Arena but had to breathe a collective sigh of relief after the Wildcats survived one of their worst performances of the year to move in to Saturday’s semifinal matchup with Flordida and improve to 31-1 overall.
Friday afternoon’s opener wasn’t without drama, however, as the Wildcats appeared to sleep walk at times through a sluggish first half. A team that has averaged less than eight turnovers a game over the past month had 18 against the Tigers, many of them due to carelessness on the part of Kentucky which staked LSU to a 25-24 advantage at the intermission.
UK trailed 35-30 at the 16:00 minute mark of the second half but the Wildcats methodically chipped away and retook the lead at 37-35 two minutes later and never trailed again. Kentucky struggled to put distance between them and the Tigers however, with the lead hovering around six to seven points for the remainder of the half before settling on the final score.
Kentucky’s front court of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, and Anthony Davis were the difference makers with Kidd-Gilchrist leading all scorers with 19 points and 9 rebounds while Jones had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Davis didn’t score early, but was a huge factor down the stretch and ended the game with 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Doron Lamb also had 12 points.
The most troubling point of the game was the play of Marquis Teague who reverted to his early season form. Teague had five assists, but he also had four turnovers and often was content to dribble around the perimeter instead of initiating the offense. One has to hope that this is simply a case of first tournament game jitters because as the competition gets tougher, what we saw today simply won’t get it done.
Coach Calipari lamented after the game that the Wildcats essentially need to step up to the challenge when teams choose to play them physically tough, and he didn’t think UK did that today. Certainly the team seemed out of sorts and didn’t resemble the Kentucky team we have seen over the past few weeks.
In other news, #2 Syracuse got beat this evening by Cincinnati and #3 Kansas got beat by Baylor, so the hope here is that those headlines aren’t lost on the Wildcats as they face Florida for the third time tomorrow in the first semifinal. Florida was a 66-63 winner over Alabama on Friday.
UK will battle Florida at 1 p.m. tomorrow.go back