Men's Basketball Falls to No. 17 Kentucky, 74-71
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team came oh so close to an upset win over a ranked team in its Southeastern Conference opener Wednesday night, falling to the 17th-ranked Kentucky, 74-71.
LSU falls to 9-4 overall and 0-1 in SEC play going to a Saturday afternoon game with Texas A&M in College Station (1:15 p.m., SEC Network, LSU Sports Radio Network) and Kentucky goes to 12-2 and starts 2-0 in the league.
The loss overshadowed a strong effort by forward Duop Reath, who had one of the best overall games of his career with 24 points and 11 rebounds. It was his first double double of the year and his eighth double double of his two years at LSU. Reath hit 11-of-17 field goals, including two trey attempts, including one that rallied LSU to its final lead of the game at 65-64 with 3:31 to play.
PJ Washington would score on a layup after a miss by LSU to take the lead back at 66-65 with 3:06 to go and his ensuing free throw made it 67-65. Reath after both teams missed had a dunk inside to tie the game for the fifth and final time at 67-67 with 1:59 to play.
Kentucky got the next two baskets to go up 71-67 with 1:16 to play and the Wildcats nursed that lead until the end.
Up 74-71 with 16 seconds left, Tremont Waters tried a three but also tried to draw a foul in the final seconds. The shot was missed but the ball was out-of-bounds to LSU with 0.8 to play. The inbounds went to Brandon Sampson, whose buzzer shot was no good in a final attempt to tie the game.
Waters had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his third double double, his first of points and rebounds, while Aaron Epps scored 13 points.
LSU shot 44.6 percent (29-of-65), 6-of-24 from the arc. The Tigers were 5-of-11 from the arc in the first half, but was just 1-of-13 in the second half. Kentucky shot 50.8 percent for the game (31-61) and 5-of-12 from the arc. Kentucky out rebounded LSU, 35-34.
Kentucky scored the first seven points of the game and led for the first 11 minutes before the Tigers scored seven straight to go up 20-18 with 8:35 to go in the first half on a Waters bucket. After the game was tied at 25-25 with 6:10 to go, LSU finished on an 11-6 run, but left a lot of possible points on the table in that final six minutes.
But the paid crowd of 11,952 (largest of the season) was happy as the Tigers went to the dressing room up, 36-31.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Washington led Kentucky with 18 points apiece, while Kevin Knox had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
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LSU HEAD COACH WILL WADE
Opening statement …
“I thought in the first half that we played really well. We should have been up more at halftime. That’s where we lost the game. We didn’t give ourselves enough of a working margin in the first half. In the second half, they (Kentucky) figured out what was going on and just put their head down, which was very, very smart. We should have had more of a working margin in that first half. We were tougher in some spots. We did a pretty good job on the back boards. We gave up some critical free throw offensive rebounds. We had that possession where they had four offensive rebounds. We had some critical mistakes. Against a team like Kentucky, you have to play 40 minutes. I said that the other day. You have to play the full game. We just had too many lapses.”
On the bench production tonight ...
“I thought Randy (Onwuasor) did a good job defensively. I thought he played well for us. We’ve been pretty good most of the year. Kentucky’s length bothered us. We practiced against sticks all week with our guys having sticks for length. We struggled scoring over the length in practice, and their length bothered us tonight during the game. The threes, they’re coming at you a lot quicker. They’re contested. They’re longer. They’re bigger, and that hurt us.”
On the final plays of the game …
“We were trying to run the same play we ran in the first half where (Aaron) Epps got the open three and hit it in front of the Kentucky bench. We couldn’t get set.”
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
G Tremont Waters
On if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s play surprising him …
“I hadn’t really played against him in high school. He is a great player. He can definitely get in the paint and finish and find his teammates. It was just a challenge adapting to his hesitation and everything. At the end of the day, I had the last-chance shot to end the game and didn’t knock it down. As far as Quade (Green), he is a great dude, great player. I played against him a lot in high school and he is just cool.”
On what he can take away from the game against Kentucky …
“We have to come out and listen to Coach (Will Wade) in the huddles. He gave us an example of what to do, we just didn’t execute. In practice we just have to continue to get better, go over these late-game situations, and just listen to coach and execute when we get on the court.”
F Duop Reath
On the last possession of the game …
“They just played the three-point line really well. We just made a mistake or two. I just felt they played great defense on the three-point line.”
On why Kentucky scored a lot in the paint in the second half …
“I felt like just the little details, our rotations defensively, just the back line getting easy points. I felt we could have done a better job on our rotations.”
On the team being a little bit more aggressive tonight …
“I felt like everybody, as a team, came out wanting to win the game. At the end of the day it didn’t go that way. I am going to use this as a good learning experience and just move on.”
KENTUCKY HEAD COACH JOHN CALIPARI
On how well he thinks his guys showed resolve on the road…
“We had the flu. Hamidou (Diallo), Sacha (Killeya-Jones) and Nick (Richards) could all play about a minute and a half. They got so winded they could barely stand. We were just trying to figure out what would work. It’s kind of like this entire season, it’s just an experiment, and it seems to be game to game. We try to figure out what’s going to work for us both on offense and defense. The biggest thing is that we have to fight. It’s hard to fight when you have the flu, and we told them after that it wasn’t personal, we were just trying to win. I appreciated them trying to play. We made some big plays down the stretch. The ball out of bounds that Kevin (Knox) had, he needed to bring it in. He can’t fumble that ball out of bounds, it was the game-winner. The game is over after that. We gave them some chances, but I liked our will to win at the end. I told them after that my hope was at the end of every game that we’d have a chance to win in the end, but there’s not going to be blowouts in this league, I’m sorry. Our league is too good.”
On if there’s someone he’s coached before that he uses Quade (Green) like…
“Maybe Brandon Knight a little bit. I like Quade off the ball because he’s just got a great feel. He has the ability to score and do the stuff that he does. It gives you two ball handlers that can both make free throws. I told our team if the clock went down seven, six, five that we needed to foul them. It’s all stuff that you try to walk through in the moment. If I’m right, we had four freshmen on the court for the majority of the game.”
On how much of a breakthrough it was for Kevin to see his first basket go down…
“Good. There were still some rebounds he’s supposed to get, but he settled for jumpers. That’s a freshman, and I’m just happy he played. PJ (Washington) led the team in the second half. Give LSU credit though, they’ve played well and shot the ball well all year. We didn’t have an answer for their big guy. Again, a couple guys just weren’t up to it, but we couldn’t do that to them. We had to run plays to do it. All they did was throw it in to him, and that kid really hurt us. They’re going to beat people. I’m just happy we don’t have to play them again. They play an open game. They’re not afraid to shoot threes.”
On how much different this LSU team is than ones he has seen in the past…
“Most of the times that we come down here, you know what happens. We get smashed, and I’ve lived through a bunch of those. I think what Will (Wade) has done in the style of play and what he’s trying to do, there’s some freedom in what they’re doing. He puts them in situations to make plays. Tremont (Waters) is someone we recruited really hard, and I know how good he is. I know how well he can get baskets and the things that he can do. For any of us that coach, you’re just trying to put your guys in the best position for those players to have success, and I think Will is doing it.”
KENTUCKY FORWARD PJ WASHINGTON
On their defensive plan on the last play of the game…
“On the last play we basically just didn’t want them to shoot a three. Me and Kevin (Knox) played on the outside and there were two bigs on the other side of the floor and we just tried to not let them reach the three-point line.”
On Duop Reath’s effectiveness in this game…
“He started out really aggressive in the first half and kept doing it the whole game. You have to tip your hat off to him. He played really well and he’s going to have a good season.”
KENTUCKY GUARD SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER
On the significance of picking up an early win on the road…
“We’re confident in our abilities. Coach (Calipari) told us before the last game that we’re 12 or 13 games into the season and we don’t see ourselves as freshmen anymore. We see ourselves as upperclassmen and we try to play with that confidence and that swagger.”
On Coach John Calipari’s emphasis to his team at halftime…
“We got punched in the mouth in the first half. They were the aggressors and we let them attack us. That was his emphasis. We had to come out in the second half and be the aggressors and I think we did that and that’s why we won.”
On Kentucky’s 11 first-half turnovers…
“Personally, I think I had a couple turnovers because I was indecisive. I need to be more decisive and aggressive offensively and take care of the ball better and those turnovers will cut down. Overall, as a team, we laid back and let them attack us and that’s why we had turnovers.”