BATON ROUGE -- LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell developed the perfect formula for shutting down the Southeastern Conference's top offense and most disruptive defense - slowing down the tempo of the game to the Lady Tigers favor.
LSU, which had only nine available players, held fifth-ranked Kentucky to a season-low in points and Adrienne Webb scored a game-high 19 points as the Lady Tigers shocked the Wildcats and snapped their 13-game SEC winning streak by a score of 61-51 on Sunday afternoon in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
A raucous crowd of over 5,000 watched LSU defeat the SEC's first-place team and record its first win over a top-five ranked opponent since beating No. 2 North Carolina to advance to a fifth straight NCAA Final Four on March 31, 2008. It was also the Lady Tigers' first home win over a top-five team since defeating No. 5 Ohio State on Dec. 10, 2006.
"This is obviously a great win for the program," said Caldwell. "I can't tell you how proud I am of this group for playing a very discipline game. We stayed true to the game plan and everyone contributed in some way. We were again hit with adversity but this team has a fight in them, a never give up attitude. I felt like that was the reason we were successful tonight."
LSU (15-8, 5-5 SEC) snapped a five-game conference losing streak after opening the season with a 4-0 start. The Lady Tigers remained in a tie for seventh place in the league standings with Florida and stand two games ahead of ninth-place Mississippi State.
Kentucky (21-3, 10-1) saw a 10-game overall winning streak come to an end and lost for the first time since a 70-58 setback at Middle Tennessee on Dec. 28, 2011. A'dia Mathies, a candidate for SEC Player of the Year, was shutout in the first half before finishing with 12 points. Bria Goss, a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week, was held to four points - seven points below her average.
Webb reached 19 points for the second straight game - her third consecutive double-figure game - to pace an LSU attack that was deadly in its mid-range jumpers and at the free throw line. LaSondra Barrett scored all 12 of her points in the second half and Jeanne Kenney added nine points and four steals. Both Barrett and Webb were a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line as LSU shot collectively a season-best 25-of-31 to Kentucky's 5-of-11.
"We really talked about slowing the basketball down and getting into our offense," said Caldwell. "We looked to put the ball inside and work our high-low action because we felt like we had a height advantage. Our way of combating that quickness was to use our physical presence. I felt like our team did that."
The Lady Tigers, already without the services of senior point guard Destini Hughes to knee surgery, played minus freshman forward Krystal Forthan. Forthan sustained a high left ankle sprain in practice on Saturday and she is day-to-day. Junior guard Bianca Lutley was out due to a violation of team rules.
LSU established its pace early, crawling out to a 10-2 lead seven minutes into the first half. Shanece McKinney, who finished with three blocks, scored two buckets on Kenney assists. Meanwhile, the Wildcats managed only two made field goals in the first eight minutes. UK, which forced 26 turnovers for the game, tied the game for the first time at 18 with 1:55 left in the stanza.
LSU led 20-18 at the break, holding UK to its lowest point total in a half since 2009. The Wildcats gained their first lead on Kastine Evans' three with 17:04 to go, but Webb responded with a big answer - a three of her own. It was Kentucky's only lead of the game.
LSU took advantage of Kentucky's foul trouble midway through the second stanza. Theresa Plaisance drained two free throws and Taylor Turnbow made a jumper that gave the Lady Tigers a six-point cushion. Mathies finally got on the scoreboard on a runner through the lane with the shot clock winding down.
Webb provided another big basket with a three-point play on the other end and the lead blossomed to eight on four straight points from Barrett. With the score 48-45 in favor of LSU with 3:52 remaining, the Lady Tigers closed it out with an 8-0 run. Barrett had four free throws in the final three minutes while Turnbow added three.
LSU finished the game at a blistering 56.7 percent from the floor and scoring 41 points in the second half. Kentucky shot 35.0 percent and was held 25 points below its scoring average. The Wildcats, one of the nation's most high-powered offenses, came in posting 74.1 points per game.
The Lady Tigers also owned the boards, 33-26, while blocking seven shots.
"They did it in a way that I hadn't seen in a while," said Caldwell. "I felt like this group played this game with high intensity and effort. That is why we were able to defend the way we did and be aggressive."
LSU closes a three-game homestand against Mississippi State at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Maravich Center. The game will be televised by Cox Sports Television and broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network on 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge. "The Nikki Caldwell Show" presented by Capital One Bank airs live at TJ Ribs Acadian at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Fans are encouraged to come out and be a part of the live audience.
LSU Head Coach Nikki Caldwell
"This is obviously a great win for the program. I can't tell you how proud I am of this group for playing a very discipline game. We stayed true to the game plan and everyone contributed in some way. We were again hit with adversity but this team has a fight in them, a never give up attitude. I felt like that was the reason we were successful tonight. We believed in their program, their system and most importantly believed in each other."
On the play in the second half...
"It started with us breaking the press and staying strong with the basketball. Kentucky is a very aggressive defensive team and we were getting those calls to get us in the bonus early. We stayed true to our philosophy offensively, which was to establish our inside attack. When you are able to do that, trying to get the ball inside whether it is off the dribble drive or our high-low action. We did a great job of capitalizing at the free-throw line. I was proud of the group for shooting 80 percent from the line. Had we not made those free-throw shots the game could have easily gone the other way."
On preparing for Kentucky...
"I wanted this team to understand the pressure that they were going to first receive from Kentucky in their full court man-to-man run and jump. We really worked a lot on poise with Jeanne (Kenney) and LaSondra (Barrett) obviously having a lot of poise at the point and not rushing us into our offense. When you get past half court and break the pressure you have a tendency to still play at that tempo. We really talked about slowing the basketball down and getting into our offense and really looked to put the ball inside and work our high-low action because we felt like we had a height advantage. Our way of combating that quickness was to use our physical presence. I felt like our team did that."
On the play of the defense...
"We talk about when you turn it over you can't allow them to score the next basket. We have to cancel out that turnover and the way you do that is through your defense. I thought this group really played tough as far as guarding their perimeter play. We really tried to disrupt (A'dia) Mathies and know where she was at all times and we did a good job at that. It started with our first five. I thought they set the tone right out of the gate for how we were going to play for 40 minutes and we didn't let up."
On the importance of the win...
"This is a great win for this group. They have worked hard and we have come up short. The have seemed to have bought in more on what the game plan was and they bought into each other. They started feeding off each other. They did it in a way that I hadn't seen in a while. It is something that they have to decide and a choice that they make every time they step on the court. I felt like this group played this game with high intensity and effort. That is why we were able to defend the way we were and be aggressive.
Sr. F LaSondra Barrett
On what changed in the second half ...
"The first half all of use played with power. I sat for a while and observed the game, but in the second half I was able to get to the rack and when Jeanne got into foul trouble Coach told me to look to score so that was what I was trying to do. I was probably more aggressive in the second half and just getting to the free throw line. We needed those free throws just to extend that lead. Not just me but everybody knocked them down."
On the win....
"Coming into the game we were shorthanded, but we played with an attitude that we had nothing to lose and we left it all out on the court. Shanece McKinney the way she was blocking shots, Taylor Turnbow erupted today and Swayze Black had great energy and also these two (Adrienne Webb and Jeanne Kenney) up here. We all feed off of each together and it was contagious and the crowd was into it too. We knew that we could win, and that we could stick with Kentucky. I think our backs were against the wall and coach was talking about playing through adversity. We succeeded today."
So. G Jeanne Kenney
On the need to stay patient ...
"Well coach told me to be more patient and be more disciplined at the point. We had a game plan to control the tempo, and we didn't want to play a running game with Kentucky, because that is what Kentucky is really good at. We were spending more time taking care of the ball rather than getting ripped off the dribble. Everybody was a contributor though, it wasn't just me or Boogie (LaSondra Barrett). All five players came to help us. They all had our backs."
On turning the ball over ...
"We had this talk and it was very difficult for Coach Nikki to say this but there is a good turnover and there is a bad turnover. A good turnover is when it is a dead ball situation and they have no hope of coming in transition and they end up throwing the ball out of bounds. Even though I had a couple turnovers they were good turnovers."
Jr. G Adrienne Webb
On the win and regaining the feeling they had before their losing streak ...
"I believe it does. Playing a top five team and only holding them to 51 points, that is really big. It kind of motivates us to push harder in practice and finish out this year strong."
On 19 points and the base line jumpers ...
"I do kind of like those little spots, but it all start with my teammates and them attacking and making the person guarding me bite and finding that open gap."
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
"I would like to complement LSU on a great game. It was a great game plan and we were out played, out coached, every way you could be. I just want to say how impressed I was with the effort that their kids gave. You don't have a real true point guard against what is supposed to be a good defense and they just had their way with us today and did a great job. Clearly with no questions they wanted to win. I complement them for that."
On the size of LSU...
"It really affected us greatly and they beat us by 10 points. We never seemed to have much confidence against them today. They came in, played a lot harder and took any confidence we had away quickly. Their size, athleticism and their will to win was really most impressive to me."
On playing LSU...
"They have very good players. I need to examine how I prepare the team. I tried to instill confidence in them and I think I instilled over confidence. It didn't look like we were going to use our advantages. We are an aggressive attacking defense and LaSondra Barrett is a great player and has been for four years. I am not sure how great of a point guard she is but she looked like one of the best of all time. We could not take the ball from her, affect her or speed her up. We could not do anything to stop her. She played a lot because (Jeanne) Kenney was in foul trouble. We were thinking coming into the game that their lack of guards would work to our advantage. I have to take a lot of the blame for not having our team prepared. We clearly didn't look like we were prepared today."
On being considered a target...
"This team has had so much success this year when they want to play and three times we have not come to play or done the things necessary to win. A lot of that has to do with the three opponents we played and they did a great job. I don't know how much we view ourselves as a target and that is not problem for us."