LEXINGTON, Ky. - Johnny O'Bryant III poured in 21 points to match a career-high as the LSU men's basketball team nearly erased an 11-point halftime deficit before dropping a hard-fought 75-70 decision to defending national champion Kentucky Saturday inside Rupp Arena.
LSU (10-7, 1-5 SEC) dropped its fifth straight decision to Kentucky (13-6, 4-2 SEC) after the Tigers posted a 73-70 triumph to clinch the 2009 SEC regular season championship.
O'Bryant III scored 12 of those 21 points during the second half and brought down 12 rebounds to secure his fifth double-double of the season. His previous 21-point performance came versus Northwestern as part of the Charleston Classic on November 17, 2011.
Playing in his home state, Anthony Hickey tacked on 15 points sparked by a quartet of three-pointers. It marked the ninth straight outing that Hickey has provided double figures. He also added three steals.
Andre Stringer tallied 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and returned to double figures for the first time since LSU's SEC opener at Auburn back on January 9. Shavon Coleman picked up eight points and four rebounds.
Making his return to the starting lineup, Charles Carmouche turned in a solid all-around effort. He posted seven points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals. It was the fifth time in his last six appearances that Carmouche has distributed five or more assists for the Tigers.
Kentucky had four players register double figures fueled by Alex Poythress' 20 points and 12 rebounds. It marked the fifth time that Poythress has eclipsed the 20-point plateau. Archie Goodwin (15), Ryan Harrow (11) and Nerlens Noel (10) also came away with double figures for the Wildcats.
After trailing by as many as 15 points late in the opening half, LSU made its initial charge midway through the second stanza. O'Bryant III connected for a powerful two-handed dunk through a pair of UK defenders to bring the Tigers back to 54-49 with 12:10 remaining.
The Wildcats responded with 11 of the next 16 points, and a Poythress fastbreak lay-up put UK back ahead 65-54 margin at the 6:54 mark. It would be the last field goal that the Wildcats would make in the contest as LSU's defense forced Kentucky into six turnovers down the stretch.
The Tigers used two Malik Morgan free throws and a Shane Hammink driving lay-up coupled with a Hickey deep three-ball and a Coleman lay-up off a steal to make it 66-63 with 3:17 to go.
With 3.9 seconds left on the clock, LSU got as close as 71-70 after an O'Bryant III putback lay-up. The Wildcats made all four of their three throws sandwiched between a Hickey miss on a 1-and-1 situation to wrap up the five-point win.
LSU grabbed a 5-2 lead to start the contest as Hickey buried a three-pointer followed by an O'Bryant III jumper with 18:10 remaining.
Kentucky fired back with an 18-5 spurt over the next 7:06 to go up by double figures at 20-10. The Wildcats received baskets from six different players during the run capped by Poythress jump hook at the 11:06 mark.
Kentucky pushed its lead to as large as 15 points before taking a 42-31 edge into the locker room. The Wildcats connected for 16 of their 19 field goals and 32 of their 42 first half points inside the paint.
LSU returns home Wednesday to welcome SEC newcomer and No. 22 Missouri to the Maravich Center. Tip time is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game will be carried live by the SEC Network. An online version of the telecast will be available via www.WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app. Tickets can be purchased online at LSUtix.net or by calling the LSU Athletics Ticket Office at (225) 578-2184.
The LSU Sports Radio Network also will broadcast the game on Eagle 98.1 FM in the Baton Rouge area and inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Jim Hawthorne, Ricky Blanton and Kevin Ford will call the action.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/basketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsubasketball along with @lsubasketball on Twitter.
Rupp Arena - Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 26, 2013
LSU Head Coach Johnny Jones
"We knew coming in today that it would be a hard-fought contest. I knew, Kentucky coming off of a setback there at Alabama, coming back at home today looking for a win. We knew that they would be ready and that they would play tough and they definitely didn't disappoint. They did those things but I was proud of our guys. I thought we played extremely hard in the first half. Unfortunately, down at the half, had to fight an uphill battle there in the second half but I thought we were able to chip away at their lead, thought if we could ever get a lead and force them to have to play from behind, it would help us. But, we were never able to put them in that position in the second half and the credit goes to them. I thought they did the things that were necessary down the stretch and made the necessary plays to win today."
On whether Alex Poythress looked different in this game versus the previous ones he saw on film...
"I thought he played extremely well. I thought they went to him in the post area. I thought they did an excellent job of taking advantage of the size advantage he had, worked the angles and (he) made some big plays in there early and made it very difficult for us. At the same time I thought he was really tough on the boards. He was extremely long and pushed his way in and got some second chance opportunities in terms of rebounding the basketball and he got some offensive put backs as well. So I thought he was a big difference maker in the game today."
On how Johnny O'Bryant III adjusted to change the second half...
"I thought we just needed to be more aggressive in terms of trying to take the ball at the basket instead of settling. I thought we allowed [Nerlens] Noel to bother us at times and tried to shoot around him instead of going at him. I thought Johnny did a much better job of being aggressive going at the basket in the second half. I thought it served him well because I thought he was able to score better."
On whether it looked like Kentucky had six players on the court on the inbound play late in the game...
"That's what it looked like. I thought that was what was going on. I wasn't sure and we just wanted to ask the refs if there was anyway possible (to review). I thought the back ref had an opportunity to see. They were trying to get off the floor at the time that I thought the ball was in play but it didn't happen. We'd had ample opportunities prior to that to make some plays so I don't think that was the game changer there."
On why he thought forcing Kentucky to play from behind would be in LSU's favor...
"I just thought, in terms of their youth, if we could have forced them to have to play and if we could have gotten a three- to five-point lead and forced them to have to execute in the half court, I thought it could possibly be a little tougher for them. I think it comes with their youth, or lack there of, and we were hopeful to put them in that position but to their credit, I thought they did an excellent job of preventing that and made some big plays prior to not ever relinquish the lead."
#1, Anthony Hickey, G
On what adjustments were made in the second half...
"We put a little bit more pressure on them. We were able to make shots. Stuff was just flowing for us. We pressed a little bit and got our hands on some balls."
On missing opportunities to take the lead...
"We let them get up on us in the first half, so that was on us. It went down to the wire, but they executed towards the end. They were able to make their free throws and finish out the win."
On the play of Johnny O'Bryant III...
"I saw leadership. He wanted to win. I told him that this was just a regular game so just stay poised and be ready to play."
On what they will take from this game...
"That we just need to stay together. This is not the end and it is still early in the season. We are going to fight until the end. It was a tough loss but it can't be a setback."
#10, Andre Stringer, G
On Johnny O' Bryant III's performance...
"He started to get aggressive. I think he first, early on, didn't know where the traps were coming from. (Nerlens) Noel was guarding him by himself, so second half he was able to regroup. He could tell how they were guarding him and he was more aggressive the second half. That's why some buckets fell for him."
On what kept them in the game...
"Defense. We got some turnovers, we got some run outs and hut a couple shots. We just sustained for the 40 minutes. We had a run there where we cut it to like two but we just couldn't get over the hump. "
On what they'll take form this game...
"Obviously, it's a loss so it's hard to find positive when you lose but we're a young team. We're a team that if we keep playing hard, we're going to generate some wins. Me, being an older guy, I preach to our guys to keep their heads and just move on."