SEC Quarterfinals: Kentucky 85 LSU 67
Kentucky head coach, John Calipari, said his young Wildcats needed to get their mojo back, and at least for one night at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta, they did. The Wildcats, who have not been the juggernaut most people predicted they would be before the season, came into the tournament losers of 3 of their last 4 games. Then, there was Friday’s quarterfinal matchup against LSU. The two teams split the regular season series. Each team winning at home, but Kentucky escaped with only a one point overtime victory at Rupp Arena. So, even with the SEC Tourney being played in what UK fans dub to be ‘Catlanta’, the Tigers had a lot of confidence they could hang with the Wildcats.
In the game’s first 10 minutes, that proved to be true. In a fast paced start to the game, LSU raced out to an 8 point lead, but the Cats’ quickly erased that deficit. Thanks in large part to sophomore center, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky not only erased the 8 point deficit, but enjoyed a 10 point lead at the half. Freshman James Young, actually led Kentucky and all scorers with 21 points, and Julius Randle was very impressive with 17 points and 16 rebounds of his own, but it was Cauley-Stein’s energy and defense that was the catalyst for Wildcats quick turnaround. Cauley-Stein had 2 key blocked shots, a steal, and 4 points during Kentucky’s first half run that erased LSU’s lead and gave the Cats’ the lead for good.
For LSU, the loss all but sealed a trip to the NIT. The Tigers are a very talented team, that actually has experience, but the season has been very disappointing for a team most people thought would be an NCAA tourney participant. Johnny O’Bryant led the Tigers with 18 points, Andre Stringer added 14, and Jordan Mickey had 12 points.
For Kentucky, it’s very premature to say the ‘mojo’ is definitely back, but this Kentucky team looked a lot more like the Kentucky team we’ve expected to see all season. Maybe, the Cats’ had to get to ‘Catlanta’ for it all to come together. Atlanta has always been good to Kentucky, as the Wildcats have won many SEC Tourney titles there. Kentucky, in turn has been very good to Atlanta, as Big Blue fans invade the city in droves. It’s funny how things can work out sometimes. Can they keep it up? Only time will tell, but this is the same talented group of players that were once ranked number 1 in the country. With the inside game they have in Randle and Cauley-Stein, and the outside shooting of James Young and the Harrison twins, the Cats’ could prove to be very dangerous in the NCAA Tournament.