It seems as if every week we’ve heard “this is Kentucky’s toughest test” when they are preparing for their next game. North Carolina, at Louisville, Mississippi State (twice), at Auburn, Kansas, and at Florida were all deemed tough tests, and the Cats passed all of them. A couple might have been closer than fans would like, but the Cats kept finding ways to win. This all led to Tuesday night’s matchup against the #19 LSU Tigers in Rupp Arena.
The Tigers arrived in Lexington with a 19-4 (9-1) record and were tied with
It was obvious from the opening tip that this was going to be a hard fought game and which ever team came away with the victory would have earned it. The Cats were holding on to a 2-point lead (34-32) with just over 3 minutes remaining in the 1st half, then held LSU scoreless for the remainder of the period and expanded their lead to 8 points (40-32).
But there was no great comfort with that lead as one couldn’t help but feel the Tigers would make a strong run in the 2nd half. Both teams seemed to have key players battling foul trouble all night. For LSU, it was Naz Reid who picked up his 4th foul with just under 14 minutes to go and shortly afterward, Darius Days picked up his 4th. This seemingly gave the Cats a huge advantage down low and one couldn’t help but wait for a patented UK run that would seal the victory for the Cats.
But it was LSU that made the plays and eventually took the lead at the 8:56 mark and though the Cats pulled even with the Tigers several times, they never regained the lead and lost by a single basket on a most controversial call (or non-call as it was). With the score tied and 6 seconds were left in regulation, LSU brought the ball down the court a missed layup by Skylar Mays appeared to send the game to overtime. But an offensive rebound by Bigby-Williams was deemed good, giving the Tigers the win. A replay showed that rebound was basket interference, but because the officials didn’t call it initially, they couldn’t review it. As the Big Blue Faithful in Rupp watched the replay on the video board and saw the referees watching the video monitor, they were certain that overtime would soon be starting. But when cheers erupted from the LSU bench and the handshake line began, the boos rained down.
After the game. Coach Calipari gave LSU credit while noting mistakes his team had made, but also praising their fight.
I don’t want to take anything away from LSU, to come in this building and do what they did down the stretch, and make the shots that they made, and basically reb ound the ball offensively against us like they did, they deserve to win the game.
But that being said, I love that our kids fought and put themselves in a position to win the game. Then it came down to that last play and I mean, you have to judge it yourself, I guess. I haven’t looked at it. I know I looked at it when it happened, but I haven’t looked at it (since then).
Do you remember when we lost in a Final Four when there was a goal, a shot clock violation and they said it was not reviewable and then they changed the rule to say, why would you want to lose a game on a shot clock violation and it’s easy to go check?
Well, this one is easy to go check, too. Just go check it. Why would you not? Why would that not be reviewable? So we’re like Wilt Chamberlain; we change rules.
The Cats should never have been in a position to lose it on a questionable non-call. Several missed assignments on defense, some missed rebounds, and a couple of poor shot choices added up to the Cats falling just short of winning their 11th game in a row.
What does this mean for Kentucky as Tennessee arrives in Rupp on Saturday to face the Cats? A game that was a “really want to win” situation now is almost a “must win” in terms of the conference standings and seeding for the NCAA Tournament. But I like our chances. One thing this game did was get the Cats’ attention. Maybe they needed a dose of humility. Maybe they needed to feel hungry again. Perhaps they heard the sounds of the LSU players cheering and celebrating far longer than I’ve ever heard any visiting team do at Rupp and they don’t want to experience that again.
Only time will tell but I like our Cats’ chances.
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