No. 13 Kentucky tops No. 14 LSU 63-56
Kentucky didn’t like the way things were going after losing two of three games in the Southeastern Conference during the past two weeks.
The 13th-ranked Wildcats spent Friday putting the past behind them and changing their mental approach instead of practicing. The concept worked as Kentucky rebounded from Thursday’s 58-56 loss to Georgia with a 63-56 win over No. 14 LSU Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell credited his players for making a successful turnaround in a three-day span.
“They did a lot of soul-searching, changed their attitude from (last) Thursday night, and it’s not easy to do,” he said. “It’s a significant victory for us over a very, very good basketball team.”
Kentucky senior Samarie Walker said meeting was “intense” and beneficial.
“It was a tell-all meeting,” Walker said. “He was being open and honest with (Mitchell) and we were open and honest with him. We talked collectively what we needed to do as a team to move on from the past. It helped us a lot.”
Bria Goss scored 11 points, including two clutch free throws with 10.8 seconds remaining to avoid a third Southeastern Conference loss at home. Kentucky (17-5, 5-4 SEC), which had lost two of their past three games, ended LSU’s three-game winning streak.
“To gut this one out and find a way to win is huge,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell added the Wildcats haven’t solved all of their problems, but made progress against the Lady Tigers.
“It looked like we were back to Kentucky, the way we were playing,” Goss said.
Kentucky led 48-33 with 11:22 remaining but LSU fought back down the stretch, narrowing the deficit to 60-56 with 17 seconds remaining. The Wildcats made 3 of 4 free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win.
A steal by Goss on an inbounds play resulted in her game-clinching free throws. Kentucky made eight 3-pointers, including two by Jennifer O’Neill.
O’Neill followed Goss with 10 points, scoring eight in the first half.
Raigyne Moncrief scored 14 points in the second half and led LSU (17-5, 6-3) with 19 points. Theresa Plaisance added 13 for the Lady Tigers, who committed 18 turnovers.
“They did a nice job of capitalizing off our turnovers,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “Taking care of the basketball was an issue for us and a lot of missed layups.”
Caldwell said Moncrief “set the tone” for her team in the second half and helped the Lady Tigers stay close despite the miscues. Moncrief was disappointed with the outcome.
“The put pressure on us and sped us up,” Moncrief said. “Like coach said, we can’t pick and choose when we want to win. We have to come out and play. We knew they were going to press us and were prepared for it, we just didn’t come ready to play at all, especially in the first half.”
Kentucky missed its first eight shots until DeNesha Stallworth made a 3 with 16:11 remaining in the first half. The trey by Stallworth ignited a 13-0 run by the Wildcats, who made three 3s during the spurt, turning a 6-0 deficit into a 13-6 lead with 12:20 remaining in the first half
After LSU scored four straight to make the score 13-10, Kentucky went on an 8-0 spree to push the lead to double digits at 21-10. The Lady Tigers narrowed the margin to seven three times in the last 7 minutes of the first half and trailed 32-23 at the break.
Kentucky made most of its shots in the first half from long range, draining six 3s compared with four field goals inside the arc. O’Neill made two of Kentucky’s shots from behind in the arc and led the Wildcats with eight points in the first half.
Jeanne Kenny led LSU with eight points in the first half but the Lady Tigers rallied around guard Moncrief in the second half.
Kentucky stretched its lead to 48-33 with 11:22 remaining but LSU didn’t fade away and narrowed the deficit to eight twice but three-straight baskets by Kentucky’s Makayla Apps, including a 3-pointer, thwarted the Lady Tigers’ comeback attempt and kept the Wildcats in command down the stretch.
Epps finished with seven points as nine different players scored for the Wildcats, who got 23 points from their reserves.
LSU made is first three field goals and led 6-0 before Kentucky made its first basket and gained control for the remainder of the game.
“The only way to stop a nightmare is to wake up,” Mitchell said. “You have to open your eyes and see clearly what’s in front of you.”