The No. 19 LSU Tigers defeated No. 5 Kentucky, 73-71, on a last second tip-in shot by Kavell Bigby-Williams Tuesday night in Rupp Arena. LSU improves to 20-4 overall and 10-1 in SEC. Kentucky drops to 20-4 and 9-2 in SEC.
Sophomore guard Tremont Waters had a team high 15 points for the Tigers. He also recorded five assists and three steals. Freshman forward Naz Reid finished with a team high seven rebounds. He also scored 12. Junior guard Skylar Mays notched 11 points, two rebounds and two steals. Freshman forward Emmitt Williams compiled 12 points, in addition to six rebounds.
Sophomore forward PJ Washington finished with a game high 20 points for the Wildcats. He also picked up nine rebounds. Freshman guard Keldon Johnson scored 16 and compiled five rebounds. Freshman guard Tyler Herro scored 12 to go along with four assists.
Up next, the Tigers will travel to Georgia for a 5 p.m. tip on Saturday.
LSU Head Coach Will Wade
Opening statement …
“Obviously a great win for us. Second half we played a lot better. I didn’t think we were ourselves or very aggressive. In the first half, we were on our heels. Second half, we were able to guard them, get our game plan into effect, driving into the lane, get fouled, kind of do what we’ve been doing to win. I think (in the) first half, Kentucky controlled that a lot more. We were fortunate at the end. The ball goes off the rim and we make a play there at the end. Just a good team win for us. Proud of our guys, we hung in there. We’ve been getting down double digits and we were only down eight or nine tonight, so we were able to hang tight and pull out a good win.
On coming back from a deficit …
“We just got some fight. I told our guys at halftime we just have to be ourselves and we weren’t ourselves, and I thought we just stuck with what we did. We were able to slowly be more of ourselves in the second half. Our guys believe. They know we’ve got a good thing if we just stick to our game plan, stick to what we do, and we got the win tonight.
On defensive game plan …
“We did a better job in the second half. We were chasing those curl cuts in the first half and (Keldon) Johnson and (Tyler) Herro were just killing us, tight curling it in there and hitting shots in the paint. We were supposed to mix it up and didn’t mix it up in the first half, so second half we said we were just going to shoot the gaps and at least make them bump it and make the passes a little bit longer, make them not curl into the lane and shoot layups at the front of the rim. We adjusted it a little bit there. We played a different ball-screen coverage that we’ve played most of the year because of (Ashton) Hagans. It kind of threw us off a little in the first half how much (Immanuel) Quickley played. We weren’t able to get our game plan in because Quickley had played quite a bit more in the first half. We were able to help on those monsters down there.”
On the final play …
“I don’t know the rule specifically, but I think the only thing that’s reviewable is the clock. I don’t think the actual play is reviewable. What they called is what stands. I think the clock is reviewable. I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know.”
On how this game ranks in the season …
“It was high up there. The escape job at Missouri was good, but to come on the road and beat a top-five team like this in this type of environment was just phenomenal for us. We knew we had a good team, and we wanted to prove it to ourselves in this type of environment, and I think we were able to do that tonight.”
On whether the late-game foul on Keldon Johnson was intentional …
“Oh, goodness, no. Goodness, no, we didn’t foul him intentionally.”
On what the plan was with the Keldon Johnson foul …
“Well, we just wanted to jet the ball up the court. That’s why we play with two point guards. We knew they were going to take Tremont (Waters) out. Skylar (Mays) loves to drive it left, so we’ve got Skylar going up the left side of the court where he loves to drive it. At that point, we had plenty of time. We just wanted to get the ball in the rim. We got the ball in the rim.”
On how this win changes expectations for LSU …
“I don’t know. We haven’t had time to digest all of that, but we think we’ve got a very, very good team. I think we’re able to prove that tonight. We’ve grown as the season has gone along, just like Kentucky has. They have an excellent team. We’ve gotten better, and I think tonight confirmed that for a lot of folks.”
On Tremont Waters …
“I think he played well. He didn’t shoot it as well as he typically does. He had a couple of those threes go three-quarters of the way down and out. They looked like tough shots, but he usually makes those. We were able to withstand it. I thought our guards didn’t shoot great, but Emmitt Williams gave us huge minutes. I thought Kavell Bigby-Williams played great. Naz (Reid) came on in the second. Marlon (Taylor) kept us in it in the first half. They didn’t guard Marlon, which is a little bit different. They had (Keldon) Johnson kind of sagging off in the lane on Marlon. I thought we were able to adjust. Our guys were aggressive. We made enough plays. Skylar (Mays) did a good job driving the ball.”
On what he told the team at halftime …
“This wasn’t quite as “cardiac” as usual for us. We just had to stay with what we were doing. In the first half, we’re down eight and Reid Travis made a three at the top of the key. We just kind of had to stick with what we were doing. He did that in the second half, and he missed one at the top of the key. So, we just had to stick with what we were doing and let the numbers play themselves back out.”
On how he prepared his team to play Kentucky …
“We didn’t talk about that. We just talked about our team this year playing Kentucky’s team this year and what a great opportunity we had. We weren’t going to run from anything, we were going to run to it. You can’t play scared. You can’t play timid. That’s probably what I was most frustrated with in the first half. I thought we were too tentative. We had a great game plan. My assistants had us prepared. Our guys believed they’re really good players. We had a really good shootaround today and a good practice yesterday. I tell our guys all the time, in these situations we’ll be aggressive, confident, and loose. I thought we were aggressive. I thought we were confident. I thought we were loose.”
On how he spreads the court …
“We were trying to put certain guys in ball screens and manipulate the matchups a little bit with what we were doing. It made it a little bit harder because (Darius Days) and (Naz Reid) for us are our stretch fours. They’re the guys who can make threes, but we had to play a lot of the second half with (Emmitt Williams), who can make a three but it’s not his forte, and (Kavell Bigby-Williams). So it changed our matchups a little bit, because we couldn’t spread the court as much. We were able to get downhill and draws some fouls. Emmitt (Williams) did a great job, even though he couldn’t make shots. He did a great job of crashing the offensive glass from the perimeter and making things happen for us. So, we kind of had to recalculate a little bit there.”
Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari
Q. Can you talk about what happened on the last play and what you saw with the shot that won the game?
JOHN CALIPARI: Look, the plays that cost us the game, and again, 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, rebound 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.
Q. As you understand it, do the refs have the opportunity to review judgment calls like that?
JOHN CALIPARI: No, and it’s another one — do you remember we lost in the 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 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. I don’t know.
Q. You’ve been saying since the beginning of the year that unless Nick gets his game going, you guys are not going to be able to reach your potential.
JOHN CALIPARI: Right.
Q. It’s the middle of February. Do you still feel that way?
JOHN CALIPARI: I do.
Q. Do you have a Plan B in place?
JOHN CALIPARI: I do. I do. Well again, you know, there were some rebounds late that we had to get, and we just weren’t able to get them. A guy like Nick with his size, you would hope that’s what he could do.
But again, you’ve got to give them credit. They played. I mean, neither one of us turned the ball over that much. I mean, you know, we just didn’t, and we missed a bunch of shots in the second half we needed to make to keep them at bay.
We got work to do. This is a — this game and this week is the toughest week of the season for us. These are the two games that are the tough ones, and I knew that because these guys are talented.
Q. How big was PJ late making those buckets?
JOHN CALIPARI: He gave us a chance. He gave us a chance. But there’s points in the game where you can get the game to 14, 15. You’ve got to play then. You can’t, you know, it’s — if you think you’re going to win the game down the stretch like this as a team, I mean, Ashton (Hagans) didn’t play well today. Didn’t play well at all.
I thought Immanuel (Quickley) played well. Really guarded and did a pretty good job, but Ashton couldn’t stay in front of anybody, so every time they ran downhill, they got whatever they wanted and they were doing it to him.
You know, Tyler (Herro) got beat a bunch on drives. I mean, it’s stuff that we had gotten better at. They shot the ball 32 percent in the first half. They shot it 51 percent in the second half. That’s why you lose. We’re supposed to be a defensive team that rebounds. Well, obviously we weren’t. Give them credit.
Q. We haven’t heard your Communism comment in a little while. Are you comfortable — how comfortable are you with this nine-man rotation going down the stretch?
JOHN CALIPARI: Good. I wish — we need some guys to be more confident. And you could say, well, you’ve got to leave them in. Yeah, but you’ve got to win. And the other side of it is, you know, some of the guys, the situation you’re in is the situation you’re in.
So you’ve got to figure out, how do I go in here and how am I being aggressive and how do I — you know, there’s a thing of missing shots and then there’s missing badly, and there’s a thing about defensive confidence. You can’t walk in a game and get scored on twice. You just can’t do it.
So we’ve got to figure some of that out. But I like this team. We’re good. I mean, this is a tough game and we’ve got another tough one, and the ones that are left from here on in on the road are tough. It’s going to be a struggle.
Q. It seemed like several times the second half you got beat down the court for easy baskets, and also seemed like loose balls —
JOHN CALIPARI: A couple of them. And we got them in the first half. We got them in the first half. We got beat — we beat them in the first half, and then, they beat us back in the second half the same way. So we kind of did it to each other.
Q. The rebounding, you outrebounded them in the first half and they beat you on the boards in the second. Was that an effort thing? Did they do anything differently in the second half?
JOHN CALIPARI: I think the energy a little bit, we didn’t block out on a couple balls. They had straight runs at the rim. PJ got his fourth foul on one of those. The guy ran right around him and in front of him. He was behind him four steps, and I thought that that affected us.
We had a play where Reid (Travis) didn’t block out those were big plays that were stick-backs, in this kind of game, and sustaining effort and all those things.
But let me just say this: Again, we get down and this team fights and makes big plays to get back in the game. The free throws that we made down the stretch, we missed some but we didn’t down the stretch. The threes that we missed during the game down the stretch, this team made.
So you know, you hate for it to come down to the last play, but that happens sometimes. You hate that that play becomes questionable, but I will say that it should not take away from what LSU did. They beat us.
Q. You had to be devastated hearing about John Wall’s injury, but you had to be tickled to death about reports he was going to complete his degree. How important is that, as far as what you’re trying to establish?
JOHN CALIPARI: Well, he’s going to come back. He’s starting some stuff and I’m proud of him. But we have other guys doing it. We have four or five guys that have started already taking classes.
You know, the kids here have lifetime scholarships and they can come back when they choose to. They can come back when the time’s right, and some of them are chipping away already and it’s great to see that John will do the same. He’s going to be out a little while.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
(Press Release Provided by LSU Athletics)