By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky just let LSU stay in the game and it cost the Cats dearly in the end.
A controversial tip-in by Kqvell Bigby-Williams just before time expired gave LSU a 73-71 comeback win over UK — the Cats’ first loss in Rupp Arena this season and only their second in SEC play.
Kentucky struggled the second half after taking a 40-32 halftime lead and was just 11-for-30 from the field. LSU also outhustled Kentucky at times for easy baskets, including the final play after Keldon Johnson tied the game with two free throws at :06.
Bigby-Williams clearly hit the ball while it was in the cylinder after Skylar Mays missed a contested driving shot. However, basket interference is not a call that can be reviewed and he clearly beat the final horn to give LSU the victory.
“We were obviously fortunate there at the end,” LSU coach Will Wade said.
He said the final play was intended for Mays to take the ball to the rim — “He loves to drive left and we knew they would take Tremont (Waters) out of the play,” Wade said — and hope to get a play like they got to win.
“The second half we played a lot better. The first half we were not ourselves and were on our heels. The second half we were able to guard them and drive in the lane and get fouled and do what we do,” Wade said. “I am really proud of our guys. We were able to kind of hang tight and pull out a good win.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari was not nearly as distraught after the game as most UK fans were. He said he had not seen the final play.
“You have to judge yourself. I have not looked at it,” Calipari said. “You hate for it to come down to the last play but it happens. The last play was questionable but it should not take away from what LSU did. They beat us.”
They did it with star guard Tremont Waters going just 5-for-13 from the field — but 8-for-8 at the foul line — and getting just 15 points — 9 below his average. But the Tigers had three other players in double figures and went to war on the boards the second half.
Kentucky got 20 points on 7-for-13 shooting and nine rebounds from PJ Washington but he played just 27 minutes because Calipari was not happy with his effort at times and he also got in foul trouble midway of the second half. Keldon Johnson had 16 points and Travis Herro 12 but Herro was just 5-for-12 from the field and did not get to the foul line.
“LSU came in and made shots and rebounded offensively like they did, they deserved to win,” Calipari said. “I love how our kids fought and put us back in position to win the game.
“There were some rebounds late that we had to get and we just couldn’t get them. You got to give them credit. They played. Neither one of us turned the ball over much. We missed a bunch of shots the second half we needed to make to keep them at bay.”