Alex Poythress (center) had his first career double-double as Kentucky beat LSU, 75-70.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky maintained its spot in the upper division of the Southeastern Conference by dispatching Louisiana State, 75-70, in Rupp Arena Saturday. The Wildcats are now 4-2 in the league and 13-6 overall.
But it wasn't as easy as expected. Although the Wildcats were favored by 17, LSU stayed within four points (69-65) with 1:17 to play. The Tiger had lost their first four SEC games and started the day in a four-way tie for last place. They were no pushover.
Kentucky need a free throw from Julius Mays with 30.3 remaining to push its lead to 71-68. LSU responded with a rebound basket by Johnny O'Bryant III at 3.1.
LSU fouled Kyle Wiltjer, who made a pair of free throws. Rather than allow LSU to launch a game-tying three-point shot, UK coach John Calipari instructed his team to foul. The strategy worked. Archie Goodwin fouled Anthony Hickey, who missed a free throw.
Two free throws by Alex Poythress iced the game for Kentucky.
SHINING STAR – Alex Poythress. Maybe Poythress, a freshman, finally gotten weary of all the chatter about his lack of motor and inability to play hard for 40 minutes. Poythress gave John Calipari more of what the coach wanted Saturday.
Poythress used his middle linebacker physique to carve space near the basket and give UK the first double-double of his career. Poythress finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. He also made eight of 10 free throws.
FIGURING IT OUT – Kyle Wiltjer, UK's sophomore forward, continued his run of aggressive play, attacking the rim, rebounding and refusing to settle for three-point shots.
He had a rebound and put-back on a missed free throw mid-way through the first half. Wiltjer finished with eight points and three rebounds.
BULLET DODGED: When UK inbounded the ball with 3.1 seconds to play, the Wildcats were this close to having six players on the floor. Nerlens Noel nearly stepped on the court before UK inbounded the ball to Wiltjer, but assistant coach John Robic pulled him back to the bench.
"What play?" Noel asked, smiling. "(Robic) nearly ended my career right there. It was ... I don't even remember. It was a little miscommunication and he got me off the court."
STAT OF THE GAME – Kentucky dominated LSU inside, outrebounding the Tigers, 39-26 while shooting 52 percent.
PRAISING THE PISTOL: LSU's starting lineup averages 43.6 points per game; Pete Maravich averaged 43.8 as a sophomore, 44.2 as junior and 44.5 as senior during his career at LSU, which stretched from 1968-1970. Maravich, of course, did that without the benefit of the three-point field goal. I think he was pretty good.
WELCOME BACK: LSU guard Anthony Hickey, a sophomore, made his name in Rupp Arena, leading Christian County to the 2011 Kentucky state championship and earning the Mr. Basketball Award.
Hickey is LSU's leading scorer, averaging 11.7 points per game. He also leads the nation in steals at 3.8 per game. Hickey had a solid game. He drew three fouls in the first 10 minutes and moved to the bench.
Hickey had 15 points and three steals.
HELPING HAND – Coaches from both teams wore sneakers. This weekend was part of the national Coaches Vs. Cancer awareness program, a national effort between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches to raise money to combat the disease.
UP NEXT – The Wildcats face back-to-back road games, visiting Mississippi Tuesday at 9 p.m. for an ESPN game and then they travel to College Station for a game with Texas A&M on Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Rebels (16-2, 5-0) started Saturday tied for first in the SEC with Florida. The game is already sold out. Texas A&M has lost three straight since defeating UK in Rupp Arena, 83-71, Jan. 12.
THE QUOTE, PART I: "It's nice to walk out of here with a win," Calipari said. "It would have been an ugly L."
THE QUOTE, PART II: "It went down to the wire," Hickey said. "But they executed towards the end. They were able to make their free throws and finish out the win."