CRAWFORD | Cal to Towns at LSU: 'I hope we lose!' Towns made sure UK didn't
After Karl Anthony-Towns drew a hanging on the rim technical to let LSU regain momentum when Kentucky had built a 13-point lead, Wildcats coach John Calipari screamed "I hope we lose" at him on the sideline. Towns made sure the Wildcats didn't.
Tuesday, February 10th 2015, 9:05 pm EST by
Wednesday, February 11th 2015, 2:28 am EST
BATON ROUGE, La. (WDRB) — LSU. RIP. Yep. I typed those words on Twitter and hit send after No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Kentucky went up 58-45 on LSU with a little over 12 minutes to play Tuesday night.
The Tigers couldn't guard UK. The Wildcats had made 9 of their first 13 second-half shots. They were 54 percent for the game. They were getting whatever they wanted, and on this night, it looked like they wanted blood. A “Go Big Blue” chant broke out in the Maravich Assembly Center, and the home fans booed to drown it out.
Even UK coach John Calipari thought it would be over soon.
“I thought about that time we'd get them because they were playing six guys,” Calipari said. “. . . I did not think they could stay up with us for 40 minutes.”
Credit LSU. It stayed. The Tigers made four straight shots — two threes and two twos — and seemed to draw some momentum from a Karl-Anthony Towns technical for hanging on the rim, before finally falling 71-69.
On the sideline after lifting Towns, Calipari was apoplectic. He looked almost maniacal as he cackled each time LSU drew closer.
Towns said when he heard the whistle for the technical, “I couldn't believe it. It was a momentum changer. I can't be doing that.”
As LSU began to gather steam, Calipari's assistants were telling him to call timeout to settle his team down. He wouldn't.
“Nope,” he said. “No timeouts this time. They're going to learn their lesson on this. We're not losing in March on a play like that, for no reason. You're out of your mind. Figure it out.”
To Towns, he turned and pumped his arms, even smiled when LSU tied the game up.
“I hope we lose,” he repeated several times. “You'll learn. You'll never do this. Watch this. You don't do stuff like that in a 10-point game. You finish people off.”
It was a withering barrage Calipari threw at Towns. Meanwhile, LSU was throwing a barrage of its own.
The Wildcats, for one of the few times this season, began to look a little shaky. While Calipari railed at Towns on the bench, they missed six straight shots. LSU scored 16 straight points and extended its run to 21-2 before Kentucky stabilized.
And when it stabilized, who was the guy who made the big shot? Towns. He entered the game and got the thing back. He hit a step-back jumper from the top of the key at the shot-clock buzzer to pull UK back within 66-62. And he was the one who hit the half-hook in the lane with 1:30 left to put UK back on top 70-69.
And it was Towns who rebounded an Andrew Harrison miss with 21 seconds left and passed the ball out to Booker, who made the first free-throw after being fouled with 14.8 seconds left. LSU rebounded, drove the ball up the court and tried to get a three, but the attempt was swatted away. With 6.6 seconds left, LSU called timeout, and wound up getting a heavily contested three try by Keith Hornsby, but it wasn't close. UK had escaped.
“I'm proud of Karl because he came back and he grew up,” Calipari said of his big man, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. “Big rebound, big steal, big basket. Now, I doubt, ever in his life will he chin up on a basket ever again. . . . But you know what? He's the greatest kid. It was a lesson. I love him. He's like a son. But he's done too much of that. Like a hero's pass for no reason. . . . But this kid is really, really good. There may be other big guys that are really good, I like my big guy.”
LSU had its chances, early and late. The Tigers had a house primed for an upset, the longest line of of students waiting to get into the Maravich Assembly Center perhaps in the building's history, according to several longtime observers, including former Tigers coach Dale Brown. LSU even had football coach Les Miles sitting in the student cheering section.
The Tigers jumped to a 10-2 lead and forced Calipari to yank his first platoon less than three minutes into the game. It had more bounce than the Wildcats, had the crowd, had momentum. But Booker steadied the Wildcats, scoring seven points in five minutes, to pull things even.
Willie Cauley-Stein led the team with 15 points, including a pair of thunderous dunks. He made 7 of 9 shots in the game and was the primary factor that helped the Wildcats build their 13-point second-half lead. Booker added 14 and Andrew Harrison 13.
UK shot 47.5 percent from the field but allowed LSU to shoot 45.6 percent — one of the best percentages from a UK opponent all season — largely because of 40 points in the paint. LSU did not score in the final 3:52. It was led by 6-10 sophomore Jarrell Martin, who led all scorers with 21 points on 8 of 11 shooting. Keith Hornsby had 17 and Jordan Mickey 16 for LSU.
UK won its 24th straight, one shy of the program's all-time record. And the SEC's chances of marking a blemish on the Wildcats' record are growing dim.
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