NEW ORLEANS – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist helped No. 1 Kentucky overcome some early sloppiness against upset-minded LSU until his fellow Wildcats came alive in the second half.
Kidd-Gilchrist scored 19 points and Kentucky survived a feisty effort by the Tigers to take a 60-51 victory Friday in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Terrence Jones added 15 points and 11 rebounds, including a 9-0 run by himself that gave the Wildcats (31-1) the lead for good as they extended their winning streak to 23 games. Anthony Davis added 12 points and 14 rebounds after a slow start, and Doron Lamb scored 12.
Storm Warren scored 14 for LSU (18-14), which came in as a 17-point underdog after beating Arkansas in Thursday's opening round. The Tigers led by as much as five points early in the second half before Jones' surge turned the tide.
Andre Stringer added 11 points for the Tigers.
LSU held the lead early in the second half, thanks to an 11-2 run highlighted by Ralston Turner's transition 3-pointer and his driving finger roll.
Then Jones, who scored a season-high 27 points when these teams met earlier in the season, threw down an alley-oop lob from Darius Miller and soon after drove the baseline for another dunk.
His putback gave Kentucky the lead for good at 37-35, and soon after Davis began to find his typically smooth stroke, scoring 11 of his points in the second half. Kentucky never led by more than nine points, but never appeared seriously threatened during the final five minutes, after LSU 6-foot-9, 262-pound forward Johnny O'Bryant fouled out.
Turner and guard Anthony Hickey, a Kentucky native, each finished with 10 points for the Tigers, who were held to 29.4 percent shooting (20 of 68) in losing for the fourth time in five games.
The Wildcats shot 43 percent (18 of 42) and outrebounded LSU 42-36, but committed 18 turnovers to LSU's nine, which helped the Tigers stay within single digits.
Kentucky entered the game not only as a heavy favorite but had the crowd overwhelmingly in its favor, despite the fact the game was being played 85 miles from LSU's Baton Rouge campus.
The Tigers hardly looked intimidated though, turning in a scrappy defensive performance. LSU forced nine turnovers in the first half and held the Wildcats to under 32 percent shooting while holding the lead for much of the first 20 minutes.
LSU went in front with an early 10-1 run ignited by Hickey's layups and capped by 3s each by Stringer and Turner, the last making it 12-7.
Kentucky got little production early from Davis, who had four turnovers and only one point before being assessed his second foul and sitting the last seven minutes of the period.
However, Kidd-Gilchrist scored 10 of his points in the first half, and his free throw, followed by Lamb's jumper, gave the Cats a 25-24 lead going into the locker room.