New Orleans, LA – After winning the conference regular-season seeded LSU Tigers in quarterfinal action of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
LSU (18-13) made easy work of ninth-seeded Arkansas in Thursday's first round, 70-54, snapping a streak of two consecutive years with an opening-rounded loss. The win also breaks another slump for the Tigers, as they had dropped their final three games of the regular season by a combined 54 points. LSU has some recent history with the Wildcats in the SEC Tournament, as it knocked them off in the quarterfinals in 2009.
Kentucky has had a sensational year, going 30-1 overall, with its only loss coming on a buzzer-beater to Indiana back on Dec. 10. Since then, the John Calipari-led Wildcats have ripped off 22 consecutive wins, earning them their third perfect SEC record (16-0) in 16 years. As a result of the incredible season, UK has not only earned the top seed in this event, but is currently the No. 1 team in the nation and a lock for a top seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky has a sizeable 81-24 advantage over LSU in the all-time series. The Wildcats have won five of the last six meetings, including a 74-50 blowout win in Baton Rouge in the only matchup this season back on Jan. 28.
After playing the opening stanza of its first-round game to a 28-28 tie, LSU pulled away in the second half for a 16-point triumph over Arkansas. It shot an impressive 25-of-50 from the floor and had five player finish in double figures, led by Johnny O'Bryant III's 18 points. He also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for just his second double-double of the season. The Tigers possess a sub par offense by SEC standards, putting up 65.3 ppg on a lowly 40.7 percent field goal shooting. Justin Hamilton has been one of the conference's best centers, leading the team in scoring (13.0 ppg), field goal percentage (.500), rebounding (7.2 rpg) and blocks (1.3 bpg). Andre Stringer is their most productive scorer from the guard position (10.1 ppg), though he shoots a woeful 34.6 percent from the field. LSU has had some success at the defensive end this season, allowing just 63.6 ppg.
Kentucky is led by its superstar center Anthony Davis, who has collected a countless number of awards in the SEC already, including Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and the league's top individual honor, Player of the Year. Davis leads the team in scoring (14.4 ppg) and second in the conference in rebounding (9.8 rpg), but where he stands out is on the defensive end, ranking first in the nation with 4.7 bpg and he has already broken Shaquille O'Neals' SEC record for blocks in a season (278). Fronted by its anchor Davis, UK defense allows just 58.3 ppg and a nation-low 34.3 percent field goal shooting to its opponents. The Wildcats have surrounded Davis with plenty of competent scorers, as four other players average at least 10 ppg for a squad ranked first in the SEC in scoring (77.7 ppg). Doron Lamb (13.3 ppg), Terrence Jones (12.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Darius Miller (10.0 ppg) can all do significant damage on any given night.