Baton Rouge, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - Continuing their quest for perfection, the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats close out a two-game road trip on Tuesday evening, as they take on the LSU Tigers in an SEC clash at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
John Calipari's Wildcats opened the road swing with a hard-fought 68-61 victory at Florida on Saturday. The victory moved the team to 23-0 on the season, with a 10-0 league ledger.
Johnny Jones' Tigers are in the upper half of the SEC standings this season. The team is ending a three-game homestand with Kentucky, after losing to Auburn (81-77) and then beating Alabama (71-60). LSU is an impressive 11-2 at the Maravich Assembly Center this season.
Kentucky holds a sizable 85-25 lead in the all-time series with LSU. The Wildcats won two of three meetings last year with the Tigers. These teams have met 10 previous times with Kentucky being ranked No. 1 in the nation, with LSU pulling of just one victory in those games.
It was Florida that got the best of Kentucky in three matchups last season, but the Wildcats returned the favor in their first collision with the Gators on Saturday, earning a hard-fought seven-point decision in Gainesville. Aaron Harrison led the way for UK with 23 points. Karl-Anthony Towns poured in 19 points in the win, followed by Willie Cauley-Stein (13 pts) and Devin Booker (12 pts), as the Wildcats shot .468 from the floor in the game and outrebounded the Gators, 33-20.
Not many teams can match Kentucky's intensity at the defensive end of the floor. The Wildcats rank second nationally in scoring defense (51.5 ppg) and blocked shots (162) and first in both field-goal percentage defense (.335) and scoring margin (+22.1). There aren't any real prolific scorers on the roster for Kentucky, which manages a modest 73.6 ppg on .461 shooting. Aaron Harrison is the best of the bunch at 11.5 ppg. Booker is a close second with 10.7 ppg. Towns (9.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 53 blocks) and Cauley-Stein (8.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 36 blocks) are a formidable low-post tandem, especially at the defensive end of the floor.
The Tigers will do their best to counter with solid scoring depth and efficient offensive play - much easier said than done against the Wildcats. Still, there is some hope for a team that is netting a solid 74.5 ppg (second in the conference) on .455 shooting (fourth in the SEC). LSU has its own dynamic duo in the frontcourt in sophomore forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin. The 6-8 Mickey is playing at an all-conference pace, ranking third in the league in scoring (17.0 ppg), second in rebounding (11.0 rpg) and first in blocked shots (81 - 3.7 per game). The 6-10 Martin is third in the SEC in both scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (9.0 rpg). Keith Hornsby (12.5 ppg) and Tim Quarterman (12.3 ppg) provide perimeter balance.
LSU got off to a fast start, shooting .524 from the floor in the first half and taking a 10-point lead into intermission (30-20). The Tigers then kept the Crimson Tide at bay over the final 20 minutes to get back in the win column. Mickey was sensational once again, registering a double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Martin added 16 points to the cause, while Quarterman and Hornsby checked in with 15 and 10 points, respectively.