Gabriel, Monk help UK overcome late surge from LSU

Freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel shoots the ball during the game against LSU at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. on Tuesday, February 7, 2017. Kentucky defeated LSU 92-85. Photo by Lydia Emeric | Staff.

Anthony Crawford

Coming off a game where No. 15 UK men’s basketball was out-hustled and out-played in nearly every facet of the game against Florida on the road, the team had a chance to show off the early impact of its ‘reboot’ in a 92-85 win over LSU in Rupp Arena Tuesday.

The Tigers came to town as one of the bottom-dwellers in the SEC and a perfect team for UK to have a bounce-back game against, following a stretch of three losses in four games. The team showed some better effort on the glass and in forcing turnovers, but lack of defense kept UK from pulling away as much as they should have in the end.

Ball movement was a point of emphasis to start the game and it was fruitful in leading to many good looks for UK, but not many of those shots actually dropped for UK.  The cold shooting hampered UK some but thankfully freshman Wenyen Gabriel was able to levitate some of the team’s struggles by turning in his best half of the season.

Gabriel finished the half with 16 point, a new career-high, and paired with fellow freshman Malik Monk, who contributed 14 points, to outscore LSU 30-27 in the half.

The boost the team got from those two helped UK establish a lead going into halftime and it proved to be crucial to start the second half as LSU started to figure out the secret to UK’s defense — taking the ball into the paint and scoring inside.

UK jumped out to a 25-point lead with 8:47 remaining in the second half, but offensive rebounds and points from inside allowed LSU to shoot 62.5 percent from the field in the half and cut it to a 15-point deficit with 4:47 left to play.

A zone from LSU started to slow down UK and then the Tigers started to hit threes to go along with all their looks inside.

Four three-pointers from LSU in the last 2:29 allowed UK’s lead to be trimmed to just six before time finally ran out.

Antonio Blakeney led the way for the LSU comeback attempt scoring 22 points in the second half and 31 total for the game. He spearheaded the Tigers hot outside shooting to close the game, as LSU shot 8-for-11 from outside in the second half.

The defensive effort to close the game was awful for UK and led to the scoring outputs from Monk and Gabriel being all the more important. Gabriel finished with 23 points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the last minute of the game. Monk added 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting.

While the Cats defense was still troublesome, UK did improve its rebounding efforts in the game against the Tigers. UK ended the game with a 40-26 edge on the glass and did much better in only allowing eight offensive boards from the Tigers.