Kentucky mens basketball defeats LSU 74-71 for first SEC win of season


Isabel McSwain

Kentucky Wildcats forward Jacob Toppin (0) shoots the ball during the Kentucky vs. LSU mens basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 74-71. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball (10-4) defeated LSU 74-71 for its first SEC win of the season on Tuesday.

The win marked the second consecutive victory for Kentucky and brought the Cats to 1-1 in conference play after losing at Missouri in late December.

“I love their mentality,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “I also told them, ‘You know who else’s mentality I love right now?’ And I looked around the room. ‘Mine.’ I felt good all day about the game, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”

For the second time in a row Jacob Toppin was Kentucky’s leading scorer, finishing the night with 21 points, two more than Oscar Tshiebwe’s 19.

Toppin shot 9-13 from the field, 1-1 from beyond the arc and 2-2 from the free throw line. Both the 3-pointer and the two free throws went down as five of Kentucky’s final seven points.

Tshiebwe also complimented his 19 points with 16 rebounds for a double-double. Tshiebwe also played in all 40 minutes of the game.

Both Sahvir Wheeler and Cason Wallace also finished with double-digit point totals with 11 and 14 respectively. Wheeler also finished with nine assists, one short of a double-double himself. Wallace also played for all 40 minutes.

“I’ve had teams where I’ve played five guys, and six and seven played nine minutes,” Calipari said. “I had guards that played 38 minutes a game at UMASS. I did it – I’ve done it that way, and here is what happens. You start seeing chemistry and them growing together because they are on the court a lot. And I thought that’s what this team needed.”

As a team Kentucky shot 52% from the field, 39% from beyond the arc and 79% from the free throw line.

LSU, on the other hand, shot 49% from the field, 44% from beyond the arc and 80% from the free throw line.

The Tigers had three more turnovers than Kentucky, with the Wildcats only recording six, with UK being able to record seven points off turnovers compared to LSU’s four.

LSU’s bench outscored Kentucky’s 16-4, mostly thanks to UK using a very concise lineup, only bringing two players off the bench as opposed to the Tigers’ 11 players seeing the court.

Kentucky out-rebounded LSU 31-22 and also outscored the Tigers 34-26 in the paint.

Starting out strong, Kentucky led for over 34 minutes of the game, with LSU only leading for 2:44 on the night.

Kentucky’s largest lead on Tuesday was 10 points (60-50), while LSU was never able to record a lead larger than two points.

Looking to build off the win, Kentucky turns its sights toward No. 7 Alabama, traveling to Tuscaloosa on Jan. 7.

“I’m happy we won the game,” Calipari said. “If we’d have played this way and lost, I’d have been really disappointed, but I would have said, ‘We’re fine; the stuff we are not doing is fixable.’ Fouling a three-point shooter? Are you kidding me? He’s a freshman. He’s a freshman. He didn’t know you can’t knock the guy down when he shoots. Played a good game, though.”

Tipoff against the Crimson Tide is set for noon on Saturday, with the game set to air live on ESPN.