Feb 12, 2019; Lexington, KY, USA; LSU Tigers guard Skylar Mays (4) shoots the ball against Kentucky Wildcats forward Nick Richards (4) in the first half at Rupp Arena.

USA TODAY Sports

LSU stuns Kentucky, proves they can play with anybody

Seth Dunlap
February 12, 2019 - 8:37 pm
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There wasn't much time to react for LSU.  Keldon Johnson had just made two free throws for Kentucky with six seconds remaining to put the Wildcats even with LSU at 71-71.  

Kentucky bracketed LSU star guard Tremont Waters on the inbounds pass, who had a team high 15 points in the game, 80 feet away from the basket, not wanting to allow the stellar sophomore a chance to be the game's hero.  Instead, the ball went to Skylar Mays who raced up the left side of the court, head down, as he zig-zagged quickly across mid court.  Mays, running parallel with his defender, barreled ahead past the three point line and extended his left arm towards the basket.  The ball fluttered off the backboard then ricocheted off the rim, looking as if it would fall harmlessly away and send the game into overtime.

LSU senior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams was stationed on the opposite block and saw his opportunity.  Bigby-Williams reached up with his left hand and, just as the ball left the rim, he tapped it in as the horn sounded.  It was just his second basket of the night, but the biggest moment of his career.

Gasps and groans echoed throughout Rupp Arena.  Perhaps the officials would overturn the basket, they wondered as the three men in striped headed toward the monitor.  Quickly they would confirm the basket and result -- LSU had vanquished #5 Kentucky 73-71 in a season-defining win against one of college basketball's Goliath's.

The win was just the Tigers second all-time on the road against a top-5 ranked opponent.  LSU's last such win was a couple of generations ago, in 1980, also in Rupp Arena against the Wildcats.  The Tigers are now 2-35 all-time in those games.  It was also their first win at Kentucky since 2009.

It's no longer too early to begin discussing LSU as a serious threat to not only win the SEC conference title, but also as a legitimate contender to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.  While the selection committee did not have the Tigers among their 16-best teams when they revealed their bracket preview a couple of days ago, that will almost assuredly change now.  LSU is 10-1 in SEC conference play and now has the statement road win that the selection committee usually looks for in teams they award a top-4 seed come tournament time.

Nothing will be awarded to LSU just for beating Kentucky.  The Tigers face top-ranked Tennessee in Baton Rouge next Saturday, and they'll also have to navigate the rest of their conference schedule, including a pair of games against Florida and one at Alabama, while avoiding bad losses that could sink their NCAA Tournament seed.  

Right now, though, everything is in front of this LSU team.  Coach Will Wade has the Tigers playing as ferociously as nearly any team in the country, and it's unlikely anybody would really want to see a team this athletic and offensively explosive in late March. 

The future may be incredibly bright for LSU basketball, but so, now, is the present.  The Tigers announced their arrival into the national conversation with a scintillating, memorable win against the program everybody else in the SEC measures themselves against.  Don't be surprised if much bigger things are in store for this team in the next two months.

 

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