The Big Blueprint is back. A rapid recap of the game, the Big Blueprint looks at the nuts and bolts of the latest UK game. Today, we break down UK's 74-50 win at LSU.
The skinny: "That's probably the best we've played all year." That was what John Calipari said about Kentucky's effort in a 74-50 win over LSU in Baton Rouge, La., and it pretty much says up all you need to know about the game. Led by Terrence Jones' season-high 27 points, UK moved to 21-1 (7-0 Southeastern Conference) and strengthened its grip on the No. 1 national ranking. Anthony Davis posted his 11th double-double in just 22 games with 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Wildcats led by as many as 12 points in the first half before LSU rallied to cut the lead to 25-24. UK would boost the lead back up to nine at halftime and extended it 22 within the first six minutes of the second half. The Cats led by at least 19 the rest of the way.
The difference: Negating physical play. With a deep and talented front court, LSU was expected to try to knock Jones and Davis around, and that's exactly what they attempted. However, better than they have in any game this season, the Cats responded. Davis, in particular, was a target. In the first half, he was knocked to the ground, hitting his head on the knee of Malcolm White. He briefly exited the game with a right shoulder contusion, then returned, blocking an LSU shot the first chance he had. In the second half, Davis stole the ball at midcourt and streaked to the hoop for dunk, but White grabbed him from behind with both hands, earning a Flagrant-2 foul and an ejection. Davis would momentarily writhe on the ground in pain, but he stayed in the game. Davis and the Cats, instead of engaging in trash talk or dirty play, responded simply by dominating all facets of the game.
Player of the game: Davis was tremendous, but Jones was even better. The sophomore showed why he was a nearly unanimous All-America pick in the preseason, scoring at will and flying up and down the court. He scored his 27 on 10-for-16 shooting and added nine rebounds, three blocks, two steals and an assist. UK has ascended to the top of the polls in spite of Jones not playing up to his own high standards, but looked like an even more dangerous team with him playing up to his potential.
Turning point: UK got off to a good start, but when Davis exited with his shoulder injury, the Cats stagnated. LSU attacked the basket and limited the Kentucky offense in a 14-3 run beginning with 8:26 left in the first half. After Storm Warren's dunk made it a 25-24 game, Marquis Teague rose for what appeared to be an ill-advised 3-pointer. The shot quickly went from questionable to crucial when it fell through the net and spurred a 10-2 run to close out the half.
Play of the game: Jones and Davis each had their share of soaring blocks and rim-rocking dunks, but the play they combined to make on UK's first points of the second half takes the cake. Davis, as he so often does, blocked a Johnny O'Bryant jumper to start the whole thing. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist pulled down the rebound while Jones and Davis raced down the floor. Kidd-Gilchrist threw a long pass ahead to Davis, who jumped to catch the ball high above his head. In one motion, Davis directed the ball to Jones in front of the rim for a dunk to put UK ahead by double digits for good.
Key stat: Six turnovers. LSU is among the best defensive teams in the SEC largely due to the 16.2 turnovers per game the Tigers were forcing coming into a game against UK. Led by Teague (four assists, one turnover), the Wildcats handled the LSU defense and committed their second-fewest turnovers of the season.
Unsung hero(es): Darius Miller was one of the biggest reasons UK had that nine-point halftime advantage. He had 10 points at the break, hitting a pair of 3-pointers on the heels of his 19-point outing on Tuesday against Georgia. Miller would finish with 13 points, one rebound, one assist and one steal.
He said what? "That's as good as we can play. We beat anybody playing this way." - Calipari
"My point to (Jones) was, 'If this is who you are, then you should be this every game.' It's what we've all been waiting on, and he makes us different. He hit four straight jumpers. That's what we've all been waiting on." - Calipari
"When stuff like that happens to one of your brothers, you don't like that. They only way we could redeem that was by continuing to play hard and just show it through the score." - Jones on responding to the hard fouls on Davis
"I'm just trying to be more aggressive with my shot. If I'm open, I'm taking it. My teammates did a great job of finding me, especially in the first half." - Miller
"I asked him, 'Are you faking it or did they really hit you?' He said, 'Nah, they were whacking me, but I was from Chicago; I just kept getting up.' " - Calipari, recounting a sideline interaction with Davis
What this one means: It was well-known that UK has as much potential as any team in the country, but Saturday's game gave a glimpse into what the Cats can look like when they approach that potential. Calipari has pleaded with his team to respond to physical play and put opponents away. Doing it on the road against an athletic SEC team makes this arguably the Cats' most impressive game of the season.