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Notebook: MKG, Lamb help Cats stem first-half tide

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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 19 points and nine rebounds against LSU, 10 and seven of which came in the first half. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 19 points and nine rebounds against LSU, 10 and seven of which came in the first half. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team's postseason run, and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK's journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at and

NEW ORLEANS -- No. 1 Kentucky (30-1) overcame a game LSU team (18-14) in a 60-51 Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal victory. The win sets up yet another matchup with No. 22/19 Florida (23-9) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the tournament semifinals. UK won two regular-season matchups against the Gators by 35 combined points.

Make sure you read Eric Lindsey's game story from earlier on Friday, but here are a few accompanying notes from the Wildcats' 23rd-straight victory:

Kidd-Gilchrist, Lamb get job done in opening half

Trailing by as many as five points early in the second half, Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis awoke to lead UK to a harder-than-it-looked victory over LSU. Jones, in particular, was spectacular during a back-breaking 13-2 run that put the Cats ahead for good.

However, as it seems to often happen with this Kentucky team, the contributions of the do-it-all swingman who bears his three initials as a nickname are somewhat lost in the shuffle.

"In the first half, it was Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist) by himself," John Calipari said. "It was Michael Gilchrist, or we would have been down 10 at half. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist kept us in the game. And we don't say anything about him."

Don't count Kidd-Gilchrist's teammates among those not singing his praises.

"Michael was carrying us today," Marquis Teague said. "He was our offense and he was rebounding for us. They couldn't stop him. They had no answer for him. We just kept calling his number as much as possible."

In a first half marked by turnovers - nine, to be precise - and foul trouble for Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist put the Cats on his back. He posted 10 points and seven rebounds in playing all but one minute of the first half while the rest of his team sputtered against a swarming Tiger defense.

"I was being more aggressive on the offensive end," Kidd-Gilchrist said.

The play of choice to get the ball to him was a simple post-up.

Kidd-Gilchrist has done the majority of his scoring in his first college season by slashing to the basket and ruthlessly attacking in the open floor, but playing with his back to the basket is something he's used to doing.

"I'm real comfortable scoring in the post," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "My high school, that's all I did really was in the post. I'm on the wing now, so I have to adjust."

Playing small forward against a team that often played three guards 6-foot-3 or shorter, Calipari called for Kidd-Gilchrist to revert to his high school days. And he had no shame in calling the play over and over when the Cats faced a five-point deficit eight minutes into the first half.

On three consecutive possessions, Kidd-Gilchrist posted up. On three consecutive possessions, Kidd-Gilchrist scored. His first four points of the stretch came on short hooks, and on the final of the three possessions, LSU resorted to fouling. He canned both free throws.

"We kept calling that play for Mike," Doron Lamb said. "That kept us in the game really the first half. Mike was able to score a couple times back to back and he was able to keep us in the game."

Lamb might be selling himself a bit short, because he was also instrumental in UK holding a 25-24 halftime lead when they likely should have been trailing. He scored nine points on 3-for-4 shooting, including UK's only 3-pointer of the afternoon.

"I knew I had to be a little more aggressive since Anthony was out," Lamb said. "He's a big part of our offense and scoring on our team so I had to go out and put a couple shots up that I needed to take."

Lamb and Kidd-Gilchrist combined to score 19 first-half points - including the final 18 of the opening stanza - on 5-for-9 shooting. The rest of their team scored just six points while hitting 2-of-13 shots.

Cats get on-the-job training with Davis on the bench

For the last two weeks, Calipari has been planning for the possibility of playing without his player-of-the-year candidate. In practice, he has assigned Davis to play on the second team against his fellow starters in case Davis should run into foul trouble during the postseason.

The Cats didn't wait long to test that preparation.

With 7:08 left in the first half, Davis picked up his second foul chasing a defensive rebound. Thanks in part to that recent work in practice, and in larger part to the play of Lamb and Kidd-Gilchrist, UK was able to survive and actually turn a three-point deficit into a one-point lead by halftime.

"Anthony hurt us a little bit when he got in foul trouble, but we got to learn how to play without him just in case that happens in the tournament," Lamb said.

Relegated to the bench, Davis still tried to find ways to contribute.

"I'm definitely cheering my team on, making sure they're making right plays," Davis said. "If I see something, I'm basically like another coach telling them what to do, telling them what's going on in the game, something they might not see."

While playing cheerleader/coach, Davis was also training his mind on what he would have to do once his time on the bench was through.

"I knew I had to get myself in the game more in order for my team to win," Davis said. "I wasn't doing that at the beginning. I was just letting them play and wasn't really trying to get involved into the game."

In the second half, he was a terror, blocking shots, scoring in the post and hitting outside jumpers. He had 11 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and a steal after halftime, a line most big men would gladly take for an entire game. At one point, Davis even did something a little out of character considering his selfless nature.

"I told Coach, 'Keep giving me the ball, keep feeding me,'" Davis said.

"I'm not sure when I said it to him, the exact time, but I was just thinking I made one shot in the post and keep going to me 'til I miss."

Based on the way he played, his teammates didn't mind.

"'Ant' is getting better and better and the sky's the limit for him," Kidd-Gilchrist said.

Kentucky fan presence as advertised

Walking around the streets of New Orleans, there was little doubt New Orleans Arena would be predominantly filled by Kentucky fans.

 After 18,207 fans attended Session 3 of the SEC Tournament, the vast majority of which were clad in blue, any lingering doubt was eliminated.

"These fans are sacrificing to get here, they probably most of them have driven down here to be here, and now you want to win enough to say, hey -- and they're everywhere," Calipari said. "They're in the hotel, they're in the street, outside the bus."

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