Cats Claim SEC Co-Championship with Win Over LSU
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky achieved one goal with a dominant performance against LSU on Saturday that made the 22nd-ranked Wildcats confident of attaining another in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Jamal Murray scored 22 points, Skal Labissiere added 18 and Kentucky raced past LSU 94-77 to claim a share of their 47th SEC regular-season title.
The Wildcats (23-8, 13-5) finished tied with Texas A&M and will be the No. 2 seed in next week's tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. If they continue shooting and rebounding as well as they did against the Tigers, a second straight trophy is possible.
"I told them afterward, `By the way, you won the league championship," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "They just said, `Yeah, where's the food?' They don't care. They just want to go on to the next thing. But it was a good win and a good game."
Murray's 6-of-12 shooting with four 3-pointers led the way for Kentucky. Labissiere posted his second-highest scoring total this season along with nine rebounds.
Tyler Ulis had 14 points and 14 assists for Kentucky, while Marcus Lee had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Alex Poythress added 12 points. The Wildcats shot better than 50 percent in both halves and controlled the boards 45-29.
"It feels like we are putting everything together at the right time," said Ulis, who committed just one turnover and set a school record for assists in an SEC game.
"Skal is stepping up, Alex and Marcus are also playing big. Everyone is starting to do their job."
Tim Quarterman's 23 points led LSU (18-13, 11-7).
LSU's heralded freshman duo of Antonio Blakeney and Ben Simmons scored 19 and 17 points, respectively. But despite staying close early in the second half and shooting 56 percent over the final 20 minutes, the Tigers quickly lost sight of a Kentucky squad that clicked in all areas.
The Wildcats achieved a season high in points and avenged an earlier 18-point loss to LSU.
"The difference in the way that they played today than how they played at our place was that we were plus-16 on the boards," LSU coach Johnny Jones said. "We had second-chance opportunities. Today, they were the aggressor and did a great job of getting second-chance opportunities."
The Wildcats were also emotional in their season finale as the team and fans bid farewell to Poythress, a senior forward who stayed four years after arriving as a so-called "one-and-done."
Kentucky's main order of business in this game was staying near the top of the SEC. They traded runs with the Tigers before taking control with a 14-6 spurt keyed by Labissiere on both ends.
The 6-foot-11 freshman made several jumpers during the surge and twice rejected LSU near the basket to provide a 34-25 lead on the way to a 41-32 halftime lead. Labissiere kept it going with a couple of jumpers during a 10-0 run to put Kentucky up 72-52, and the lead grew as high as 26 points.
"I'm just being more physical, being more focused on what I need to do for the team," said Labissiere, who scored in double digits for the second straight game and blocked six shots. "On the defensive end, being more of a defensive presence, and on the offensive end doing whatever the team needs me to do."