Cauley-Stein, Towns Key in 71-69 Victory at LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Frustrated by the way his undefeated Kentucky Wildcats were playing, coach John Calipari told them he hoped they'd lose.
They almost did.
But Karl-Anthony Towns redeemed himself after drawing a technical foul for hanging on the basket and the ire of his coach by hitting a go-head jump hook with 1:30 left and grabbing a clutch offensive rebound against LSU in the final minute to help No. 1 Kentucky stay unbeaten, 71-69 on Tuesday night.
''I'm proud of Karl because he came back and grew up,'' Calipari said. ''Now I doubt - ever in his life - will he chin-up on a basket, ever again. But that's why I looked like an idiot on the sideline and why I refused to call timeout. I even said, `I hope we lose. Watch this!'''
Calipari explained that he wanted to make sure his team won't lose elimination games in March over senseless fouls, so even as his assistants pleaded with him to call timeout, he just watched and joined in the ear-ringing frenzy at the sold out Pete Maravich Assembly Center during a stunning 21-2 LSU run that gave the Tigers a 66-60 lead.
''I'm not worried about losing,'' at this point of the season, said Calipari, whose team improved to 24-0, and 11-0 in the Southeastern Conference. ''This is about us getting better.''
As the Tigers stormed in front, Towns squirmed uncomfortably on the Kentucky bench, waiting to redeem himself.
''It was a momentum changer. I can't be doing that,'' said Towns, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. ''During moments like that you think about your brothers and how much they've given you. You give everything back. I was more than happy to repay my brothers' efforts.''
It was only narrowly enough. Keith Hornsby had a shot to win it for LSU in the final seconds, but his off-balance 3 bounced off the outside of the rim.
Willie Cauley-Stein scored 15 points for the Wildcats, who can tie a school record for the best start to a season by winning at home on Saturday against South Carolina. Devin Booker added 14 and Andrew Harrison had 13 for the Wildcats.
Jarell Martin had 21 points and 11 rebounds for LSU (17-7, 6-5), while Hornsby scored 17 points.
Early in the second half, LSU appeared to be struggling with Kentucky's height, with Cauley-Stein dunking twice within a few possessions as the Wildcats built a 10-point lead. Harrison then drained a 3 to give the Wildcats their largest lead at 58-45 with 12:46 to go.
LSU called timeout, and responded its big run, starting with a 3 by Josh Gray. Hornsby scored eight points during the surge, including a 3 and a fast-break layup off of Cauley-Stein's turnover that capped the run and put LSU up 66-60.
''We've battled through some tough games this year and put ourselves in position to have a shot to win it late,'' LSU coach Johnny Jones said. ''If you play that way throughout, some good things can happen for you. We're constantly growing, and I feel like we took some positive steps tonight. Unfortunately, we just came up a little short.''
The Cats outlasted the Tigers. UK outscored LSU 29-7 in bench points. UK won on the rebound battle 40-35 pic.twitter.com/g66HNW7qiF
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 11, 2015