SEC Tournament Central

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Thurs., Mar. 11 - Kentucky 71, Ole Miss 58
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Next Game - vs. LSU

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Fri., Mar. 13, 1 p.m. - LSU
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* Sat., Mar. 14, 1 p.m. - Semifinals

* Sun., Mar. 15, 1 p.m. - Finals

Kentucky - LSU Preview

Eric Lindsey, UKAA Media Relations

Win and survive. Win and advance.

Kentucky kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive Thursday with a 71-58 victory over Ole Miss in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Behind Jodie Meeks' 25 points and a double-double from Patrick Patterson, the Cats advanced past the first round and will face SEC regular-season champion Louisiana State on Friday at 1 p.m. in the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.

There is no telling whether or not UK will garner an at-large bid in the Big Dance, but the Cats got one step closer Thursday to winning their 26th SEC Tournament. If UK can do that, it can forget about any bubble talk because the Cats will earn an automatic berth.

But UK still has a long ways to go before it can start talking about that. The next step is beating LSU, the No. 1 seed from the Western Division.

The Tigers are led by SEC Player of the Year Marcus Thornton. The senior guard led the Tigers to a 13-3 record in conference play, including a 73-70 victory over the Cats in Rupp Arena. Thornton scored 23 points in that game, and junior forward Tasmin Mitchell, who nailed the game-winning 3-pointer, finished with 21 points.

UK will counter LSU with the most dominant duo in the SEC. First-team All-SEC selections Meeks and Patterson have torched the league this season to a tune of more than 43 points per game. Meeks, the nation's fifth-leading scorer, is averaging 24.7 points per game and Patterson is adding 18.4 points and 9.2 rebounds a game.

If UK defeats LSU, it will face the winner of South Carolina and Mississippi State on Saturday at 1 p.m.