BATON ROUGE, La. (UK Athletics) – Immanuel Quickley scored 21 points and No. 10 Kentucky made a timely string of 3-pointers in a 79-76 victory over LSU on Tuesday night.
Kentucky made seven of eight 3s in the second half, when graduate transfer Nate Sestina hit three, including two during an 8-0 run that widened the Wildcats’ lead to 15 points with 5:14 to go.
Nick Richards scored 13 points and blocked six shots for Kentucky (21-5, 11-2 SEC), which has won five straight and nine of 10. Richards’ basket inside with 49 seconds left helped slow a furious Tigers rally that had trimmed Kentucky’s lead to 75-70 on Marlon Talyor’s 3 with 1:30 to go.
LSU (18-8, 9-4) pulled to 78-74 on Charles Manning Jr.’s driving floater off the glass with 19 seconds left. But Quickley made a free throw with 11 seconds remaining and the Tigers weren’t able to put home their final basket until less than a second remained, ensuring their fourth loss in five games.
Freshman Tyrese Maxey scored 14 points for Kentucky, while Sestina and Ashton Hagans each scored 11.
Skylar Mays scored 17 points and Darius Days had 13 points and 11 rebounds for LSU. Taylor added 13 points and Manning 11.
Kentucky made just 31.6% of its shots in the first half, but its length and athleticism was evident on the defensive end. The Wildcats blocked eight shots during the opening 20 minutes, with Richards swatting away five.
Early on, LSU’s Emmitt Williams energized the crowd when he took a no-look bounce-pass from Javonte Smart and went up strong for a right-handed, roundhouse dunk over Richards. But Richards, who entered the game with a team-high 54 blocks this season, responded by rejecting two of Williams’ shots – in addition to shots by Smart and Days – later in the half.
LSU finished the first half shooting marginally worse than Kentucky at 31.3% and the Wildcats took a 29-28 lead into halftime on Hagans’ 3 a half-minute before the horn.
Kentucky: The SEC-leading Wildcats continue to demonstrate they can stay in games even during stretches in which they don’t shoot well. They never trailed by more than four points, even while struggling to shoot better than 30% in the first half and missing eight of their first 10 3s. They took command when they shot 73.9% in the second half.
LSU: The Tigers outrebounded Kentucky 45-33, thanks in large part to 23 offensive rebounds. But a number of LSU’s second-chance attempts were missed put-backs than appeared to be rushed in an effort to avoid having even more shots rejected by the tall and athletic Wildcats. LSU also missed 13 of 20 3-point shots.
Kentucky: Hosts Florida on Saturday night.
LSU: Visits South Carolina on Saturday night.