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O'Bryant, LSU freeze out No. 11 Kentucky

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jan 29 2014 12:47:26 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 29 2014 01:22:51 AM CST
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iStock / 33ft

On a bone-chilling night that left most of LSU Tigers' fans snuggling up to their warm televisions instead of braving icy road conditions to get to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari said his team played "passive."

That was all it took for LSU to take the fight to the 11th-ranked Wildcats and pull off an 87-82 upset victory Tuesday night in Baton Rouge, La.

Forward Johnny O'Bryant scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and the Tigers blocked 11 shots and forced 13 turnovers. Kentucky's vaunted young guns didn't quite know what hit them.

Calipari actually blamed himself for possibly sending the wrong signal to his players early in the game, refusing to double team O'Bryant when he got the ball in the paint. O'Bryant scored 10 of LSU's first 18 points, the Tigers raced to a 22-6 lead just 6:34 into the game.

"Us not doubling Johnny early probably got him going," Calipari said."The rest of it is you can't let another team outwork you for every ball, possession and free ball to win a game. Teams are too balanced, especially in our league.

"Johnny O'Bryant killed us. We started the game, and I didn't want to trap. I wanted to see what would happen. That was probably a mistake on my part. We should've trapped him from the beginning of the game."

O'Bryant is a skilled offensive player near the basket, and he was too tough for either freshman forward Julius Randle or center Willie Cauley-Stein to handle one-on-one.

"We wanted to come out aggressive," O'Bryant said. "I think when I scored those first couple of baskets, the team really rallied around me. They just fed off my energy. I really tried to attack them. I knew that they were young guys, and I had an advantage in experience and body-wise. I was going at them all night."

Attendance was reported at 6,139. Most were LSU students, who could walk to the game. Still, LSU coach Johnny Jones said the small crowd gave his team the energy it needed, and he thanked them after the game.

"For them to take the time out of their schedule, taking a chance in leaving home to come out and support our basketball team, means a great deal to us," Jones said. "I thought it was a great college basketball game."

O'Bryant controlled the paint, making 12 of 20 shots, and freshman forward Jordan Mickey blocked five shots in addition to scoring 14 points. Senior guard Shavon Coleman added 14 points for the Tigers, who improved to 13-6 overall and 4-3 in the Southeast Conference. It was only the fourth time since 2006 that LSU had defeated a ranked SEC opponent.

Kentucky (15-5, 5-2) had trouble adjusting to LSU's 2-3 zone defense and shot just 43.8 percent (32 of 73). LSU made 50 percent of its shots.

Calipari said he knew something was up when LSU went to a bigger lineup to start the game, which probably meant they would play more zone instead of their normal man-to-man defense.

"Normally, we are better against a zone than we are a man, so it didn't bother me," Calipari said. "But we weren't ready for the physical part of the game."

Freshman forward Julius Randle, Kentucky's leading scorer, struggled when LSU collapsed its zone and tried to force him to pass the ball out. Randle made just 3 of 11 shots and finished with six points, 10 below his average.

"I was just going at them and for some reason Randle had an off night," O'Bryant said.

LSU led 42-36 at halftime, and guards Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer hit consecutive 3-pointers to extend the Tigers' lead to 62-48 with 12:51 left. The Wildcats got no closer than five points in the final two minutes.

Kentucky was paced by guard James Young's 23 points and reserve center Dakari Johnson's 15.

NOTES: LSU public address announcer Dan Borne had some fun with the icy conditions, using a variation of the theme that it "never rains in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night." Borne told the crowd: "Welcome to the Ice Dome. It's 25 degrees outside, but chance of snow? Never." ... The LSU student section was about 80 percent filled, but the rest of the Maravich Assembly Center had plenty of empty seats. ... LSU had not scored 80 points against Kentucky in 18 seasons. The last time was in a 129-97 loss in 1996, when Kentucky scored a stunning 86 points in the first half. ... It was Kentucky's first loss since Dec. 14. The Wildcats never led in the game.