It seems like it’s been a while since two good things happened in a row for UK Basketball, so that makes today even nicer. First, we found out that Patrick Patterson is planning to return to UK for his junior year. Then, UK pulled off the team’s first win in a couple weeks, beating Ole Miss 71-58, in a reminder that watching basketball can actually be fun.
Even though Kentucky fans are still tempering expectations, it still is nice to get a win, and it’s even nicer to see the way UK rebounded, defended, and played balanced offense in the second half against Ole Miss. Next up, UK plays SEC champ and West No. 1 seed LSU in what is sure to be a challenge for the seemingly rejuvenated Kentucky Wildcats.
The good thing about playing in the conference tournament without a bye is that you have an opportunity to build momentum, get used to the court, and get warmed up before your opponent in the next round even has a chance to play a game. That’s just what UK was able to do. LSU has lost two in a row, and hasn’t played since Saturday.
Kentucky played LSU to nearly a draw just 12 days ago in Lexington, falling on a Tasmin Mitchell three with under 10 seconds left. Both teams played pretty well in that game, so you have to think it will be a close game if both teams play the way they are capable.
Both teams have tremendous shooting guards in SEC player of the year Marcus Thornton of LSU and fellow All SEC first teamer Jodie Meeks of Kentucky. Both teams have guys at the four with NBA futures in LSU's Tasmin Mitchell and Kentucky's Patrick Patterson.
Those four guys pretty much wash each other out, but LSU’s supporting cast has been much more consistent all year. Bo Spencer has played steady basketball handling the ball for LSU, and can hit the outside shot. Garrett Temple is an elite perimeter defender who has the ability to bug anybody on defense, even though he can’t shoot to save his life.
Chris Johnson is the second leading shot blocker in the conference, and, even though he doesn’t sport much muscle, he is a solid player. LSU doesn’t have much bench scoring, but they can run athletes at you all day.
I think the question to ask about LSU is “which LSU is going to show up tomorrow?”
Will the LSU that won 13 straight SEC games show up? Or will it be the LSU that lost to Vandy and Auburn to close the season and was down double digits for most of those two games?
To give a simple answer, I think it’s going to be the LSU we saw before this losing streak. It’s the postseason now, and LSU needs to improve its seeding for the NCAA’s. LSU seemed to mail it in once they wrapped up the SEC regular season title. I don’t think UK will be as lucky as Vandy and Auburn were.
UK is going to have to play a great game to pull it off, and one good half is not going to do it. Kentucky had Rupp Arena on its side a couple weeks ago, and even though UK will have more fans than LSU, UK won’t have the luxury of a loud crowd.
Jodie is going to need to attack the basket with a vengeance like he did today in Tampa, but he’s going to need to find his three point stroke that has escaped him in UK’s last few games.
UK is going to need to hammer the ball in to Patrick Patterson, like they did in the first LSU game. Perry Stevenson and Darius Miller have got to show up like they did today.
It’s going to take quite a performance. But I liked what I saw and heard out of UK today, so I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say UK could play with LSU. If they do that, I think they can win. I will say that I enjoyed UK basketball today, which is a good first step.