The Kentucky Wildcats showed just how talented they can be when their star freshmen are firing on all cylinders on Friday night, taking down the LSU Tigers 85-67 in the SEC tournament quarterfinals.
The game got off to a quick start for Shavon Coleman, who was hot for the Tigers in the very first minute of play, making two straight three-pointers to put LSU up 6-0. With just over 12 minutes remaining in the first half, it looked like the Tigers were in good shape, going up 22-14.
However, the Wildcats went on an absolute tear after that, coming up with an impressive 23-3 run to go up 37-25 with less than four minutes left. Kentucky kept LSU at bay as the half came to a close, leading 42-32 at halftime.
Gregg Doyel from CBS Sports was quite impressed with how well the Wildcats were playing during that run.
Pretty sure I just saw the best 10-minute stretch Kentucky has played in two years.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) March 14, 2014
Despite going 4-of-10 from behind the arc along with 11 points from Johnny O'Bryant III, the Tigers were struggling to keep up with the Wildcats, who had 25 rebounds and five blocks as a team through 20 minutes. James Young was especially hot through the first half, putting up 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
According to Kentucky's Twitter account, those 17 points tied a career high for Young in a single half.
James Young's 17 points in the first half ties his career-high for any stanza this season. Also had 17 in opening half vs. Boise State.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 15, 2014
While Kentucky kept a comfortable lead for the first five minutes of the second half, the Tigers were able to come up with a 16-3 run to pull within three points at 52-49, thanks to a couple of three-pointers and a layup from Andre Stringer.
But the Wildcats were able to bounce back in a hurry, and they were able to make a big run of their own. The scoring was coming from everywhere, and Kentucky was able to get a 17-point lead at 76-59 with just under four minutes left.
At the end of the day, the Tigers just couldn't keep up with the Wildcats, with Kentucky winning 85-67. Four of five starters scored in double figures, with Young leading the way with 21 points. Kentucky's frontcourt stood out, especially on the glass, out-rebounding LSU 48-32.
After the game, Aaron Smith from Rivals.com provided the following quotes from the Harrison twins, who combined for 25 points while Andrew Harrison finished with eight assists as well.
Aaron Harrison on a big SEC Tourney win: "We saw the potential that everyone was talking about."— Aaron Smith (@ASmithRivals) March 15, 2014
Andrew Harrison on Calipari's offensive instruction to him this week: "He pretty much put it in my hands."— Aaron Smith (@ASmithRivals) March 15, 2014
How far will Kentucky go in the SEC tournament?
The Tigers will be looking for an NIT bid now with a 19-13 record that includes an SEC record of just 9-10. Winning the battle on the boards will be important for LSU to make a deep run in the NIT, as it ranked ninth in the nation in rebounding at 39.9 per game heading into Friday's game.
With another SEC win, the Wildcats continue to put themselves in great position for a solid seed in the NCAA tournament. Their young talent hasn't always been consistent over the past two seasons, but at 23-9, Kentucky has a shot to make a fairly deep run in the Big Dance if their star players can all play well at the same time.
The Wildcats will play the winner of the Georgia-Ole Miss game in the semifinals on Saturday.
Julius Randle, F, Kentucky: B
Julius Randle was able to come up with a double-double, but the numbers could have been better for the star freshman against the Tigers.
Starting off, Randle was cold, scoring just three points in the first half. The shooting wasn't pretty either, as Randle started the game going 1-of-9.
But Randle showed that he can shake off bad starts with a strong finish. He finished Friday's game with 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting and 9-of-17 from the charity stripe along with 16 rebounds. Despite playing such a good rebounding team, Randle was a big reason Kentucky was able to dominate the rebound battle.
Johnny O'Bryant III, F, LSU: B
It was a tough loss for the Tigers after playing so well for the first 30 minutes, and you can't blame O'Bryant after what he did in the game.
The junior forward finished with 18 points and seven rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting. The 6-of-13 from the free-throw line was kind of disappointing, but considering O'Bryant is just a 64.3 percent free-throw shooter, this was to be expected.
James Young, G, Kentucky: A-
As the top scorer for this game, Young really showed what he could do against a conference opponent.
While the scoring was impressive, Young did a good job overall, filling the stat sheet throughout. He finished with 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals, making three of the team's seven three-pointers in the game.
Young is just one of the many talented freshmen on Kentucky, but he certainly stood out on Friday.