Jacob Toppin, No. 16 Kentucky Upset by No. 21 LSU in SEC Showdown

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 5, 2022

Kentucky forward Jacob Toppin (0) dunks against LSU in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game  in Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)
AP Photo/Derick Hingle

In a battle of SEC contenders, LSU made its case to be considered the conference's front-runner.

Thanks to a an excellent defensive effort, a balanced complement of scorers and a wild finish, the Tigers knocked off Kentucky in Baton Rouge on Monday night, 65-60.

ESPN @espn

CHAOS IN BATON ROUGE πŸ”₯<br><br>No. 21 LSU takes down No. 16 Kentucky with a wild finish‼️ <a href="https://t.co/6UhtwUQxQz">pic.twitter.com/6UhtwUQxQz</a>

Things got hairy late. LSU went on a 17-3 run in the second half and held a nine-point lead with 2:25 remaining. Kentucky then went on a 8-0 run to cut the deficit to one with 27 seconds remaining.

On the very next possession, it looked as though the Wildcats registered a steal, only to immediately give the ball back to the Tigers for a dunk. Kentucky then turned the ball over again, LSU got another easy bucket and the game was over.

It was a big win for the 13-1 Tigers after last week's loss to Auburn. Kentucky (11-3) saw its four-game winning streak snapped, meanwhile.

It was a tough result for Kentucky, who was less than 100 percent. TyTy Washington Jr. was clearly hobbled throughout the game, while Sahvir Wheeler left early on after taking a hard screen and didn't return.

Regardless, it will feel like a missed opportunity in an SEC that is loaded with talent. Arkansas, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky all pose a threat. But at the moment, it looks like a race between LSU and Auburn.

Key Stats

Tari Eason, LSU: 13 points, six rebounds, three assists

Darius Days, LSU: Nine points, seven rebounds

Xavier Pinson, LSU: 11 points, four assists

Kellan Grady, KY: 13 points

Jacob Toppin, KY: 14 points, eight rebounds

Davion Mintz, KY: 16 points

Toppin and Grady Did Their Part

With leading scorers Oscar Tshiebwe and Washington having a tough night (13 combined points, 6-of-18 from the field), the Wildcats need other players to step up.

Toppin did his part in the first half, keeping Kentucky within striking distance while showing off his tantalizing potential.

Jeff Borzello @jeffborzello

Jacob Toppin single-handedly carrying Kentucky in the first half. Not something I expected to tweet today.

Aaron Torres @Aaron_Torres

This is the second game, against the second-best team that Kentucky has played, where Jacob Toppin *looks* like he belongs more than anyone else.<br><br>1. Shut down Paolo Banchero vs. Duke<br>2. Best Wildcat on the floor against LSU.<br><br>Again, argue me if you want, but it's true

ESPN @espn

JACOB TOPPIN. OH MY 😱 <a href="https://t.co/44GrZUbNMS">pic.twitter.com/44GrZUbNMS</a>

ESPN @espn

There was so much going on in this sequence 😳 <a href="https://t.co/aWxurQYkLi">pic.twitter.com/aWxurQYkLi</a>

He went cold in the second half, but Kellan Grady stepped up, sinking four three-pointers in the frame to drag a struggling offense throughout the final 20 minutes.

Without that duo, this game wouldn't have been close on a night that saw Kentucky shoot just 36.2 percent (21-of-58) from the field.

Tari Eason Just Keeps Producing

LSU's leading scorer came off the bench and led the way again for the Tigers, scoring four crucial points down the stretch to help seal this win.

On a night that saw Darius Days struggle to find his stroke (3-of-12 from the field), Tari Eason and Xavier Pinson helped pick up the slack.

Eason's playmaking and defense continue to make him a crucial cog for this talented Tigers squad. He helps LSU in all phases.

What's Next?

Kentucky hosts Georgia on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. LSU hosts Tennessee that same date and time on ESPN2.