John Clay: Opponents running out of tricks for Kentucky

Kentucky foils another ploy: basketbrawl

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 29, 2012 

BATON ROUGE, La. — One Twitter wit put it best.

"If LSU had tackled in BCS game like they have in this one," tweeted someone named @crtree, "they would have won."

Oh yes, Les Miles', er Trent Johnson's host Baton Rouge Brawlers attempted to go all "Honey Badger" on John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday afternoon in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

They threw elbows, delivered big hits, even resorted to the objectionable and penalty-inducing art of the horse-collar takedown.

And, oh yeah, the Tigers lost anyway.

And they didn't just lose, mind you, they lost big. They were outshot. They were outrebounded. They made one of nine three-pointers and forced a grand total of six Kentucky turnovers. They were outscored by nine in the first half, by 15 in the second.

"I haven't had one of those in a while," said their head coach, Johnson.

LSU bruised Anthony Davis' shoulder in the first half, then tackled Kentucky's center from behind on a fast-break breakaway for a flagrant-2/automatic-ejection technical foul in the second half, before finally hitting the freshman in the mouth toward game's end after Davis followed in a miss.

Long story short: They tattooed the UK player with no discernible tattoos.

And yet, Kentucky's long, lean shot-blocking machine kept coming back for more.

"They had some really physical plays on us," said UK senior Darius Miller. "Some questionable plays, in my opinion. But I think he did a great job of playing through it. He came up with some big plays for us."

Indeed, all the knocks — even the verbal knocks; the Louisiana State students kept chanting "Unibrow! Unibrow!" — could not keep AD from his appointed round with his 11th double-double. The rookie finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, three blocked shots and a collection of contusions.

This is normally the point in the column where we would give you Davis' description in his own words were it not for the fact that the center was held out of the post-game news conference for hopefully something more important and enjoyable, i.e. a whirlpool.

"He got punched around a little bit in there," said Calipari, who added that at one point, he asked Davis whether he was really hurt.

"I asked him, I said, 'Were you faking it, or did they really hit you?' He said, 'Oh they were whacking me. But I'm from Chicago; I just kept getting up.' "

Truth be told, it's the Southeastern Conference coaches who are in a world of hurt now.

After all, LSU followed the accepted — hoped for? — blueprint of using physical play in hopes of frustrating and neutralizing Calipari's obviously gifted but notoriously young Cats — and the tough guys lost by 24.

That's 13 straight wins for the No. 1 team in the nation, now 7-0 in the SEC, including four straight on the very same road where last year's Cats had so much trouble playing through those bumps.

The opponents' groupthink now has to be: Anyone got any other ideas?

LSU got physical, so Terrence Jones got physical right back, turning in his best game of the year with 27 points. Miller continued his shooting groove, hitting three three-pointers and scoring 13 points. Marquis Teague produced four assists to just one turnover.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed all five of his shots, scored one single, solitary point. Yet MKG grabbed eight rebounds and put the shackles on LSU's Anthony Hickey, the Kentucky Mr. Basketball from state champ Christian County who was no doubt champing at the bit to beat his home-state school.

"That's probably the best we've played all year, I would say," Calipari said. "What they saw was our best."

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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