Sidelines with John Clay

Ten things about Kentucky basketball’s fall at LSU

LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) scored past Kentucky forward Isaac Humphries (15) in the second half of the Kentucky at LSU basketball game at Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rogue, La.,, on Jan. 6, 2016. LSU beat UK 85-67
LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) scored past Kentucky forward Isaac Humphries (15) in the second half of the Kentucky at LSU basketball game at Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rogue, La.,, on Jan. 6, 2016. LSU beat UK 85-67 Lexington Herald-Leader

Ten things about Kentucky’s 85-67 loss at LSU on Tuesday night?

1. Kentucky’s bigs came up small

The Cats were outplayed badly inside. Marcus Lee fouled out after just five minutes on the floor. Arguably the team’s most consistent big, the junior grabbed just two rebounds and failed to score. He also turned it over twice. Of course, it’s hard to get much done when you’re only on the floor for five minutes.

Skal Labissiere played 16 minutes off the bench. Unfortunately, it was more of the same from Skal. He scored three points and managed two rebounds. Once, Labissiere had a rebound wrestled away from him. On another play, he missed a weak, one-footer at the basket, which sent him almost directly to the bench.

Isaac Humphries, another freshman, played seven minutes without scoring. He had two more fouls (3) than rebounds (1).

Stat: LSU scored 44 points in the paint. Kentucky scored 24.

2. Another tough night for Alex Poythress

The senior fouled out after scoring just four points and grabbing four rebounds in 26 minutes. Poythress picked up a couple of fouls for being out of position and going for rebounds over the back. He seemed a step slow on defense. He committed three turnovers on offense. On a night when UK was outrebounded 46-32, Poythress didn’t have an offensive rebound.

3. Oh yea, rebounding

LSU came into the game 13th out of 14 SEC teams in rebound margin at -0.5 per game. And Johnny Jones’ team bashed the Cats on the glass by a +14. Kentucky managed just 111 offensive rebounds compared to 30 defensive rebounds for LSU. That’s an offensive rebound percentage of 26.8, the lowest of the season.

UK’s leading rebounder was reserve guard Mychal Mulder, who collected eight rebounds in just 14 minutes on the floor. Mulder had three offensive rebounds. Derek Willis grabbed two. No other Cat had more than one.

Meanwhile, LSU had three different players grab double-digit rebounds. Craig Victor had 12. Ben Simmons had 11. Tim Quarterman had 10.

4. The Tigers barely needed Simmons

On Saturday, LSU’s superstar freshman scored 36 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Tigers to a 90-82 win over Vanderbilt. But despite all the hype leading into Tuesday -- UK vs. Simmons -- the 6-foot-10 rookie wasn’t really a major factor in LSU’s win.

Simmons played just nine minutes in the first half, scoring two points and grabbing four rebounds. He did play well down the stretch in the second half and finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. But he wasn’t the reason LSU won the game.

5. Tim Quarterman was the reason

The 6-foot-6 junior scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and made seven assists. A difficult matchup, Quarterman was all over the floor at times, grabbing rebounds and loose balls, making shots. He was nine-of-15 from the floor. He also had six offensive rebounds. He was the Star of the Game.

By the way, LSU averaged 1.245 points per possession, secondly only to UCLA’s 1.258 this season for a Kentucky opponent. UK averaged a season-low 0.932 points per possession.

6. Tyler Ulis was UK’s star of the game

After the game, Ulis said some of his teammates didn’t show up to play. He said the team didn’t really play winning basketball. He was not one of those guys. The sophomore finished with 23 points and six assists. It was Ulis’ third straight game of 20-or-more points. Over his last three games, Ulis has scored 65 points and dished 24 assists.

7. Jamal Murray’s second-half surge

Just as he did in the second half, the sophomore had a strong second half Tuesday. After scoring just four points in the first half, Murray scored 17 in the second. He was seven-of-10 from the floor in a half that saw UK cut LSU’s lead to 58-54 with 9:35 remaining. Alas, Murray scored just one more bucket after that.

This also raises the question: What is Murray doing in the first half?

8. Not getting it done at the line

After making 10 of 20 free throws in the win over Ole Miss at Rupp Arena on Saturday, the Cats were 12-of-23 from the foul line at the PMAC. That’s 52.2 percent. Over the last two games, UK has made 22 of 43 free throws for 51.2 percent.

Isaiah Briscoe missed six of his seven foul shots at LSU. The freshman is now 18 of 51 on the season for 35.3 percent. As a team, Kentucky is shooting 65.1 percent from the line.

9. Not up to the challenge

That’s what John Calipari said after the game. Once again on the road, UK failed to match the other team’s intensity. UCLA was determined to beat Kentucky in Los Angeles last month and did so. Ohio State was determined to make a statement against UK in Brooklyn last month and did so. LSU was ready to show it could live up to its potential in Baton Rouge and did so.

For whatever reason, the Cats look and play like a different team away from home. The one exception was the win over Duke in the Champions Classic in Chicago in November. That seems a long time ago now.

Note: By margin, this was the third-worst loss of the Calipari Era, behind the 88-58 loss at Tennssee in 2013 and the 19-point loss at Florida in 2014.

10. Now here comes another road game

The Cats travel to Tuscaloosa on Saturday for a 6 p.m. game at Alabama. Under first-year coach Avery Johnson, the Crimson Tide is not great shakes. Bama is 9-3 overall heading into its SEC opener Thursday night against Ole Miss.

But there’s blood in the water now. Teams know they can beat the Cats, especially teams that are welcoming the Cats into their building. Oh, by the way, Alabama is 5-0 at home.

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