LEXINGTON, Ky. — One of the things Will Wade likes about his LSU basketball team is its ability to hang in and keep playing when things aren’t going well.
That’s been the Tigers’ strongest trait in four of its past five games when Wade’s team was able to come back from big second-half deficits and chalk up three wins.
It happened again Tuesday night when No. 19 LSU, which trailed by nine points on four occasions in the second half against No. 5 Kentucky, rallied to pull out a thrilling 73-71 victory in Rupp Arena in a game that ended with a slice of controversy.
Kavell Bigby-Williams tipped in a missed field-goal attempt by Skylar Mays at the buzzer, which officials dissected on replay before ruling that the tip-in beat the buzzer. The monitor can’t be used for goaltending or basket interference plays.
“I don’t know the rule specifically, but I think the only thing that’s reviewable is the clock,” Wade said. “What they called is what stands. I think the clock is reviewable. I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know.”
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Discussing the final moments on his radio show afterward, UK coach John Calipari said: “I haven’t looked at it yet. (The officials) maybe missed it … maybe they didn’t miss it. We lost, they won.”
And what a big win it was.
It was one of the Tigers’ greatest victories in a true road game in decades.
They came into the game with a 1-35 road record against top-five opponents, their only other victory coming Jan. 28, 1980 — which also come at Kentucky. LSU’s last win on Kentucky’s home court came in 2009, 73-70.
“Win or lose, the way we’ve played, it shows that we’ve got the right stuff,” a jubilant Wade said. “We were able to hang in there, which was what we wanted to do. We were just trying to hang in there.”
It was the sixth Southeastern Conference road win without a loss for LSU (20-4, 10-1), and it snapped a second-place tie with Kentucky (20-4, 9-2).
Saints and LSU fans have had their fair share of bad-officiating grief over the past few months. But against Kentucky on Tuesday night in Lexi…
Top-ranked Tennessee, which hosts South Carolina on Wednesday night, is a half-game ahead of LSU at 10-0.
LSU’s victory was its 13th in the past 14 games, while Kentucky had its 10-game winning streak snapped.
The Tigers did it with a strong second half, when they shot 51.7 percent from the field while the Wildcats connected on just 36.7 percent.
LSU, which was outrebounded 23-14 in the first 20 minutes, had an 18-16 edge on the glass in the second half.
“We weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be in the first half,” Wade said. “We were on our heels a little too much, so we just had to get back to being who we are.”
Tremont Waters led LSU with 15 points, while Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams finished with 12 each. Mays chipped in with 11.
Kentucky got a game-high 20 from PJ Washington, while Keldon Johnson dropped in 16 and Tyler Herro 12.
LSU defeated Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Tuesday night, marking one of the memorable road wins in program history.
The game was tied at 69 after Washington knocked down two free throws with 1:12 to play before Waters put LSU back in front when he calmly converted a one-and-one opportunity with 20.5 seconds left.
LSU’s Marlon Taylor was whistled for a foul with 6.0 seconds left, and Johnson sank both free throws to tie it for the fourth and final time in the game’s last 8½ minutes.
It didn’t stay tied for long, however.
Mays took the inbounds pass and headed up the left side of the floor, then attempted to get a layup to go with three of Kentucky’s big men trying to swat the shot away.
“I just wanted to get it on the glass without getting it blocked because I knew they had shot-blockers down there,” Mays said. “Kavell just did a great job anticipating and getting the tip-in.”
As the ball went off the glass and bounced on the front of the rim, Reid and Bigby-Williams crashed in. Bigby-Williams got a hand up for the game-winner.
Then, as the game officials checked the monitor, Kentucky fans voiced their displeasure along with Calipari and his players.
“I knew if I was close to the glass, maybe I could make something happen,” Bigby-Williams said. “There were a couple of seconds left, so I went to the glass and tried to make something happen. … I didn’t know if it was good or not; I wasn’t sure.”
After watching the play on social media in the locker room, Bigby-Williams was asked if he thought it was good.
“It looked good to me,” he said with a smile.
“I don’t want to take anything away from LSU,” Calipari said. “To come in this building and do what they did down the stretch and make the shots that they made, and basically rebound the ball offensively against us like they did … they deserved to win the game.”
There were no shortage of superlatives after LSU’s stunning win against No. 5 Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Tuesday night.
LSU trailed by eight points at halftime, 40-32, after shooting just 33.3 percent in the first 20 minutes, while Kentucky built its nice lead in hitting 46.7 percent.
It was the fourth game in a row in which the Tigers trailed going to the locker room.
LSU, however, came back in the second half to win against Mississippi State, Auburn and Kentucky.
UK threatened to put away LSU when it built its biggest lead at 42-33 on a Reid Travis basket with 18:55 left, then managed to get it back to a nine-point cushion three times over the next two minutes.
But the Tigers refused to give in, chipping away at the deficit each time until Williams tied it at 56-56 with 8:40 left.
Williams then hit a basket on a pass from Javonte Smart to give his team a 58-56 advantage, and the Tigers never trailed again even though the Wildcats tied it three times going down the stretch.
“It was just a matter of being us,” Wade said. “We just had to make our plays. We didn’t have to do anything crazy, it was just a matter of playing our game.”