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Game Preview: LSU Tigers

Fresh off a very impressive win, actually the biggest win of the season if we’re being honest with ourselves, Kentucky will look to keep things rolling on the road yet again. On Wednesday night they’ll head down to Baton Rouge to take on an opposing LSU crowd and look to earn their ninth conference win of the season.


Sitting at 18-7 overall, they’ll face the Tigers who are 13-12 through as many games and 5-7 against SEC opponents. The LSU men’s basketball program is coached by Matt McMahon, who took the position in 2022 after becoming the Naismith National Coach of the Year Semifinalist resulting from leading Murray State to the first 18-0 season in Ohio Valley Conference history. The familiar name came with a 154-67 record in 7 seasons as the Racers’ head coach before signing with the purple and gold.


As the Wildcats will enter the depths of another road environment, it will be a late one starting at 9:00 PM with a likely impressive crowd to show up for the name brand of Kentucky Basketball. Fortunately, that crowd hasn’t been as dominant as the last one was on their home court as they’re 9-4 inside Pete Maravich Assembly Center this year. On the other hand, Kentucky’s seen as a team that plays better on the road, winning in 5 of their 7 attempts, so it doesn't concern me too much about this one being in an away-game atmosphere.


Getting to know the opponent

LSU is coming off of a win at No. 11 South Carolina just four days ago, a place that Kentucky went in not too long ago and got destroyed. That would be the starting point of losing four of the next seven games. A tough place to play in, the Tigers were able to get it done. They were also able to get it done on the road at Texas A&M back in January as well, another place Kentucky lost at. Thankfully, this one isn’t on the road for LSU. Their four home losses this season have come from Alabama, Texas A&M, Kansas State, and Nicholls, so they are vulnerable to lose on their own turf it seems.


Their biggest contributors on the offensive side of the ball are Jalen Cook (15.6 PPG), Jordan Wright (15.0 PPG), and Will Baker (12.2 PPG), with Cook & Baker both having four 20-point games a piece just this season. All of Baker’s have come at home, so watch out for that when they look to match up with Kentucky's offensive depth.


The only major category that LSU leads the conference in is steals, earning 8.61 a game. That mark has come from an impressive 9 double-figure steals games. Continuing throughout the SEC team stats, they're also 4th in made three-pointers (35.8%) and 6th in scoring (77.3). With that being said, they've been known to have high-scoring nights on plenty of occasions this year. Their offense has scored 80 or more points in four of the last six games, including over 90 in the last two home games against Arkansas (95) and Alabama (92). On top of that, they've reached over 85 or more ten times this season. Not ideal for a Kentucky team that likes to give up points. That leads into my first point that Kentucky will need to hit on to win.



How Kentucky wins


The 'Cats just need to continue improving their defense and hope to overflow some of what they showcased in Auburn last weekend. Limiting LSU's points and not letting them match you on each possession is crucial. With a home crowd they're going to have a lot of momentum swinging their way and that usually leads to higher shooting percentage. You know Kentucky will find their points, but you can't let LSU find theirs.


We also know that Antonio Reeves and Rob Dillingham will lead the team in points tonight, but I think if Kentucky can find a way to get two of the three in DJ Wagner, Reed Sheppard, and Justin Edwards going, it will be key to walking out of this one with the win. Those first two will get the double coverage on defense and with that aggression it will allow Kentucky's other guys a little more room to get going. That freedom will help create a more confident shot and hopefully find some free points to start the offensive runs.


Lastly, I think Kentucky needs to get off to a hot start. We saw that disabled against Bruce Pearls' Tigers and it sent a message to the home crowd that they didn't matter as much as they thought they were going to and helped a young team surface that inner-dog inside of them. Those environments are so hectic, and if you can come out from the jump and earn a statement lead it will suppress the LSU fans/students into your favor. If you don't, you'll be dealing with them the entire night.


Defense, extra help on offense, and a quick start, that's how Kentucky improves to 19-7 tonight. Looking at the big picture, Kentucky leads the all-time series 93-28 with a 32-19 record in games played in Baton Rouge. Historic dominance, so let's not change that up. A win would also reflect its third straight over the Tigers and Kentucky's fourth straight road win this season.



Preview


LSU is 2-6 versus AP Poll ranked programs this season, winning 89-80 over No. 22 Ole Miss, and 64-63 at No. 11 South Carolina. Their losses come from No. 19 Texas in Houston, at No. 16 Auburn, at No. 6 Tennessee, and at home to No. 16 Alabama.


You might also remember former Wildcat Daimion Collins who is now on the opponent's roster. He transferred out of the program this summer in hopes to be closer to home and to also receive more playing time. This season he's played in just 6 games averaging 10 minutes a game and just under 4.3 points per contest. The reason why he's only played so little is because he's been hurt since November. In a game against North Florida he dislocated his shoulder and has been sidelined ever since. It sucks to hear the news, but I'm sure we will get a lot of smiles and catching up from the players during the pregame activities. We of course still wish a good luck to his recovery.


This is a game that Kentucky should win but more importantly needs to win. It stretches out the momentum found at Auburn and a win can help you bring it back home to help close out the regular season. Kentucky is the favorite in the betting world and is being projected to win by over 6 points.


We'll see y'all at 9:00. Bring the coffee.




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