- Friday, March 13 2009 -
SEC Tournament (at Tampa, FL)
Kentucky - 58 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Unranked]
|A. J. Stewart||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
Louisiana State - 67 (Head Coach: Trent Johnson) - [Ranked 20th by AP and 16th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Louisiana State 28, Kentucky 23
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi 71 - 58|||||UNLV 70 - 60|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
LSU shuts down Meeks, ends Cats' NCAA hopes
TAMPA - Friday the 13th has claimed another victim.
Kentucky attempted to reverse the bad omens of the infamous day by wearing black road uniforms for only the second time but instead dropped their 13th game of the season on the 13th day of March. LSU made the Cats' trip to the NIT all but official by defeating UK 67-58 in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Cue the Grim Reaper, the mythical figure similarly clothed in all black.
"(The season's) been tough," junior guard Michael Porter said. "It would have been a lot easier if we had won more because we lost some games we shouldn't have lost. It's been a roller coaster. We thought we were really getting it going at one point and then got down as low as we could go, so I don't know what to tell you."
Although UK will presumably have the NIT to salvage some pride the stunning free fall from a team that began league play 5-0 to one that lost nine of its final 13 games left everyone reeling. The Cats gave a game effort against LSU - the conference champion - but struggled to get out of its own way, just as it has all season long.
The Tigers used four early turnovers to run out to a 13-5 edge and led for the final 38:43 of the game. LSU put the contest away by hitting three-pointers on three consecutive possessions with just over six minutes remaining. The bombs turned a 49-42 lead into an insurmountable 58-44 cushion.
"It was important for us to get off to a great start because it's always hard to fight back against a good team," freshman forward Darius Miller said. "It was really tough, especially after playing yesterday. We didn't do that."
The Cats didn't go away quietly, staying within striking distance despite Jodie Meeks' first sub-double figure scoring effort of the season and a bushel of offensive rebounds by the Tigers' athletic front line. In fact, the same issues that have plagued the Cats all season - turnovers, opponent three-pointers and offensive rebounds allowed - undermined every attempt they made to get back into the ball game and keep their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
"You're telling me," Porter said of the same mistakes being repeated. "I've been a big part of the problem too but it's just tough. I thought we played hard for the most part and if we had played hard like that all year we may be in a different situation."
On the flip side, LSU turned every inch UK gave it into a mile. When the Cats closed within three points at the beginning of the second half the Tigers got a backdoor lay-up, stole the inbounds pass and then buried a three to push the lead to 10. After UK sliced the deficit to seven Garrett Temple, Bo Spencer and SEC Player of the Year Marcus Thornton all swished triples to put the game out of reach.
"We were just shaking our heads," sophomore forward Patrick Patterson said. "We played hard they just hit their shots. They knocked down crucial shots."
The result was the final nail in UK's coffin and a team forced to reconcile how things got so far off track.
"You could look at any of the games we lost in the SEC - Mississippi State, Georgia, a whole bunch of teams," junior forward Ramon Harris said. "Every game counts and we didn't do that. The Florida game was crucial, the South Carolina game was crucial, all of those games at the end of the year were and we put ourselves in this position. We knew we had to win at least three (in the SEC Tournament), if not the whole tournament and we didn't follow through."
Now the Cats can fade to black.
Ramon Harris (#5) defends against SEC Player of the Year Marcus Thornton
Darius Miller (#1) pressures LSU's point guard Bo Spencer (#11)
Michael Porter tries to steal the ball from Garrett Temple