LSU (10-6) at Kentucky (12-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 26, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rupp Arena (23,500) -- Lexington, Kentucky. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: LSU 9-2, UK 9-2. Away Record: LSU 1-4, UK 2-3. Neutral Record: LSU 0-0, UK 1-1. Conference Record: LSU 1-4, UK 3-2. Series Record: Kentucky leads, 82-24.
GAME NOTES: The Kentucky Wildcats' disappointing season chugs along, as they play host to the LSU Tigers in an SEC showdown at Rupp Arena on Saturday afternoon.
LSU had lost its first four SEC matchups coming into Wednesday's home game with Texas A&M, but it was able to escape with a 58-54 win to improve to 10-6 overall. The Tigers haven't fared well away from Baton Rouge this year, dropping four of five on the road.
With another star-studded freshman class, the Wildcats came into the 2012-13 campaign with sky-high expectations and the No. 3 preseason ranking, but they have greatly under-performed with six losses in their first 18 matchups. Kentucky fell to 3-2 in conference play on Tuesday night when it let a halftime lead slip away in a 59-55 loss at Alabama.
Kentucky defeated LSU in the quarterfinals of the 2012 SEC Tournament, 60-51, for its fourth straight win in the series. The Wildcats lead the Tigers all- time, 82-24.
LSU's first SEC win of the season was far from its most efficient, as it shot just 38.1 percent from the field (including 5-of-23 from 3-point range), but was able to hang on for the four-point victory thanks mostly to a huge advantage in the turnover battle (24-11). Johnny O'Bryant III registered his second straight double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Shavon Coleman added 17 points off the bench. Anthony Hickey struggled from the field (4-of-16) for his 10 points, but he logged a career-high eight steals to help pad his national-best average (3.9 spg). On the season, the Tigers have one of the best scoring offenses in the SEC (72.1 ppg), but they also yield 68.1 ppg to their opponents (12th in the conference). Coleman spends most of his time acting as the sixth man, piling up 12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg and 1.7 spg. O'Bryant III (11.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg) is also a big factor in the frontcourt, while Hickey (11.7 ppg), Andre Stringer (10.7 ppg) and Charles Carmouche (9.6 ppg) do a lot of their damage out on the perimeter.
After shooting 48 percent from the field in the first half, Kentucky's efficiency dropped to less than 30 percent after intermission as it saw a nine-point advantage disappear. Kyle Wiltjer (14 points) and Julius Mays (12 points) combined to shoot 5-of-7 from 3-point range, but the rest of the team went without a long-range bucket. Nerlens Noel added eight points and 13 rebounds, and for the fifth time this season he blocked a career-high seven shots. In addition to being an elite shot-blocker (4.3 bpg), Noel has made his mark in his freshman campaign by also averaging 10.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg and 2.5 spg. Archie Goodwin is the team's leading scorer at 14.6 ppg, and Alex Poythress (12.7 ppg) makes his field goals at an incredible 62.1 percent clip. Wiltjer (11.4 ppg) and Ryan Harrow (10.1 ppg) round out the double-digit scorers for Kentucky, which is one of just two teams in the SEC rank in the top-five in both scoring offense (75.9 ppg) and scoring defense (61.6 ppg).
Despite Kentucky's impressive statistics, it continues to come up small on the biggest stages, but it should be able to get back on track in front of its home fans against an unspectacular LSU squad.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kentucky 77, LSU 67
01/26 11:37:31 ET