BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team came oh so close to an upset win over a ranked team in its Southeastern Conference opener Wednesday night, falling to the 17th-ranked Kentucky, 74-71.
LSU falls to 9-4 overall and 0-1 in SEC play going to a Saturday afternoon game with Texas A&M in College Station (1:15 p.m., SEC Network, LSU Sports Radio Network) and Kentucky goes to 12-2 and starts 2-0 in the league.
The loss overshadowed a strong effort by forward Duop Reath, who had one of the best overall games of his career with 24 points and 11 rebounds. It was his first double double of the year and his eighth double double of his two years at LSU. Reath hit 11-of-17 field goals, including two trey attempts, including one that rallied LSU to its final lead of the game at 65-64 with 3:31 to play.
PJ Washington would score on a layup after a miss by LSU to take the lead back at 66-65 with 3:06 to go and his ensuing free throw made it 67-65. Reath after both teams missed had a dunk inside to tie the game for the fifth and final time at 67-67 with 1:59 to play.
Kentucky got the next two baskets to go up 71-67 with 1:16 to play and the Wildcats nursed that lead until the end.
Up 74-71 with 16 seconds left, Tremont Waters tried a three but also tried to draw a foul in the final seconds. The shot was missed but the ball was out-of-bounds to LSU with 0.8 to play. The inbounds went to Brandon Sampson, whose buzzer shot was no good in a final attempt to tie the game.
Waters had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his third double double, his first of points and rebounds, while Aaron Epps scored 13 points.
LSU shot 44.6 percent (29-of-65), 6-of-24 from the arc. The Tigers were 5-of-11 from the arc in the first half, but was just 1-of-13 in the second half. Kentucky shot 50.8 percent for the game (31-61) and 5-of-12 from the arc. Kentucky out rebounded LSU, 35-34.
Kentucky scored the first seven points of the game and led for the first 11 minutes before the Tigers scored seven straight to go up 20-18 with 8:35 to go in the first half on a Waters bucket. After the game was tied at 25-25 with 6:10 to go, LSU finished on an 11-6 run, but left a lot of possible points on the table in that final six minutes.
But the paid crowd of 11,952 (largest of the season) was happy as the Tigers went to the dressing room up, 36-31.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Washington led Kentucky with 18 points apiece, while Kevin Knox had 16 points and 11 rebounds.