Baton Rouge, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - After an unbeaten homestand, the 11th- ranked Kentucky Wildcats head back out on the road on Tuesday night to take on the LSU Tigers in an SEC battle at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
With its dominant 79-54 victory over Georgia on Saturday afternoon, Kentucky wrapped up a perfect three-game homestand, giving it seven wins in its past eight contests. The Wildcats are 15-4 this season and at 5-1 in the SEC, a game behind Florida for first place. However, they have gone just 1-2 in true road games.
LSU ventured to Alabama on Saturday evening and came away with a heartbreaking 82-80 setback to slip to 12-6 overall and 3-3 in league action. The good news for the Tigers however, is that they have won two straight games in Baton Rouge and own an 8-2 ledger at the Maravich Center this season.
The Wildcats have claimed five straight decisions over the Tigers, most recently winning in Lexington on Jan. 26, 2013, 75-70, to extend their lead in the all-time series to 83-24.
Kentucky was outstanding on both ends of the floor over the weekend, outshooting Georgia from the field, 50 percent to 32.7 percent, while also winning the turnover battle, 20-11, in the convincing 25-point victory. Pacing the effort was Aaron Harrison with 15 points, while Julius Randle posted 14 points and nine rebounds. James Young and Alex Poythress poured in 13 and 11 points, respectively, and while Willie Cauley-Stein scored just eight points, he was a menace on the defensive end of the floor with six blocks and six steals.
On the season, the Wildcats are the SEC's most well-balanced squad, as they rank second in the league in scoring offense (79.6 ppg) and fourth in scoring defense (65.5 ppg) for a conference-best scoring margin of +14.1. They also boast one of the nation's best rebounding margins (+10.9) but possess a slight weakness at the free-throw line (.676) and from beyond the arc (.315). Randle has lived up to the immense preseason hype by tallying 16.6 ppg and 10.5 rpg as a freshman. Fellow first-year players Young (14.2 ppg), Aaron Harrison (13.7 ppg) and Andrew Harrison (11.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg) have also played well, while Cauley-Stein (8.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is an elite defender with 3.4 bpg and 1.3 spg.
The Tigers nearly overcame a 19-point second-half deficit at Alabama on Saturday, but Anthony Hickey's last-second attempt to tie the game was blocked as they fell on the wrong end of a two-point final. They shot a solid 46.8 percent from the field while draining 15-of-20 at the free-throw line, but they simply couldn't keep pace with the Tide, who shot 51.9 percent from the floor and 20-of-26 at the stripe. Johnny O'Bryant III put up 18 points, Andre Stringer tallied 12 points and six assists in a reserve role and Shavon Coleman (13 points), Jordan Mickey (11) and Hickey (10) were all solid as well.
LSU is able to comfortably outpace it opponents this season, shooting 44.6 percent from the field for 76.1 ppg, while allowing 69.0 ppg on just 39.2 percent shooting. The team's strength comes in the frontcourt, with O'Bryant (14.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Mickey (13.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.6 bpg) formulating an imposing duo, with both shooting greater than 51 percent from the field. Stringer (12.0 ppg) is the only other player in double figures, but Coleman, Hickey and Jarell Martin all net between 8.5 and 8.9 ppg.