Three keys: LSU vs. Kentucky

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
5:10
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- There's good news and bad news for LSU.

The good news is the Tigers not only won, they looked impressive in a 70-54 dismantling of Arkansas on Thursday in the first round of the SEC tournament.

The bad news? The reward for that victory is a date against the nation's best team, No. 1 Kentucky, and its traveling horde of blue-clad fans.

The Wildcats ran over LSU during their regular season meeting, much like it did to most of its opposition in the SEC this year. Kentucky roared to a 74-50 win on Jan. 28 in the PMAC behind a 27-point, 9-rebound effort from Terrence Jones and a 16-point, 10-board double-double from Anthony Davis.

If the Tigers manage the upset, they will be the first SEC team to beat Kentucky this year.

Here are three keys if LSU is going to make the fantastical a reality.

Get physical: The Tigers blew past Arkansas thanks to some physical play in and around the paint. Johnny O'Bryant, with help from Justin Hamilton and Storm Warren, slaughtered the Razorbacks on the boards. The trio combined for 25 rebounds and 42 points against Arkansas, largely by attacking the rim.

Against the likes of Jones and super freshman Davis, that's easier said than done. Davis is second in the league in rebounds with 9.8 per game, and he is a shot-blocking freak with 146 on the year.

As daunting a task as it might look, the Tigers have to play effectively against that without getting into foul trouble. If the trio of O'Bryant, Hamilton and Warren can pull that off, it might be their best accomplishment of the season.

"Depth is one of our strengths -- they can't take everything away," Warren said. "I'm not going to think too heavily into it. Any given team can take down the other. We all know Kentucky's a great team."

Stay calm: Whatever the Tigers' hopes of making the postseason are, they will shoot through the roof if LSU can knock off the Wildcats.

So let's break down the exterior factors going into this game: LSU is playing in a postseason environment, against the No. 1 team in the country, in a professional arena that will be packed mostly with opposing fans. On top of that, the Wildcats and their supporters have not forgotten Malcolm White's heinously hard foul on Davis in the teams' first meeting.

With all those factors in play, the atmosphere is sure to be electric. That's old hat for Kentucky, but LSU hasn't played in many settings like that -- perhaps with the exception of the last time the Tigers played the Wildcats.

"It's going to be a great atmosphere," Hamilton said. "It's a lot of fun to play the best."

LSU has to keep a cool head and not get overwhelmed by the aura of Big Blue Nation, or else the Tigers won't stand a chance.

Take care of the ball: The Tigers' edge in other categories allowed them to offset their awful ball handling, but that won't cut it against Kentucky.

In the win against the Razorbacks, four of LSU's five starters had at least two turnovers, and three of them had three. The Tigers gave the ball away a total of 14 times Thursday afternoon.

Granted, Arkansas has the SEC's best turnover margin at 3.26, while Kentucky sits at No. 7 with 0.77. But the Wildcats are also much more talented than the Razorbacks.

Beating Kentucky will be hard enough without giving the Wildcats points off turnovers.

David Helman | email

Reporter, RecruitingNation
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