Kentucky fans — and players — had reason to fret on Saturday. LSU, which has the personnel to look Kentucky in the eye and not blink, led by a point with 12 seconds remaining in overtime. Throughout this season, Kentucky and close games have been the Wile E. Coyote and Acme Company of college basketball. The Cats had lost five of six games decided by five points or less. Yet another occasion for defeat to explode in Kentucky's face appeared in the offing when LSU freshman Jordan Mickey easily blocked James Young's desperation flip shot in the lane. But this time, at long last, good fortune smiled on Kentucky. The ball found its way to Julius Randle, who stood near the basket and only had to lay it in with 3.9 seconds left to give UK a 77-76 victory. "That was the basketball gods," Randle said. " ... They had been trying to box me out the whole game. Killing me. But, luckily, that one just fell right into my hands." Kentucky, which improved to 21-6 overall and 11-3 in the Southeastern Conference, had reason for doubt. Former Kentucky Mr. Basketball Anthony Hickey hit a three-pointer over Willie Cauley-Stein to put LSU ahead 72-69 with 2:48 left in overtime. His layup off an inbounds pass (it must be easy to move about undetected when you're 5-foot-11) restored a three-point margin with 1:58 left. "Plenty of times we could have put our head down," said Randle, who only scored eight points but grabbed 15 rebounds. "There was a time we did put our head down. We could have said, 'Just forget it' and lost the game. "But we didn't. We kept fighting." Kentucky's moment of doubt came with 20.7 seconds left in regulation. Hickey, who scored 20 points and got credit for eight assists while committing only one turnover in 40-plus minutes, hit a three-pointer with 1:46 left to put LSU ahead 64-63. After Andrew Harrison sandwiched two misses around a Hickey miss, Kentucky was forced to foul Andre Stringer, an 83.8-percent free-throw shooter this season, with 20.7 seconds left. "We had four guys walking back to the other foul line with their heads down," UK Coach John Calipari said. "I had to yell, 'We're winning this! We are going to win this! "It proves we're still coach-driven instead of player-driven. We've got to get to where I'm doing less, and they're doing more." Randle reminded his teammates of UK's last overtime game, an 87-85 thunderclap of a loss at Arkansas thanks to Michael Qualls' putback dunk in the final second. "But that wasn't happening this time," Randle said of his and UK's resolve.
Randle basket beats LSU 77-76 in OT
Lexington Herald-Leader | Feb 23