Cats to face LSU

LSU cruised past Bama on Thursday night.

Kentucky can begin preparing for its first SEC Tournament opponent in earnest. The Cats learned they will face LSU for the third time this season after watching the Tigers defeat Alabama on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Kentucky can begin preparing for its first SEC Tournament opponent in earnest.

The Wildcats learned they will face LSU for the third time this season after watching the Tigers defeat Alabama 68-56 on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

LSU hit 11 of 22 from behind the 3-point arc to dispatch the Crimson Tide. Five different players connected from long range for Johnny Jones' club, including a 5-for-9 effort from Shavon Coleman.

Second-seeded Kentucky (22-9) will face No. 7 seed LSU (19-12) on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. It will be the rubber match for the Cats and Tigers, who split games in Baton Rouge and Lexington this season. And a lot will be riding on the outcome with LSU sitting firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

"I think they're playing really good basketball," UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua said of the Tigers. "Obviously (they) shot the ball really well tonight, and I just think that we're going to have another great challenge ahead of us.

"They're a good team. They got good size, they got athleticism, they got veteran guards, they got some guys coming off the bench that are also really talented. It's going to be fun and exciting."

Asked about his thoughts on another matchup with UK, Jones said: "I think Kentucky's an excellent basketball team. I think that defensively, offensively, they've got many weapons. They're long on the inside. They rebound the ball well. I think we're just really fortunate when we played them early on, we knocked down some shots offensively there at home.

"We hit some key baskets when we played them there on the road. We made the run when we needed to get the game into overtime and came up a little short there. But I think the two times we have played them, we have been really on point offensively."

LSU won the first game 87-82 on its home floor in a game that wasn't nearly as competitive as the final score suggests. Johnny O'Bryant poured in 29 points and the Tigers led by double digits for most of the day. Only a late flurry of UK 3s in the final two minutes made the score respectable.

Kentucky won the second matchup at Rupp Arena, 77-76 in overtime, on a putback by Julius Randle with three seconds remaining. It helped overcome a big performance by native Kentuckian Anthony Hickey, who finished with 20 points and eight assists playing in front of many family members and friends from Hopkinsville.

Hickey told reporters in Atlanta that he enjoys facing the Cats, but shot down assertions by teammate Johnny O'Bryant that he wants to "make Kentucky pay" for not recruiting the former "Mr. Basketball."

"No," Hickey said with a laugh. "It's just playing against the home team, a great challenge. I love to compete. Just when you see Kentucky, you always get amped up because it's a big name, just us willing to compete against them."

Kentucky fared much better against O'Bryant in the second meeting, holding him to 8-for-25 shooting from the floor en route to an inefficient 20-point effort. He was 12-for-20 in the first game.

Jeff Drummond has covered University of Kentucky sports and recruiting for newspapers, magazines and online publications since 1988 and for Scout since 2012. A Richmond, Ky., native, he currently resides in Lexington.

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