LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)—Kentucky’s shooters seem to be finding their rhythm against Southeastern Conference opponents.
Patrick Sparks went 5-of-7 from 3-point range and scored 15 points to help No. 8 Kentucky beat LSU 89-58 on Saturday. Kelenna Azubuike added 16 points for Kentucky (14-2, 5-0 SEC), which made a season-high 11 3-pointers in 20 attempts to win for the 14th time in its last 15 meetings with LSU (9-6, 2-2).
Kentucky shot 54.2 percent from the field, the third time in four games the Wildcats—who rank 10th in the SEC in that category—have exceeded 50 percent.
“If you make (your shots), everything else looks better,” Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. “I thought we came out and played one of our better games. We were focused and ready. We had good balance in our attack and everybody that played contributed in some form or fashion.”
Sparks matched his season high for 3-pointers, having also made five in a win over Louisville.
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable,” Sparks said. “When I take open shots most times it will go in.”
The Wildcats have won four straight since losing to No. 2 Kansas on Jan. 9.
LSU, which had a three-game winning streak snapped, lost for the 38th time in 42 games against the Wildcats in Lexington. The Tigers’ last win at Kentucky came in 1989.
The loss was LSU’s worst since falling by 32 points to Florida in January 2002. Against the SEC’s top scoring defense, the Tigers finished 20 points under their season scoring average.
Defensively, the Wildcats’ trio of Chuck Hayes, Randolph Morris and Shagari Alleyne limited LSU’s inside duo of Brandon Bass and Glen Davis. Bass scored 14 points, three under his average, while Davis went 1-of-5 from the field and scored nine points, five under his average.
“They were not getting me the ball,” Davis said. “When I get five shots, I don’t think we can win the ball game like that.”
Bass had 10 rebounds and Davis had 12 rebounds, helping LSU to a 37-32 edge on the boards. But that wasn’t enough to offset the Tigers’ 33.3-percent shooting effort or 18 turnovers. LSU went 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from 3-point range.
“We gave up too many easy baskets off turnovers,” LSU coach John Brady said. “We can’t do that, particularly against Kentucky. You can’t get back and set your defense if you allow them to have 29 points in a game off of your turnovers.”
The Wildcats, coming off a season-low 53-point outing against Mississippi in their previous game, posted their highest-scoring first half of the season and led 49-36.
After falling behind 5-0, Kentucky scored 23 of the next 26 points to take a 23-8 lead. Kentucky led by as many as 20 in the first half before LSU closed on a 9-2 run.
LSU pulled within eight points with 13:43 left, but Kentucky freshman Joe Crawford—in his first game since leaving, then returning a week later to the Wildcats—made two free throws and followed with a 3-pointer, building Kentucky’s lead to 62-49.
“That’s what he’s capable of doing,” Smith said of Crawford. “We need Joe and we’re glad to have him back.”
Four of LSU’s starters played 30 or more minutes, while none of Kentucky’s starters played more than 27 minutes. As a result, Kentucky’s superior depth wore down the Tigers in the final minutes, and the Wildcats closed the game on a 25-7 run.
Twice in two minutes, 6-foot-1 freshman point guard Rajon Rondo drove for easy layups over LSU’s 6-foot-8 Bass, and in between, assisted on baskets by Sparks and Hayes.
“Our rotation is not as deep at UK’s, and that got to us,” Davis said.
Kentucky led by as many as 33 points.
Hayes and freshman Ramel Bradley added 10 points each for Kentucky, while Alleyne had nine points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.
Antonio Hudson scored 11 points for LSU.