No. 16 Kentucky edges LSU 60-58 in quarterfinals
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Victoria Dunlap thought about taking a crazy shot with Kentucky trailing 58-56. Then she noticed teammate A’dia Mathies and tossed her the ball.
Mathies scored on a three-point play with 38.8 seconds left to put the Wildcats ahead to stay, and No. 16 Kentucky edged LSU 60-58 on Friday in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals.
“I was definitely about to shoot it, shoot some crazy shot because I knew the shot clock was running down,” Dunlap said. “I passed it to her, and she finished.”
The second-seeded Wildcats (23-7) will play Vanderbilt on Saturday after breathing a heavy sigh of relief at having survived another tight game with LSU.
“That’s not my idea of a good time to play LSU,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It’s very, very difficult. They just do such a good job of making you earn baskets and the matchup with Kentucky and LSU is just such that we’re going to play a certain style and they are, and neither team really seems to be able to get any separation from the other.”
LSU (19-13) will have to wait and see if the Lady Tigers did enough to earn a postseason berth and the chance to notch a third 20-win season under coach Van Chancellor. He believes they deserve an NCAA tournament berth.
“If there’s 64 better teams than LSU right now, I’d like to find them,” Chancellor said. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind.”
The Lady Tigers had their chances late. LaSondra Barrett bounced a 3-pointer off the front of the rim with 14 seconds left, and Katherine Graham’s jumper in the final seconds was off with Mathies defending her shot.
“We were trying to run a little screen across and get the ball to Boogie (Barrett), but we couldn’t do it,” Chancellor said.
Dunlap helped seal the victory with a free throw with 12.5 seconds left. She finished with a game-high 21 points, 13 in the second half after foul trouble limited her to eight minutes in the first half.
Barrett had 19 points and 10 rebounds for LSU. Adrienne Webb had 16 points.
The Lady Tigers have dominated this series over the years, but Kentucky has won three straight, including twice this season, as the Wildcats try to play their way back into the tournament title game they lost a year ago.
This one couldn’t have been much tighter with eight ties and seven lead changes.
LSU led 27-23 at halftime and last led 58-56 on a drive by Graham with 1:29 left. Mathies drove the lane for the tying layup, and then hit the free throw to put Kentucky ahead for good. The Lady Tigers can blame themselves for this loss: They hit only 6 of 15 at the free-throw line despite shooting 50 percent (25 of 50) from the floor for the game.
“Thank goodness they didn’t make a lot at the line today, and that was a big key in the game because we fouled way too much,” Mitchell said. “We have to clean that up.”
Kentucky struggled to hit only 36.8 percent (21 of 57) from the floor, but the Wildcats did well at the line by connecting on 15 of 19 free throws. Dunlap was 5 of 7 by herself.
“We didn’t start the game the way we wanted to, but we definitely finished it the way we wanted to,” Dunlap said. “Our team stepped up in the end, and we’ve had a couple games like this where the game was close at the end, but we got it done.”
LSU had a chance to blow it open, up 6-1 early. Kentucky struggled to find the bucket inside the Bridgestone Arena and missed 10 of its first 13 shots. The Wildcats shot only 28.6 percent (8 of 28) in the first half.
LSU had its biggest lead at 27-20 but couldn’t pad it more and led only 27-23 at halftime, mostly because the Lady Tigers hit only three of their 10 free-throw attempts. Chancellor said they missed their chance to lead by double digits.
“We couldn’t make that happen,” he said.
Dunlap opened the second half by drawing a foul from Taylor Turnbow, the third for the LSU junior and sending her to the bench. That was continued a 17-2 spurt for Kentucky with Dunlap scoring 12 points during that stretch, and her layup with 12:54 made it 37-29.
But LSU wouldn’t go away, setting up the final scramble at the end.
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