Kentucky-LSU Preview

The Associated Press

Although Kentucky earned its 12th straight victory last time out, it appeared to play down to its competition somewhat.

That has rarely seemed to be a problem against LSU.

Coming off one of their worst offensive showings of the season, the top-ranked Wildcats look to regroup at that end Saturday when they visit the struggling Tigers.

Playing its first game atop the AP poll since losing to Indiana on Dec. 10, Kentucky (20-1, 6-0 SEC) defeated Georgia 57-44 on Tuesday.

It was hardly a thing of beauty, however, as the Wildcats finished with a season low in points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the only starter to score more than seven, finishing with 14. Doron Lamb - averaging a team-best 13.7 points - missed 6 of 8 shots and scored seven, while freshman forward Anthony Davis, who averages 13.2 points, scored just four but did have 11 rebounds to key a 41-26 Kentucky advantage on the glass.

Davis also blocked five shots, helping limit Georgia to 34.5 percent shooting and only three trips to the free-throw line.

"I'm happy we won," coach John Calipari said. "But I want us to be even better."

Senior Darius Miller was one of the few offensive bright spots, matching a season high with 19 points off the bench. He made 7 of 8 shots, including all four of his 3-pointers, but Calipari knows that for his team to truly be considered a national title contender it needs a more balanced attack.

"We're just into our own thing right now and you can't be a special team and be that way," Calipari said. "The biggest thing is let's step this thing up. ... We could be really special and we're not right now."

Another win over LSU (12-8, 2-4) would be nothing special. Since the 1992-93 season, Kentucky is 18-0 in the series when LSU is unranked, and 0-4 when the Tigers are in the Top 25.

LSU has been unranked in the last two meetings, and the Wildcats have won by a combined 64 points. In the lone matchup last season, Kentucky won 82-44, as Terrence Jones scored 17, Miller added 15 and the Tigers shot 26.2 percent.

LSU could have trouble making shots again, with Kentucky leading the nation in defensive field-goal percentage (36.2). The Wildcats are also strong on the boards, leading the SEC with a plus-7.7 rebounding differential.

That type of hustle impresses LSU coach Trent Johnson.

"They play hard, and they take no prisoners," Johnson said. "When you have that kind of talent, the kind of talent (Calipari) has had ... most guys have a sense of entitlement, but they come after you now."

The Tigers are coming off Wednesday's 76-71 loss at No. 18 Mississippi State, falling to 1-14 in their last 15 against ranked foes.

Andre Stringer led LSU with 17 points, bouncing back from a string of poor performances leading to a demotion to the bench. The sophomore had averaged 5.7 points on 23.3 percent shooting in his previous three games.

Although the Tigers are struggling in the SEC, freshman Anthony Hickey has stepped up his play since the non-conference season concluded. The 5-foot-10 point guard is averaging 12.7 points on 50.9 percent shooting in six SEC games after averaging 4.8 points on 25.0 percent shooting in his previous five contests.

Johnson hopes Hickey, Kentucky's Mr. Basketball in 2011, can keep his emotions in check against a team he grew up idolizing. He was not recruited by the Wildcats.

"He grew up (in Kentucky), and he knows what that is about," Johnson said. "But he also knows that if he is not on an even keel and not making good decisions, things aren't going to happen for us and for him."