LSU head coach Nikki Caldwell developed the perfect formula for shutting down the Southeastern Conference's top offense and most disruptive defense – slowing down the tempo of the game to the Lady Tigers favor.
LSU, which had only nine available players, held fifth-ranked Kentucky to a season-low in points and Adrienne Webb scored a game-high 19 points as the Lady Tigers shocked the Wildcats and snapped their 13-game SEC winning streak by a score of 61-51 on Sunday afternoon in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
A raucous crowd of over 5,000 watched LSU defeat the SEC's first-place team and record its first win over a top-five ranked opponent since beating No. 2 North Carolina to advance to a fifth straight NCAA Final Four on March 31, 2008. It was also the Lady Tigers' first home win over a top-five team since defeating No. 5 Ohio State on Dec. 10, 2006.
"This is obviously a great win for the program," said Caldwell. "I can't tell you how proud I am of this group for playing a very discipline game. We stayed true to the game plan and everyone contributed in some way. We were again hit with adversity but this team has a fight in them, a never give up attitude. I felt like that was the reason we were successful tonight."
LSU (15-8, 5-5 SEC) snapped a five-game conference losing streak after opening the season with a 4-0 start. The Lady Tigers remained in a tie for seventh place in the league standings with Florida and stand two games ahead of ninth-place Mississippi State.
Kentucky (21-3, 10-1) saw a 10-game overall winning streak come to an end and lost for the first time since a 70-58 setback at Middle Tennessee on Dec. 28, 2011. A'dia Mathies, a candidate for SEC Player of the Year, was shutout in the first half before finishing with 12 points. Bria Goss, a three-time SEC Freshman of the Week, was held to four points – seven points below her average.
Webb reached 19 points for the second straight game – her third consecutive double-figure game – to pace an LSU attack that was deadly in its mid-range jumpers and at the free throw line. LaSondra Barrett scored all 12 of her points in the second half and Jeanne Kenney added nine points and four steals. Both Barrett and Webb were a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line as LSU shot collectively a season-best 25-of-31 to Kentucky's 5-of-11.
"We really talked about slowing the basketball down and getting into our offense," said Caldwell. "We looked to put the ball inside and work our high-low action because we felt like we had a height advantage. Our way of combating that quickness was to use our physical presence. I felt like our team did that."
The Lady Tigers, already without the services of senior point guard Destini Hughes to knee surgery, played minus freshman forward Krystal Forthan. Forthan sustained a high left ankle sprain in practice on Saturday and she is day-to-day. Junior guard Bianca Lutley was out due to a violation of team rules.
LSU established its pace early, crawling out to a 10-2 lead seven minutes into the first half. Shanece McKinney, who finished with three blocks, scored two buckets on Kenney assists. Meanwhile, the Wildcats managed only two made field goals in the first eight minutes. UK, which forced 26 turnovers for the game, tied the game for the first time at 18 with 1:55 left in the stanza.
LSU led 20-18 at the break, holding UK to its lowest point total in a half since 2009. The Wildcats gained their first lead on Kastine Evans' three with 17:04 to go, but Webb responded with a big answer – a three of her own. It was Kentucky's only lead of the game.
LSU took advantage of Kentucky's foul trouble midway through the second stanza. Theresa Plaisance drained two free throws and Taylor Turnbow made a jumper that gave the Lady Tigers a six-point cushion. Mathies finally got on the scoreboard on a runner through the lane with the shot clock winding down.
Webb provided another big basket with a three-point play on the other end and the lead blossomed to eight on four straight points from Barrett. With the score 48-45 in favor of LSU with 3:52 remaining, the Lady Tigers closed it out with an 8-0 run. Barrett had four free throws in the final three minutes while Turnbow added three.
LSU finished the game at a blistering 56.7 percent from the floor and scoring 41 points in the second half. Kentucky shot 35.0 percent and was held 25 points below its scoring average. The Wildcats, one of the nation's most high-powered offenses, came in posting 74.1 points per game.
The Lady Tigers also owned the boards, 33-26, while blocking seven shots.
"They did it in a way that I hadn't seen in a while," said Caldwell. "I felt like this group played this game with high intensity and effort. That is why we were able to defend the way we did and be aggressive."
LSU closes a three-game homestand against Mississippi State at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Maravich Center. The game will be televised by Cox Sports Television and broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network on 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge. "The Nikki Caldwell Show" presented by Capital One Bank airs live at TJ Ribs Acadian at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Fans are encouraged to come out and be a part of the live audience.