Tweakshow

Kentucky may have put together its finest effort of the season on Friday in an 85-67 romp over LSU in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. Did John Calipari's "tweak" make the difference?

Just days after John Calipari hinted about a "tweak" that would make a significant difference for his struggling Wildcats, Kentucky put together perhaps its finest team effort of the season on Friday night in an 85-67 romp over LSU at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta.

Kentucky, which limped into postseason play having lost three of its final four games, got big contributions from almost every player in its main rotation to easily dispatch an opponent that many had labeled a "tough matchup" for the Cats.

"I'm really proud of the guys and how they performed," said Calipari, who would not divulge the nature of his alleged "tweak."

"We had three days of football (-like physical practices) and they responded and they listened. They're like, ‘Tell us what you want us to do,' and then they carried it over on to the court."

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James Young scored a team-high 21 points and Julius Randle delivered his 19th double-double of the season with 17 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Cats. Fellow freshman Aaron Harrison followed with 14 points, while twin brother Andrew Harrison scored 11 points and dished out a career-high eight assists in one of his better performances at the point this season.

That may have been enough for Kentucky to turn back the Tigers, but the Cats also got nine points and 11 rebounds from freshman center Dakari Johnson and eight points, six rebounds and six blocked shots off the bench from sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein.

Sophomore forward Alex Poythress also chipped in with a key 3-point shot in the second half after LSU had trimmed a double-digit deficit to three with 11:56 remaining.

In other words, a fun day for all the Cats in a season that hasn't lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon them.

"We were all playing as a team," Andrew Harrison said. "... Our wings were knocking down shots, big shots. Alex probably hit one of the biggest shots of the game. If he plays with confidence, it's tough to stop him, too. If we play as a team and play defense and get stops, it's pretty hard to beat us. I think we're starting to have more fun out there."

Kentucky (23-9) will seek to keep the good vibes flowing when it plays Georgia on Saturday in the semifinals at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET. Tennessee plays No. 1 Florida in the day's first matchup. All four of the league's top seeds advanced to the semifinals.

LSU (19-13) entered the game openly welcoming a third matchup with UK. The Tigers had beaten the Cats 87-82 in Baton Rouge and led most of the game in Lexington before falling 77-76 in overtime.

This time, however, there wouldn't be much suspense. LSU came out hot, hitting nine of its first 12 shots and four 3-pointers to grab a 22-14 lead, but UK responded with a 23-3 run to take command of the game.

Kentucky led 42-32 at halftime, thanks in large part to a huge rebounding advantage and an 18-2 edge in second-chance points.

"We let (Randle) get his own rebounds," LSU coach Johnny Jones said. "We let Johnson get rebounds and put back easy shots. We really got those guys going. We let them get easy points early on, and that kind of hurt us."

The Cats put LSU away with a 24-10 run midway through the second half that began with Poythress's trey and featured scoring from – fittingly – six different Cats.

UK finished with a 48-32 rebounding advantage and 21 second-chance points.

Johnny O'Bryant led the Tigers with 18 points. Andre Stringer and Jordan Mickey added 14 and 12 points, respectively. The loss likely will send LSU to the NIT, rather than what it hoped would be a late push into the NCAA Tournament field.

NOTES:

• UK leads the all-time series 95-35, including a 16-2 mark in the SEC Tournament.

• Randle recorded his fifth-consecutive double-double. He opened the season with seven straight. The Texas native is now just six shy of tying Dan Issel's school record of 25 in one season, set in 1969-70. He needs one more to tie the freshman record set by DeMarcus Cousins (2009-10) and Anthony Davis (2011-12).

• Randle's 16 rebounds tied a career high. He also grabbed 16 in the season-opener against UNC Asheville.

• Young notched his eighth 20-point scoring effort of the season.

• Johnson recorded a career-high 11 rebounds and came just one point shy of his first career double-double.



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