NOTES: LSU hopes for an NIT bid

Strong showing at SEC Tournament provides a glimmer of hope for the Tigers.

NEW ORLEANS – After a gritty performance in the SEC Tournament ended Friday with a 60-51 loss to top-ranked Kentucky, LSU is left to wait and wonder about its postseason fate.

The Tigers are 18-14 after going 1-1 in the league tournament and their chances are tied into how several other SEC teams hovering on the bubble for both the NCAA Tournament and the NIT.

Could the Tigers be NIT-bound?

It's been a roller-coaster season for LSU, with seven- and four-game winning streaks bracketing a patch of six losses in eight league games in January and a three-game losing skid to finish the regular season.

A beefed-up non-conference schedule should help. The Tigers notched wins against Rutgers on the road and Marquette – currently ranked No. 9 – at home and also went toe-to-toe with Northwestern and Virginia, two teams that are in the hunt for NCAA berths.

LSU's updated official RPI before Friday's loss was 89, but playing Kentucky, which is No. 2, should give the Tigers a boost.

The Website NITology.com listed LSU as a No. 6 seed in the NIT in an updated projection Saturday and also had Tennessee and Ole Miss in its projected field. The Tigers would likely play in Philadelphia in the opening round in that scenario, with a potential second-round game against the winner of Oral Roberts and Pittsburgh.

"This is a team that is playing good basketball again, and I really hope we get a chance to play some more together," senior Storm Warren said. "I'm not ready for my career to be over."

Added guard Andre Stringer, "This is a game we can build from whether it's in the NIT or next season. I think we deserve to keep playing and we showed that in this tournament."

The last time LSU played in the NIT was 2004 when it lost an opening-round game at Oklahoma. The Tigers have played in three NCAA Tournaments since then, but haven't gotten to the postseason at all since 2009.

Hard to find
Finding reasonably open shots against Kentucky's shot-blocking machine Anthony Davis was problematic for LSU Friday and the final stats prove it.

The Tigers shot a frosty 20-for-68 (29.4%), with 7-foot center Justin Hamilton missing 11 of 12 and scoring only four points.

Justin Hamilton struggled to find open looks with Kentucky's Anthony Davis patrolling the paint.

"It was really tough," Hamilton said. "He's really good at positioning his body to make you think you have a shot, but you really don't. I missed a lot of open shots and he did a good job of altering a lot of shots."

Warren was more active underneath and hit 6-of-15 field goals for his team-high 14 points. No Tigers had as many total rebounds as Davis snatched on the defensive end (13).

"You have to respect him, because if you don't he will go get your shot and he was always there for the rebound, too," Warren said. "He makes you make adjustments to your shot."

Active hands
Forcing turnovers helped LSU stay close to Kentucky for 33½ minutes and active hands from the guards was a major reason why.

Anthony Hickey swiped the ball a season-high 5 times, which led to a pair of runout layups, and Stringer had 4 steals, to match his career-best.

The Wildcats coughed the ball up 18 times, their most against an SEC opponent – 13 on LSU steals. The Tigers produced 16 points on turnovers, doubling UK's total.

"We knew as long as we could stops we could get something going on offense," Hickey said.

Tip-ins

  • LSU is now 2-15 against No. 1-ranked teams, with 1-8 record vs. the Wildcats when they sit atop the poll.

  • The Tigers got a season-low 2 points -- both from Johnny O'Bryant -- from their bench in Friday's loss. The reserves did manage to supply 10 of LSU's 36 rebounds, led by O'Bryant with 6.

    Storm Warren

  • Ralston Turner logged a fourth straight game with 2 makes from outside the 3-point arc. Over those four games, he his 8-of-20 (40%).

  • Warren's 6 rebounds bumped his career total to 608 and vaulted him into 23rd on LSU's all-time chart. His 14 points were his 15th double-digit scoring effort of the season and 44th of his career.

  • Kentucky's 33 defensive rebounds were the second-most by an opponent this season. Coastal Carolina yanked down 34 on Nov. 15 in a 71-63 victory.

  • Turner fouled out for the third time this season and O'Bryant for the second time. Friday was the first time all season two Tigers were whistled for five fouls in the same game.

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