PREVIEW: LSU vs. No. 1 Kentucky

The undefeated, top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will descend upon the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Tuesday night. Check out TSD's full game preview, including projected starting lineups, chalk talk and plenty of related pregame links.

An opportunity awaits LSU (17-6, 6-4) like none other this season with No. 1 Kentucky (23-0, 10-0) in town Tuesday night.

Tipoff in the PMAC is set for 6 p.m. Central Time, and Brad Nessler and Dick Vitale will have the call on ESPN’s live Super Tuesday television broadcast.

The Wildcats come to Baton Rouge the nation’s only remaining undefeated team. John Calipari’s crew gets it done with length and depth, the latter of which is evident through eight UK players averaging more than 20 minutes a game.

Kentucky survived a scare at Florida on Saturday night, but those have been relatively few and far between for the ‘Cats. After contesting two overtime games to usher in SEC play, only two of Big Blue’s last eight games have been decided by single digits.

The Tigers enter the ballgame fresh off a weekend win over Alabama, a desperately needed victory following consecutive losses to bottom-half league teams Mississippi State and Auburn.

Get ready for the game with projected starters and stats, matchup and personnel talk as well as quotes from LSU coach Johnny Jones on the top-ranked Wildcats.

PROJECTED STARTERS

LSU (17-6, 6-4)

G Tim Quarterman (So., 6-6, 187) – 12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.2 apg
G Jalyn Patterson (Fr., 6-0, 173) – 5.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.9 apg
G Keith Hornsby (Jr., 6-4, 210) – 12.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.1 apg
F Jarell Martin (So., 6-10, 235) – 16.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 48.0% FGs
F Jordan Mickey (So., 6-8, 235) – 17.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.7 bpg

Impact Reserve: G Josh Gray (Jr., 6-1, 183) – 8.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 spg

Kentucky (23-0, 10-0)

PG Andrew Harrison (So., 6-6, 210) – 7.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.1 spg
G Aaron Harrison (So., 6-6, 212) – 11.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.3 spg
G Dominique Hawkins (So., 6-0, 195) – 1.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 0.9 apg
F Karl-Anthony Towns (Fr., 6-11, 250) – 9.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.3 bpg
F/C Willie Cauley-Stein (Jr., 7-0, 240) – 8.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg

Impact Reserve: G Devin Booker (Fr., 6-6, 206) – 10.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 47.1% 3s

TALK OF CHALK

- Let’s start with Kentucky’s length, because it’s impossible to ignore and it’s what often times puts a squeeze on the game from an opponent’s standpoint. UK begins the game with twin towers inside – Towns and Cauley-Stein – and liberally sprinkles in stretches of Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee. They’re all 6-foot-9 and taller and all of them are experienced in the SEC. These rim-protectors are the primary reasons Kentucky gives up only 51.5 points a game (and only 23.6 points on average in first halves, when UK really ices down foes). The only saving grace here for LSU is the possibility that Trey Lyles, a 6-foot-10 difference-maker dealing with an illness, doesn’t dress for the game. Without him the Tigers have more of a chance. With him Kentucky will make it very difficult for LSU to score with consistency.

- As much as LSU will have to survive the battle on the boards and post matters in general, this game could well be won or lost on the perimeter. That’s an area where the gap isn’t quite as wide between the ‘Cats and Tigers, both in terms of starting quality and depth. The Harrison twins rightfully draw a lot of attention, but Booker and Tyler Ulis, two freshmen, have been dynamite in spots. Ulis is second on the team in assists (3.7 a game) while Booker is a three-point demon (47.1 percent). Their matchups with Hornsby, Patterson and Quarterman will be fascinating. Quarterman has a lot of familiarity with the Harrison twins, dating back to AAU days. Both he and Hornsby give the Tigers more height and length in the backcourt than they had a year ago, when LSU went up against UK three times.

- On a final note the Tigers will have to shoot free throws well. Kentucky put on an absolute clinic on Saturday, going 21-of-22 from the stripe to put just enough distance between itself and Florida (final score was 68-61) in Gainesville. That shows the mettle of Calipari’s squad, which relishes road challenges and continues to do whatever it takes to win ballgames. Tonight’s game figures to be played at a slower pace than LSU is used to, which means points and possessions will be at a premium. It’s imperative to take advantage of opportunities when the clock stops.

WHAT LSU’S SAYING

“We have to be the team in the game that makes the least amount of mistakes. It’s not going to be a perfect game, I don’t think by either team. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, and we need to really play well. I think you are going to have to make sure that you limit your mistakes and make sure that you are executing at a high level, not only offensively but defensively, as well. You have to make sure you play at a certain level throughout because they present a certain challenge that most teams can’t overcome over a 40-minute period or however long it takes.”
- Johnny Jones on how LSU will need to play

“Our guards will have to do a great job tomorrow defending and containing the basketball and keeping their guys in front of them. That way our post guys can really stick to their assignments near the basket. That will help us tremendously. The least that they have to help, the better off we will be because if they can get you in a rotation and taking shots, that means you lost some of your blocking out angles and the people that you maybe attach to and give an opportunity to get in some rim running lines that we certainly have to try to guard against.”
- Jones on importance of LSU’s guard play

“It is the No. 1 team in the country. It’s a great opportunity. It’s kind of a one-shot deal. Again, you can’t schedule that. It just happens. Not every team has an opportunity to do that year-in and year-out. Some guys may go through a four-year college career and never have the opportunity. When it comes around, it’s a little bit different. The atmosphere and everything around you changes, that’s what you sign up for. It’s tough, you just want to make sure that it’s controlled and the mindset is right.”
- Jones on the unique opportunity

Additional LSU-Kentucky Content

5-on-5: LSU vs. Kentucky
VIDEOS: LSU Players Preview Kentucky
JONES: UK among ‘best teams ever assembled’
VAULT: Tigers win Ice Dome thriller



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