No. 15 Kentucky, which dropped seven spots in the AP Top 25 poll after a blowout loss at Florida on Saturday, looks to get back on track Tuesday when LSU comes to Rupp Arena.
Kentucky (18-5, 8-2 SEC) has lost three of its last four games, falling into a tie for second place in the league standings. LSU (9-13, 1-9) is riding a nine-game losing streak and is tied with Missouri for last place.
"They had a setback on the road last time out and are looking forward to being back home in front of their 20,000-plus fans," LSU coach Johnny Jones said Monday. "I'm sure we will get their best effort and it will be a great challenge for us."
Jones added, "It's a great opportunity for our guys to play before a large crowd in a tremendous facility against some of the top players in the country. So what more could you ask for than to be on that type of stage? You want to make sure you have the opportunity to step up to the challenge."
For Kentucky, coach John Calipari says the issues are defense and taking care of the ball.
"We were the low-turnover team in the country three weeks ago," Calipari said. "Now, we're 16, 17 a game, and we're giving up probably five breakout layups because of that.
"It's casual play. The hardest play versus the easiest play, cute versus tough. It's those things. It's not that we're not good handlers. I got three good guards and have a couple off the bench. Our big guys are good with the ball. For the year, our assist-to-turnover ratio is outstanding, until the last games. You talk about it, and sometimes you gotta get hit in the mouth a couple times to say, 'I really gotta start doing this.' But if we're going to be what we need to be, it's gotta start with defense."
Over the last seven games, Kentucky is averaging 14.8 turnovers. In the seven games before that the Wildcats averaged 8.8.
Another issue, the coach says, is the youth of his team. Kentucky has four freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup.
"We've got guys, if they're not playing well offensively then they don't play well defensively," Calipari said. "If they miss a free throw, miss a shot, turn it over, it's like they can't get away from it. So we're working on it."
Poor offense has caused Kentucky's assist-to-turnover ratio to take a serious hit. Over the last seven games, the Wildcats are averaging 14.4 assists to 14.8 turnovers. In the previous seven games, it was 15.7 to 8.8.
"We came in this morning and had a great film session with the guys," Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barber said. "We showed them where we did some good things and showed them where we did some things that cost us on different possessions that could've changed the way the outcome of the game went."
Kentucky is led by freshman guard Malik Monk at 21.9 points per game. Next comes freshman guard De'Aaron Fox at 16.0, sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe at 14.0 and freshman forward Bam Adebayo at 13.0 points and a team best 6.8 rebounds.
LSU is led by sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney at 15.6 points per game. Junior forward Duop Reath averages 13.5, and sophomore guard Brandon Sampson, 11.0. Victor Craig, who was averaging 10.5 points and a team-best 7.6 rebounds, was dismissed Dec. 29 for violation of team rules.
LSU is coming off Saturday's 85-73 loss at home to Texas A&M. The Tigers got off to a good start in that game, grabbing an early 11-6 lead.
"Early when we started off our offense, we were running the weave," Jones said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "We were getting into the clock a little bit, and I thought we executed at a good level. We had good looks. We had good shots. When we didn't and shots didn't go down, we were effective in terms of getting back defensively and getting some stops."
However, LSU could not continue the early pace, and has not won a game since beating Missouri on Jan. 4.
The Wildcats average 90.2 points per game, third best in the nation. LSU scores 74.6 per game while giving up 81.2.
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