Kentucky loses Wheeler to injury, falls to LSU 65-60
Davion Mintz played 28 minutes and scored 16 points after an injury to starting point guard and assist leader Sahvir Wheeler in the Wildcats loss to the LSU Tigers Tuesday night in Baton Rouge.
Tari Eason capped his 13-point performance with a dunk following a Kentucky turnover with 13 seconds left, and No. 21 LSU held off the 16th-ranked Wildcats 65-50 on Tuesday night.
Xavier Pinson added 11 points for LSU (13-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference), capped by a flamboyant dunk in the final seconds after Kentucky's 15th and final turnover, setting off a wild celebration inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Brandon Murray added 10 points for the Tigers in a tight contest that saw neither team lead by more than nine points.
Darius Day's third 3 of the game and Eason's inside basket put LSU ahead 61-52 with 2:35 to go, but Kentucky (11-3, 1-1) nearly rallied all the way back.
Davion Mintz's 3 and driving layup through cluster of converging players in the paint capped an 8-0 run that made it 61-60 with 27 seconds to go.
LSU then turned the ball over on a long inbound attempt, but Mintz gave it right back. Pinson's third steal led to Eason's slam to begin the Tigers' finishing flourish.
Mintz, who played 28 minutes after an injury to starting point guard and assist leader Sahvir Wheeler, led the Wildcats with 16 points. Jacob Toppin added 14 points Kellan Grady scored 13, while center Oscar Tshiebwe had 13 rebounds.
Kentucky had to play all but the first four minutes of the game without Wheeler. The 5-foot-9 Georgia transfer, who came in averaging 10.3 points and 7.8 assists per game, was flattened near midcourt when
he ran head-first into a what was ruled a legal screen the 7-foot Efton Reid had set as Pinson dribbled by in transition.
With Wheeler lying dazed on the court, Pinson pulled up unguarded for a 3 and hit it, getting LSU an early 8-3 lead.
LSU led for most of the first half, but never by more than seven.
The game was tied at 28 when Murray hit a 3 that ignited a 7-0 spurt capped by Pinson's breakaway dunk.
As the half ended, Toppin grabbed an uncontested rebound on Mintz's missed 3 and hit a short jumper at the horn to make it 35-30 - a sequence that sent LSU coach Will wade stomping off the court in a
Kentucky then opened the second half with three straight 3s - two by Mintz - to take a 39-35 lead and led 50-41 after Grady's 3. But Eric Gaines answered with a 3 as LSU began to close the gap.
Kentucky: Wheeler's injury and early foul trouble for Tshiebwe proved difficult for Kentucky to overcome on the road against an LSU squad that was eager to bounce back from an ugly loss at Auburn a week ago. Tshibwe's eight points were well below his team-leading average of 15.8 points per game coming in.
Kentucky: Hosts Georgia on Saturday.