BATON ROUGE, La. — It looks like Ben Simmons won’t always have to dominate for LSU to beat some of college basketball’s best.
Tim Quarterman had 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, Craig Victor added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and LSU defeated No. 9 Kentucky 85-67 on Tuesday night.
Simmons, the heralded freshman, added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers (9-5, 2-0 Southeastern Conference), who seem to be figuring things out after a disappointing 7-5 start in non-conference play. LSU has begun its SEC slate by beating the preseason picks to finish first and second in the league, starting with last Saturday’s triumph at Vanderbilt.
"We have come together as a team," Simmons said. "Everyone got sick of what was happening and we laid it all out. We put our goals down and everyone has really stepped up and contributed."
LSU never trailed after tying the game at 2 and kept their lead at or near double digits for much of the game to the delight of a packed and energized Pete Maravich assembly Center.
Tyler Ulis had 23 points and Jamal Murray added 21 for Kentucky, (11-3, 1-1), which lost for the third time in seven games and had their 22-game SEC winning streak snapped.
"Guys came out and didn’t really want to play, didn’t play that hard," Ulis said. "Basically, it seems like no one played to win."
The Wildcats struggled with their shooting early and later were hampered by foul trouble. Starting forwards Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress both fouled out by the time 7:29 remained in the game.
"What a great environment. We weren’t up for the challenge," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "We weren’t ready to compete at the level they competed at, especially our inside people. We didn’t get very much from anybody in there except a lot of fouls."
LSU led by 14 points with 15:20 left after an 8-2 run that began with Quarterman’s half-court alley-oop lob to Simmons. Quarterman added a jumper and tip-in during the spurt. Quarteman said he was being aggressive but also benefited from his teammates making smart, unselfish plays.
"All of the losses we took earlier this season helped us as a team and humbled us," Quarterman said. "Everyone is making sacrifices for the wins. We have a lot of scorers on our team, but it’s all about making the right play."
Murray, who made his first five shots of the second half, briefly stemmed the tide by hitting a 3 and then a mid-range jumper as he was fouled on successive possessions to make it 49-41.
Lee fouled out with 13 minutes left, yet the Wildcats were as close as 58-54 on Poythress’ layup with 9:36 left.
Quarterman responded with a 3, sparking another Tigers surge that included two layups by Victor as he was fouled.
Poythress fouled out with 7:29 to go, and 2 minutes later, LSU was still up double digits when Jalyn Patterson’s baseline layup off a deep offensive rebound made it 70-59.
Kentucky looked spent in the final 4 minutes as LSU closed the game on a 14-4 run, with Simmons scoring six points in that spurt on a short jumper, layup and one-handed put-back jam that seemed to punctuate the victory as the crowd went wild.
LSU coach Johnny Jones said his team proved what it could do without Simmons when he went to the bench with two fouls in the middle of the first half. The Tigers doubled their lead from 17-10 to 36-22 when Keith Hornsby turned a steal into a fast-break dunk by Quarterman.
"Should something happen (to Simmons) throughout the game, these guys know and understand they can play," Jones said. "They feel very confident."
Kentucky: The Wildcats shot only 32.1 per cent (9 of 28) in the first half. … The Wildcats missed 11 of 23 free throws, with eight misses coming in the first half.
LSU: Patterson, who hadn’t scored since Dec. 2 after sitting out five of the previous six games with an unspecified leg injury, scored all of his six points in the final 7:29, including a contested driving floater off the glass to make it 73-63 with 3:36 left. … LSU scored 22 points off 14 Kentucky turnovers. … Sophomore Aaron Epps entered the game having made four 3-pointers in his career and he hit two in the first half.
FURROWED UNIBROW: New Orleans Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis, who won a national title with Kentucky in 2012, attended the game, along with his parents and one of his sisters. His father wore a blue Kentucky jacket. Davis wore a dark-grey camouflage sweatsuit.
Kentucky: Visits Alabama on Saturday.
LSU: Visits Florida on Saturday.