BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has been through his share of tough games at LSU.
After yet another one in which his No. 8 Wildcats nearly pulled off a 13-point comeback, but ultimately fell 77-72 to the upset-minded Lady Tigers on Sunday, Mitchell wasn't about to be too critical of his team.
"I didn't think we played poorly," Mitchell said. "I just thought LSU played so hard and really executed and made great, great plays to win. They certainly deserved to win today. They were outstanding."
A'dia Mathies scored 20 and Jennifer O'Neill 15 for Kentucky (23-4, 11-3), which saw its four game winning streak snapped even as Mathies became the Wildcats' second-leading all-time scorer with 1,863 points, surpassing Victoria Dunlap's 1,846.
But Kentucky was done in by LSU guard Jeanne Kenney, who responded to what was a difficult week for her personally by hitting all five 3-pointers she attempted on her way to a career-high 22 points.
"We needed this win. I was going to play," Kenney said, allowing for a slight, appreciative smile. "I needed my team and my team needed me."
Kenney had missed her grandfather's funeral late this past week because of a snow storm that kept LSU in Missouri a day longer than expected, and was unsure if she would play against the Wildcats because of a sore left foot. She did not start, but saved the Lady Tigers (17-10, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) in a reserve role, finishing 7 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 from the foul line.
"Jeanne responded like her grandfather would have wanted her to," LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. "Today she was one of the most courageous players that I have had an opportunity to coach. ... Her presence on the floor was definitely felt by her teammates."
Theresa Plaisance recorded her fifth double-double this season with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Bianca Lutley added 15 points for LSU, which shot 5.9 percent (27 of 51) and went 7 of 11 from 3-point range as a team.
Kentucky, which has not won at LSU since 2010, shot 44.6 percent (29 of 65), but was only 6 of 23 from deep. LSU also outrebounded a Kentucky team renowned for its defensive play, 34-32, en route to its second upset of a Top 10 team in two weeks (having beaten then-No. 9 Georgia 62-54 Feb. 10).
LSU did have a potentially significant setback, however, when starting center Shanece McKinney left the game late in the second half with an apparent leg injury that required her to get help off the court. She had five blocks.
LSU never trailed in the second half and led by as much as nine in the final 20 minutes when Plaisance's layup made it 49-40.
The Wildcats kept pushing back, with Mathies' 3 cutting the Lady Tigers' lead to 62-60. Mathies later pulled Kentucky into a tie with her reverse layup with 4:03 left, but LSU did not wilt, thanks to Kenney, who drilled a 3 and a jumper in succession to make it 69-64 with 2:13 left. Kentucky never got closer than three points after that.
"We did a good job fighting to get in our position, but I think we just had some mental lapses at the end of the game," Mathies said. "When you drop a play, you have to turn around and execute, and that's something that didn't happen."
The teams were within four points of each other through most of the first half, with Kentucky taking a 24-22 lead on O'Neill's jumper.
That's when LSU started a dominant 21-6 run covering most of the last 7:10 of the half. It began with Lutley's free throws, followed by Kenney's 3-pointer on her first shot of the game. Ballard's driving scoop and Webb's back-court steal and quick jumper from the lane gave LSU nine straight points.
LSU hit five of six 3s in the first half.
Kenney made all three of her shots during the first half, all from 3-point range, and added a pair of free throws in the final minute of the period, giving her 11 points in a span of 6:19 and staking the Lady Tigers to their largest lead of the game at 43-30 before DeNesha Stallworth's short jumper made it 43-32 at halftime.