BATON ROUGE, La. — To think what Johnny O’Bryant III would have missed if he had turned pro last year, as many thought he might.
Instead, the junior forward will be remembered at LSU for leading the Tigers to an upset of No. 11 Kentucky on a day that normally balmy Baton Rouge froze over.
O’Bryant scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and LSU surprisingly led wire-to-wire in an 87-82 victory Tuesday night.
“I really tried to attack them,” the 6-foot-9, 256-pound O’Bryant said. “I knew that they were young guys and I had an advantage in experience and body-wise. I was going at them all night.”
Jordan Mickey scored 14 points and blocked five shots for LSU (13-6, 4-3 SEC), which put on a show for an estimated 6,000-plus fans who made it to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center despite unusual winter weather that coated roads with ice. Hustling and active on the defensive end, LSU blocked 11 shots and helped force 13 Kentucky turnovers.
“We needed this game really bad,” Mickey said. “Our crowd was great to come out in this type of weather. They brought a lot of energy to the team.”
Shavon Coleman added 14 points for the Tigers, who outshot the Wildcats 51 percent (32 of 63) to 44 percent (32 of 73).
James Young scored 23 points and Dakari Johnson had 15 for Kentucky (15-5, 5-2), which has seen all five of its losses come away from home, including two straight road losses in the Southeastern Conference.
Although Kentucky’s flight back to Lexington wasn’t scheduled until Wednesday, coach John Calipari couldn’t get out of the arena fast enough. Barely 15 minutes after the game ended, he had already answered a few questions from reporters and hustled his team onto the bus.
“When the other team outworks you, this is what it looks like,” Calipari said. “It was amazing we were in the game. We got down 16; it could have been 30.
“This team is in progress,” Calipari continued. “The process we are at right now is, will we have the mental toughness to break through and be the kind of team we want to be?”
Aaron Harrison had 14 points and Alex Poythress added 10 for the Wildcats, who have to go right back on the road Saturday at Missouri.
While Kentucky is usually one of the biggest draws of any basketball season at LSU, south Louisiana was blasted by freezing rain which forced the closure of numerous bridges and long, elevated sections of Interstate 10 on both sides of Baton Rouge.
The result was a half-empty arena that belied the paid attendance of 12,124. The student sections, however, were jammed from first row courtside to the last row near the stadium’s domed roof. Classes had been canceled, and perhaps as an antidote to cabin fever, the students showed up energized, and it appeared contagious.
“The energy was in the building,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “I thought we had a great chance of playing well.”
The Tigers started fast, making nine of their first 12 shots and led 22-6 after Mickey’s free throws. Kentucky, by contrast, made only four of its first 12 shots and turned the ball over five times in the first 5 minutes.
LSU “was just playing harder than us. They were hitting a lot of shots, a lot of open 3s,” Johnson said. “They just broke us down a lot defensively.”
O’Bryant set the tone with 15 first-half points on 6of 9 shooting. Jones praised the way O’Bryant balanced his shot selection from both inside and out, and the patience he showed against double-teams.
“For him to have an opportunity to play like that means a great deal because of the time and energy he’s put in,” Jones said. “To see his hard work pay off means a lot.”
The Tigers led by six at halftime, but opened the second half with Jarell Martin’s layup and Mickey’s jumper to push their lead back to double digits. Later, consecutive 3s by Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer made it a 14-point game with 12:51 to go.
Kentucky had trouble stringing together a game-turning run, and did not pull within single digits until Aaron Harrison’s 3 made it 83-76 with 43 seconds left.
No. 4 Wichita State 57, Loyola 45
WICHITA, Kan. — Cleanthony Early scored 23 points, including 12 of the 21 Wichita State scored in the second half, to help the fourth-ranked Shockers stay unbeaten with a 57-45 victory over Loyola of Chicago on Tuesday night.
Wichita State (22-0, 9-0 Missouri Valley Conference) saw a 22-point second-half lead trimmed to nine in the game’s final minutes but hung on to extend school records for winning streak and start to a season. The Shockers shot 23 percent (6 of 26) in the second half.
No. 7 MICHIGAN ST. 71, No. 15 IOWA 69, OT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Keith Appling scored 16 points and Michigan State handed Iowa its first home loss of the season.
Matt Costello had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Spartans (19-2, 8-1 Big Ten), who avoided consecutive defeats despite missing injured starters Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson.
Costello’s tip-in with 1:14 left gave Michigan State a 67-64 lead, and Russell Byrd’s 3 with 34 seconds put Michigan State up by six.
Iowa still had a chance to force a second overtime, but Mike Gesell missed a driving layup at the buzzer.
Roy Devyn Marble had 21 points for Iowa (16-5, 5-3), which went without a field goal for the final 10 minutes of regulation and until the final seconds of the 5-minute overtime.
The Hawkeyes had a chance to win in regulation, but Marble missed a runner just before the buzzer. The Hawkeyes didn’t hit a field goal from the 9:56 mark of the second half until Marble’s layup with 6 seconds left in OT.
No. 20 CREIGHTON 63, ST. JOHN’S 60
OMAHA, Neb. — Doug McDermott hit a 25-footer with 2.5 seconds left to finish his season-high 39-point night for Creighton, which squandered all of an 18-point lead.
The Red Storm had just tied the game on Rysheed Jordan’s two free throws before McDermott took a pass from Jahenns Manigat on the left wing and got off his winning shot as Chris Obekpa tried to get a hand in his face. Phil Greene IV’s desperation 3-point try at the buzzer didn’t even touch the net.
D’Angelo Harrison scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half to lead St. John’s. Obekpa and Jordan had 11 apiece and JaKarr Sampson added 10.
Winning for the 13th time in 14 games, the Bluejays (18-3, 8-1) stayed in first place in the Big East. St. John’s (12-9, 2-6), playing in Omaha for the first time since 1966, had its three-game winning streak end.
By wire sources