LSU topples No. 17 Kentucky with putback buzzer beater after Wildcats blow 15-point lead

Kentucky’s game at LSU on Wednesday night was a lot like the 17th-ranked Wildcats’ season so far: a wild, whiplashing roller coaster ride — but ultimately, a bitter disappointment. Four days after arguably their best win of the season, a wire-to-wire romp at Auburn, they blew a 15-point lead in the second half and lost on a putback buzzer beater in Baton Rouge.

That was just the final gasp-inducing moment in a frenetic finish. After the Tigers used a 23-5 run to surge ahead, electric UK freshman Rob Dillingham went off. He scored 21 points in the final 10 minutes, punctuated by a beautiful baseline jumper for the lead with 13 seconds left. On the other end, Adou Thiero blocked Jordan Wright’s first game-winning attempt, but he got it back and shoved it toward Tyrell Ward, who batted it through the net as time expired.

LSU 75, Kentucky 74 gave the Tigers their second straight win over a ranked team. In Year 2 under Matt McMahon, LSU (14-12, 6-7 SEC) is starting to find its footing. In Year 15 under John Calipari, the Wildcats (18-8, 8-5) are spinning their wheels.

“Don’t tell me about your offense,” Calipari said. “If you’re not going to come up with 50/50 balls, you can’t win. I gotta watch the tape and say, ‘Who did not grab that ball? The winning ball. Who didn’t grab it, and why? Why not dive on that ball, just tie it up, and we win the game.’ ”

Those comments were part of a three-minute postgame news conference, in which Calipari took just two questions — a departure from his swaggy Saturday postgame performance, when the coach mocked media that he said showed up to see him lose, only to be disappointed.

Kentucky is 6-6 in its last 12 games and hasn’t won more than two in a row since Jan. 9. With five games to play — starting with first-place Alabama at Rupp Arena on Saturday — the Cats are three games back in the conference championship race. They haven’t won the league since 2020, while the Crimson Tide is hunting a third title in the last four years.

There is enough talent, with five five-star freshmen and senior Antonio Reeves, a serious contender for SEC Player of the Year, that Kentucky is rarely ever out of a game. But the Cats also can’t seem to finish close ones. Wednesday was the fifth loss by five points or fewer. Increasingly, the worry is that UK will waste some of the most exciting offensive talent ever assembled in Lexington. Reeves and Dillingham combined for 48 points against LSU and it wasn’t enough.

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(Photo: Stephen Lew / USA Today)

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