No. 15 Kentucky survives LSU 92-85

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) The so-called “reboot” that Kentucky coach John Calipari suggested for his struggling team might take more work than he expected.

He made clear that a long practice is in store after the 15th-ranked Wildcats nearly blew a big lead against LSU and threatened to overshadow a breakout game for freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel.

Gabriel scored a career-high 23 points, Malik Monk also had 23 and Kentucky withstood a late LSU rally for a 92-85 victory Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (19-5, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) won for just the second time in five games and had to withstand the Tigers’ rally from a 25-point deficit over the final 8:47, a charge led by Antonio Blakeney’s 22 second-half points. His 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining made it a two-possession game.

Monk’s free throw with 8 seconds left sealed that hard-fought win that followed Kentucky’s 22-point loss at No. 17 Florida on Saturday and came a day after the coach hinted at the restart on his radio show.

The outcome was the upside of a contest that suggested there’s plenty of room for improvement for the Wildcats.

“You saw what I wanted, and I thought we did some good stuff,” Calipari said. “Eight minutes to go, I don’t know we were tired or reverted back (to bad habits). It might have been a combination of both. If I could practice tonight, we would (go) three hours until people puked. … That’s the old days, I can’t do that.

“But we will go three hours (on Wednesday) and if anybody says they can’t go, they won’t make the trip to Alabama.”

Calipari’s praise of Gabriel also included examples that he can grow as well.

Gabriel provided the initial offensive boost and finished 7 of 11 from the field including three 3-pointers to beat his previous career best of 15. He also grabbed eight rebounds, including three offensive, as Kentucky controlled the boards 40-26.

“I’m a lot more confident,” said Gabriel, who fouled out with 19 seconds left. “Especially once you make a couple and know yourself and know you can shoot and just get more comfortable. That boosted my confidence.”

Monk bounced back from an 11-point outing to make 8 of 15 from the field with four 3s. De’Aaron Fox had 16 points and Isaiah Briscoe 14 for Kentucky.

Blakeney made 12 of 19 shots for a season-high 31 points and Brandon Sampson added 17 for the Tigers (9-14, 1-10). LSU shot 63 percent in the second half and 50 percent overall but lost their 10th straight for the first time since 2011.

Said Blakeney, “I just wanted to make some buckets or some plays for my teammates.”

BIG PICTURE

LSU: The Tigers made several runs at the Wildcats thanks to Blakeney and Sampson, who combined to make 18 of 31 from the field and 5 of 11 from 3-point range. In fact, Blakeney’s eight straight points in the final minute included two 3s and made things interesting when the game seemed in hand for Kentucky. Perimeter shooting was key for the Tigers, who made 8 of 11 after halftime and 10 of 23 overall (44 percent).

“Some shots went down for us in the second half that did not fall for us in the first half when we had some looks,” coach Johnny Jones said.

The Tigers were no match on the glass against Kentucky, allowing 14 offensive rebounds alone.

Kentucky: The Wildcats bounced back from shooting a season-low 38 percent at Florida by hitting 49 percent and controlling the boards after the Gators outrebounded them 54-29. At times the reboot showed promise as they committed just four first-half turnovers and played solid defense. But every time the Wildcats seemed in control, mistakes and defensive breakdowns followed.

“We reverted a little bit and it cost us some points,” said forward Bam Adebayo, who had 9 rebounds and 8 points.

ENCOURAGING NUMBERS

Kentucky made 21 of 26 free throws to tie a season-best percentage (81). The Wildcats also improved to 38-8 under Calipari in bounce-back games after losses.

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

Jones opened his postgame interview expressing concern for southeastern Louisiana residents after tornadoes there injured about 20 people and damaged or destroyed property.

“A lot of people have been affected,” he said, “and I just want them to know we’ll be praying for them tonight.”

UP NEXT

LSU: Hosts Arkansas on Saturday night, seeking its third series win in four meetings.

Kentucky: Visits Alabama on Saturday. The Wildcats have won the last six against the Crimson Tide.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

This corrects time of score to 14 seconds left and Monk’s free throw to 8 seconds left.

NCAA denies extra-year request by NC State guard Henderson

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.

Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.

The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.

Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.

 

N.C. State lands second transfer of day with Utah’s Devon Daniels

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A big recruiting day for N.C. State continued on Saturday afternoon as Utah transfer and guard Devon Daniels pledged to the Wolfpack.

Earlier in the day, N.C. State and new head coach Kevin Keatts landed another quality transfer in UNC Wilmington guard C.J. Bryce.

The 6-foot-5 Daniels just finished his freshman season with the Utes in which he put up 9.9 points 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 57 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Just like Bryce, Daniels will have to sit out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer regulations before he has three more seasons of eligibility.

N.C. State now has two potential starters on the perimeter for the 2018-19 season with the addition of Bryce and Daniels as it will be interesting to see what kind of talent the Wolfpack can get around them.