LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Flau’jae Johnson scored 26 points, including eight during a 12-0, second-quarter run to break the game open, Angel Reese also scored 26 and No. 7 LSU blew out Kentucky 67-48 on Sunday for its best start in school history.
The Tigers (16-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) never trailed, but led by just 19-17 through nearly 15 minutes. Johnson followed with six consecutive points to spark the key run for a 31-17 halftime cushion that included another layup by the freshman guard.
LSU also shut down Kentucky for the final 5:52 of the half, forcing three turnovers during that stretch while taking advantage of nine missed attempts by the Wildcats. Johnson had even more late in the third quarter, draining consecutive 3-pointers during an 8-0 spurt to make it 47-26.
“After the Texas A&M game (a 74-34 rout), we really focused on how we start games and how we finish games,” Tigers coach Kim Mulkey said. “I saw a lot of good things when the game started, and saw some good things in the second quarter and the third quarter.”
Of LSU’s best start, the coach added, “It just feels good to win,” and planned to share the milestone with her team on the flight home.
Johnson made 10 of 18 from the field and both of LSU’s 3-pointers on seven tries and fell a point shy her career best of 27 against Northwestern State in November.
Reese, who had a school-record 28 rebounds and 26 points in a 74-34 rout of Texas A&M, was just 5 of 14 shooting but made 16 of 17 free throws for her nation’s-best 16th double-double. The Tigers outshot Kentucky just 40%-35%, but dominated nearly every other statistical category including rebounding (45-23).
Maddie Scherr had 22 points and Robyn Benton 11 for Kentucky (8-8, 0-4), which dropped its fourth in a row and lost its second game this season in Rupp Arena, home of the men’s basketball team. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 29 early in the fourth before regrouping to outscore the Tigers 21-13 in the quarter.
The Tigers entered the contest among five teams tied atop the SEC at 3-0 in league play. They’ve steamrolled league foes by average margin of nearly 30 points per game and keyed by Reese, who came in ranked first nationally with 15.8 rebounds and sixth in scoring at 24.1 points per game.
Reese has scored at least 20 points in 12 of her last 13 games. … Kentucky made 6 of 17 3-pointers compared to just 2 of 7 by LSU. Scherr drained a career-high four for the Wildcats. … The Tigers outrebounded the Wildcats 30-15 defensively, outscored them 34-18 in the paint and 14-2 on the break. … LSU finished with just a 14-12 edge on second-chance points.
LSU: With a defense that sealed off the paint and scored 29 points off turnovers and a huge advantage at the foul line (25 of 31), falling short of their nation-leading 91.2-point average didn’t matter. They also committed 25 turnovers, but were fortunate that they didn’t factor either into another lopsided victory.
Kentucky: The Wildcats stayed close for the first 15 minutes behind solid defense that slowed down the Tigers. Then came the cold spell that opened the door for LSU and created a deficit they couldn’t overcome offensively. Especially at the foul line, where they made 4 of 9.
“I like that we’re aggressive defensively,” coach Kyra Elzy said, “but at the end of the day we have to find a way to score and get to the free throw line for easy scoring opportunities where they scored 25 free throws and they had 31 attempts.
“We were four for nine. So we need to get there more.”
LSU visits surprising Missouri on Thursday.
Kentucky visits top-ranked South Carolina on Thursday in its first meeting since the Wildcats upset the Gamecocks for the SEC Tournament championship.
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