LSU didn lose Friday. It forced Kentucky to win.

Susan Poag / The Times PicayuneAndre Stringer and the LSU offense took it to Kentucky repeatedly and had success early in Friday’s quarterfinal SEC Tournament game, but the Tigers missed nine of their final 12 shots in a 60 51 loss.

Call that a splitting of hairs, but also call it a compliment to the Tigers, who bowed out of the SEC Tournament in a 60 51 loss to top ranked Kentucky at the New Orleans Arena.

What the result shouldn be called, though, is the final game of the season for LSU.

The Tigers (18 14) deserve the NIT bid that they likely will be extended, for their total body of work, sure. But they are deserving more for their two SEC Tournament games, a win against Arkansas and a fight to the finish loss against the Wildcats, who won 23 consecutive games, with only a handful of them developing into the kind of scrap LSU took to them and dared them to respond.

had a great game plan, Kentucky Coach John Calipari said. played physical. They did what they had to to give them a chance. cheap nfl jerseys They were pretty good. they made it tougher for the Wildcats (31 1) than almost anyone could forecast, even with LSU coming off one of its most impressive halves this season, a 42 26 stomp of Arkansas during the final 20 minutes Thursday. Not only was LSU working on a back to back, but Kentucky dwarfs the Tigers and almost everyone else in talent.

But LSU strode into Kentucky face, crawled inside the Wildcats jerseys and made Friday afternoon as uncomfortable as the Tigers possibly could. Kentucky, which entered the game averaging 11.4 turnovers per game, turned it over 18 times against the Tigers, 13 via LSU steals. The Wildcats barely outrebounded the feisty Tigers 42 36. Kentucky forced just nine turnovers.

just got up in us and made it tough, Calipari said.

If LSU had been able to throw the ball into the Mississippi River while standing on the Riverwalk no sure thing for a team that shot 20 of 68 (29.4 percent) from the field it might done even more than raise the Wildcats heart rate before a sigh of relief when the final buzzer sounded.

The Tigers trailed 25 24 at halftime even though they missed 27 of their 36 field goal attempts in the first half. They led 35 30 with 16 minutes left after Andre Stringer steal and layup.

But Kentucky countered with a 9 0 run, the final two on a pair of Terrence Jones foul shots with 12:10 left. And after each team scored, the Wildcats scored six of the next eight points, the final two on a jumper by Michael Kidd Gilchrist for a 47 39 lead.

LSU clawed back to 49 45 on another Stringer layup after a steal by Anthony Hickey, but Kentucky rallied with a 7 2 burst to take a 56 47 lead with 4:45 left, which the Wildcats made stand.

Actually, Kentucky stars made it stand.

Kidd Gilchrist kept them afloat in the first half, with 10 of his 19 points and seven of his nine rebounds. Jones and Anthony Davis carried the Wildcats home. Jones had 11 of his 15 points and five of his 11 rebounds in the final 20 minutes, and Davis had 11 of his 12 points, eight of his 14 rebounds and four of his six blocks.

All three will be first round NBA draft picks if they leave early Kidd Gilchrist and Davis are freshmen, and Jones is a sophomore. Davis is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick.

tough, tough, tough loss, LSU Coach Trent Johnson said. thought we competed as hard and as good as we have all year. It unfortunate that we had some shots that didn go down for us. shots didn fall easily, but neither did the Tigers.

It unsure if that makes them more attractive to the NIT selection committee, but it should.

Calipari said when asked if LSU should be invited to the NIT. you know what is crazy, is they were right on the edge of an NCAA bid. They hit that skid of games that hurt them. But, yes, I do. that certainly doesn mean a program such as LSU should be doing back flips over the opportunity to play in the NIT. Three consecutive seasons without an NCAA Tournament bid is unacceptable.

But of the seven Tigers who played 16 or more minutes Friday, only Storm Warren is a senior. LSU has reason to look forward to next season.

First, though, it has to finish this one. And if it keeps playing the way it did for two days in New Orleans, it will be pleased with where it stands when the season is over.