No. 10 Kentucky tops LSU, 79-76

Immanuel Quickley’s reliable scoring and Nick Richards’ shot-altering defensive presence gave No. 10 Kentucky a decisive edge in a challenging road game with first place in the Southeastern Conference at stake.

Quickley scored 21 points and Kentucky made a timely string of 3-pointers in a 79-76 victory over LSU on Tuesday night.

”Immanuel was great down stretch again, just making baskets and 3s,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. ”He’s playing so steady.”

The 6-foot-11 Richards scored 13 points and blocked six shots for Kentucky (21-5, 11-2 SEC), which rejected 11 LSU shots in all en route to its fifth straight victory and ninth in 10 games.

”Richards totally controlled the game defensively,” LSU coach Will Wade said. ”He’s as good as there is in the league.”

Kentucky made seven of eight 3s in the second half, when graduate transfer Nate Sestina hit three, including two during an 8-0 run that widened the Wildcats’ lead to 15 points with 5:14 to go.

”We left him wide open,” Wade said, lamenting a frustrating pattern of defensive breakdowns during the past five games, of which the Tigers (18-9, 9-4) have lost four. ”He’s a good college player. Of course he’s going to make a wide open shot.”

Richards’ basket inside with 49 seconds left helped slow a furious Tigers rally that had trimmed Kentucky’s lead to 75-70 on Marlon Talyor’s 3 with 1:30 to go.

LSU (18-8, 9-4) pulled to 78-74 on Charles Manning Jr.’s driving floater off the glass with 19 seconds left. But Quickley made a free throw with 11 seconds remaining and the Tigers weren’t able to put home their final basket until less than a second remained.

Freshman Tyrese Maxey scored 14 points for Kentucky, while Sestina and Ashton Hagans each scored 11.

Skylar Mays scored 17 points and Darius Days had 13 points and 11 rebounds for LSU. Taylor added 13 points and Manning 11.