In the days leading up to the Vanderbilt game Saturday, LSU point guard Tim Quarterman vowed to be more assertive offensively and defensively.
After being asked by coach Johnny Jones to be more of a floor general and run the team in recent games, Quarterman was given the green light by Jones to be the player he was a year ago.
Quarterman showed signs of it in the Tigers’ huge road win against the Commodores, then was a major spark on both ends of the court Tuesday night in a 85-67 beating of No. 9 Kentucky in a boisterous Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Quarterman scored seven points and played a big role in helping LSU (9-5, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) hold Kentucky (11-3, 1-1) to a season-low 27 first-half points, then scored 14 points in the second half to finish with 21.
His point total just started to tell the story of his night.
Quarterman picked off 10 rebounds — six on the offensive glass — handed out seven assists and had a blocked shot.
“I just went out there and tried to be aggressive for my team,” Quarterman said. “I tried to make plays for my teammates, be aggressive on the offensive end.
“I wanted to play good team defense and just try to help us get the win tonight. I didn’t make all the right plays tonight, but I made enough to help my team get the victory.”
Quarterman, who had only two points and two rebounds in a heartbreaking two-point loss to Kentucky in the PMAC last Feb. 10, was one of three LSU players to post a double-double.
Forward Craig Victor had 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. And forward Ben Simmons, who played just nine minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls, came on strong late with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
For the second game in a row, LSU, which is 2-0 in the SEC for the first time since 2011, played a complete game in snapping Kentucky’s 22-game league winning streak in front of a sellout crowd of 13,573.
The Tigers led 37-27 at halftime and trailed only once in the game: 2-0 when Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis hit a pair of free throws after being fouled by Quarterman just 24 seconds in.
While the 6-foot-6 Quarterman helped out offensively after Simmons picked up two first-half fouls, he blanketed Kentucky guard Jamal Murray on the other end in the second half.
Murray single-handedly got Kentucky back in the game by scoring 10 points in a 2½-minute span in the second half, trimming a 14-point deficit to just five at 51-46 with 13:26 remaining.
Murray had 17 points at that point but scored only four more the rest of the way as Jalyn Patterson also took his turn on Murray while LSU outscored Kentucky 34-21 down the stretch to secure the win.
Kentucky could get no closer than four points in the second half, cutting the LSU lead to 58-54 with 9:35 remaining.
“It was a great team effort,” Jones said. “I thought we played really well in the first half when Ben got into foul trouble. The whole team did a tremendous job staying together, and we were able to get to the locker room with a nice lead.”
“I was just happy we were up,” a relieved Simmons said. “All I really care about is winning, so to see those guys out there doing well and keeping that lead, I was proud of everybody on the team.”
Indeed, LSU kept the pressure up on both ends.
Kentucky’s big men, forwards Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress, both got into foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
With Simmons, Victor and Quarterman continually taking the ball to the basket, the Tigers outscored the Wildcats in the paint area 44-24 and out-rebounded the visitors 46-32.
Kentucky went into the game with the second-best rebound differential in the SEC with 7.6 more rebounds per game than their opponents.
“Those guys did a great job inside,” Jones said. “Their big guys got into foul trouble, and we took advantage of it inside.”
The Tigers were exceptionally strong on defense as well.
In addition to holding Kentucky to its season-low for first-half scoring, LSU limited the Wildcats to their lowest total of the season which they had in a loss 74-67 loss to Ohio State in Rupp Arena.
It was LSU’s most lopsided win over Kentucky since a 74-53 blowout of the Wildcats in 1992 in the same arena.
When asked what it meant to beat Kentucky, Simmons smiled.
“For me, I just know we’re a good team and we’re getting better every day,” he said. “I’ll leave the rest to you (media).”