The Pete Maravich Assembly Center was the Deaf Dome again Tuesday night as many long-time LSU basketball fans remembered it: packed, loud and boisterous.
An enthusiastic crowd of 13,111 fans jammed the PMAC and watched the Tigers drop a 71-69 heartbreaker to top-ranked and undefeated Kentucky. The paid crowd of 13,997 was the most tickets sold for an LSU home game since a Jan. 24, 2009, matchup with Xavier.
The student section was packed long before the game, as thousands of students waited on the concourse and began pouring in when doors opened 90 minutes before the 6 p.m. tipoff.
The crowd got louder when a costumed Mike the Tiger dropped from the ceiling on a rope and landed on the court in front of the LSU bench.
Members of the LSU women’s basketball and softball teams threw T-shirts into the crowd during one of the first-half time outs.
One of the shirts was caught by LSU defensive end Tashawn Bower. He was one of several football players in the student section, along with quarterback Brandon Harris, safety Rickey Jefferson, defensive tackle Quentin Thomas and wide receiver Malachi Dupre.
Also sitting with the student were football coach Les Miles, gymnastics coach D-D Breaux and volleyball coach Fran Flory.
Guard Malik Newman, a five-star prospect from Callaway High School in Jackson, Mississippi, made an unofficial visit to LSU in advance of Tuesday night’s game.
Newman, a 6-foot-3 combo guard who’s rated as the No. 4 overall prospect and top shooting guard on the ESPN 100 list, recently announced he wanted to take official visits to Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, North Carolina State and Ohio State.
LSU, which has already signed the nation’s top prospect in power forward Benny Simmons of Montverde Academy in Florida, also has a commitment from the No. 2 shooting guard, Antonio Blakeney of Orlando’s Oak Ridge High.
No. 1 blues
LSU is 3-17 all-time against the No. 1 team in The Associated Press poll since it started in the 1948-49 season.
Ten of those 20 meetings have come against Kentucky, with the Wildcats holding a commanding 9-1 edge.
The lone win for LSU against Kentucky came in a 95-94 overtime victory in the PMAC on Feb. 11, 1978, after all five of the Tigers’ starters fouled out.
The game for the men’s team, coupled with a Thursday night meeting for the Lady Tigers at top-ranked South Carolina, marks the first time in 35 years both LSU basketball teams played the nation’s No. 1 squad in the same week.
In Jan. 1980, the men lost to DePaul, and the Lady Tigers were beaten by Louisiana Tech seven days later.
Scouts are out
There were a total of 48 NBA scouts at the game representing 21 of the league’s 30 teams.
There are typically four or five scouts at most LSU home games. Because of the high demand for media credentials, including a request from the New York Times, scouts had to purchase tickets in the seating areas of the arena.
Kentucky is 86-25 against LSU, but the Tigers are a more-respectable 22-41 since upsetting the top-ranked Wildcats in 1978. Former LSU coach Dale Brown, who was in attendance Tuesday night, has 18 of those 25 wins. … Tuesday was Kentucky coach John Calipari’s 56th birthday. … New Orleans Pelicans star and former Kentucky All-American Anthony Davis watched the game from a portal behind the Wildcats’ bench.