TAMPA — The LSU Tigers looked downright disinterested as they made their way to midcourt to accept the SEC regular-season trophy before Friday's game against Kentucky.
They seemed as if they had something else on their minds — like winning the postseason tournament title.
No. 20 LSU took a step in that direction with a 67-58 win over Kentucky at the St. Pete Times Forum, advancing to today's semifinal round against Mississippi State. Now LSU continues its quest for another trophy. Until then, there is no room for early celebration.
"We knew Coach (Trent Johnson) was going to tell us to get off the floor," guard Garrett Temple said, joking. "Before they presented it to us, me and Marcus (Thornton) were talking about how that's not going to help us win this game right here or win the tournament. We knew that was then. This is now."
Also likely in the past: Kentucky's 17-year NCAA Tournament run. The Wildcats finished with a whimper in the regular season, losing four straight. Their 20-13 record and 8-8 conference mark in a down year for the SEC probably won't earn them an at-large berth. An NIT invite seems likely, but there has been speculation the proud Kentucky program might pass.
Meanwhile, LSU overcame ice-cold shooting in the first half (31 percent) to convert 52 percent in the second half while it smothered Kentucky on the defensive end. Thornton, the SEC player of the year, led with 21 points. Temple helped limit Kentucky's Jodie Meeks — the nation's fifth-leading scorer (24.7 ppg) — to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.