Depth dings LSU women in loss at No. 5 Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — On a day in which LSU’s reserves scored all of six points, No. 5 Kentucky used its depth to beat the Lady Tigers.

Azia Bishop scored a career-high 17 points in 20 points for the Wildcats in Sunday’s 73-60 victory.

Kentucky got 27 points from its bench: Bishop’s 17, eight from freshman Janee Thompson and two from Kastine Evans.

“Their depth played a huge role,” LSU forward Theresa Plaisance said. “When you have a player coming off the bench scoring double figures, high double figures, that’s always a plus. Their size inside — they could sub out their inside game as well as their outside game. Their bench was just as good as their starters.”

Plaisance, the SEC’s leading scorer at 18.3 points per game, sat on the bench for much of the first half with two fouls. She still finished with 19 points in 30 minutes but fouled out with 42 seconds to play, at which point LSU (12-8, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) was down 67-60.

She could only watch as Bishop took over. The 6-foot-3 sophomore, who came in averaging 3.2 points and 2.9 rebounds, shot 7 of 10 from the floor.

She stepped up at several key passages when LSU threatened the Wildcats’ advantage.

The Lady Tigers traded the lead with Kentucky (19-2, 7-1) several times throughout the first half but could never gain a lead of more than one possession. With 26 seconds until halftime and the score tied at 26, Bishop hit a 3-pointer. After an LSU turnover, Bishop put in a layup with 10 seconds to go to give the Wildcats a 31-26 halftime lead.

“I think she gave the team a big spark, especially because in their zone, the middle was open a lot,” Kentucky guard Jennifer O’Neill said.

“She was able to flash and be a presence there. But then she turned around to shoot, too. I give credit to her that she’s a good shooter and a lot of people don’t know that. She showed it today.”

When LSU got within five points in the second half on two occasions, Bishop answered both times with baskets on the next possession.

With 53 seconds to play and LSU trailing 66-60, Kentucky’s Samarie Walker drew a foul on a defensive rebound.

After the whistle, Walker jerked away from the scrum of LSU players and was assessed a technical foul. But Adrienne Webb, who had 18 points and is an 80-percent free-throw shooter, missed both technical free throws.

The Wildcats, whose 17-game win streak was snapped Thursday against No. 18 South Carolina, scored the last nine points to pull away.

“The last two minutes of the game, you could see a level of intensity rise in their ability to push the ball 94 feet,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “You saw players making plays down the stretch. Defensively we had opportunities, but then we broke down and they were able to pick us apart.”