Azia Bishop scored a career-high 17 points in 20 points for the Wildcats in the 73-60 victory on Sunday.
Kentucky had 27 total points from its bench: Bishop’s 17, eight from freshman Janee Thompson, and two points from Kastine Evans.
“Their depth played a huge role,” LSU leading scorer 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. That’s always a plus when your bench can come in and just keep up the tempo of your starting five.”
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 for LSU. 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 SEC) was down 67-60.
She could only watch as Bishop took over.
Bishop, a 6-3 sophomore who was averaging 3.2 points and 2.9 rebounds before Sunday’s game, shot 7 of 10 from the floor in 20 minutes, and she stepped up at several key passages in which LSU threatened the Wildcats’ lead. She also had five rebounds.
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 game tied at 26, Bishop hit a 3-pointer.
After an LSU turnover, Bishop put in a lay-up 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.”
The Lady Tigers closed Kentucky’s lead to 49-45 with 8:40 to play, and Bishop scored her first basket of the second half on the next possession. 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 attempt. 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 this season, 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 of the game over its final two minutes to pull away late. The 13-point margin of victory was also the Wildcats’ largest lead of the game.
“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.”