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Mitchell hits late three to lift LSU past Kentucky

Mar 1, 2009 - 3:48 AM LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Marcus Thornton scored 23 points and Tasmin Mitchell added 21, including a 3-pointer in the final seconds, to lead No. 18 Louisiana State to a 73-70 victory over Kentucky on Saturday.

Darius Miller hit a 3-pointer with 27 seconds left for Kentucky to tie the game at 70-70. On the ensuing possession, LSU held the ball out high and Mitchell caught a pass at the top of the key and buried an open shot from the arc with 9.7 seconds to play.

Thornton added nine rebounds and Bo Spencer scored 16 points for the Tigers (25-4, 13-1 SEC West), who won at Rupp Arena for the first time in 20 years.

"It was a game where they were tougher than us and smarter than us. That is why they won," Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said. "They play consistently at the start of the game, in the middle and at the end. They play smart on both ends of the court. We make too many mistakes in critical parts of the game to win close games. You have to listen and carry out your assignments in order to win."

"It was a hard fought win for us," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "I think we played really well. When we were down 10, I thought we were trying to do too much individually. We really needed to get back to our offense as a team and we did that. That is what happens when you have a group of guys that wants to win very badly."

Patrick Patterson scored 28 points and Jodie Meeks added 24 points for Kentucky (19-10, 8-6 East). Meeks, the SEC's leading scorer, missed a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds to go.

"We were trying to look for that or someone coming through a split screen," Meeks said. "I thought I had a decent look, but not a great look. I just didn't knock it down."

The Tigers were 13-18 last season and 6-10 in the SEC but have made a huge turnaround under first-year coach Trent Johnson. LSU has won 10 straight overall and 12 consecutive conference games.

"Our guys worked extremely hard and they are a great group of guys to coach but with all that being said our guys continue to get better," Johnson said.

After rallying back, LSU seemed to have things under control after Bo Spencer hit a 3-pointer and forced Meeks to miss from the arc. Thornton then split a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up, 70-66, with 42 seconds to play.

"I think I heard that if we won, it would have been the first time since 1989 that LSU won in here," Thornton said. "It feels great to go down in history by getting this big win in Rupp. It was an intense environment tonight and a great win for us."

Kevin Galloway made one free throw but missed the second for the Wildcats and Patterson tipped the ball out to Meeks, who found Miller open for a 3-pointer that made it 70-70.

But Mitchell answered for the Tigers and dealt a blow to the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament hopes. The Wildcats have lost six of their last nine and could use wins over Georgia on Wednesday and Florida next Saturday to assure themselves of an 18th straight NCAA Tournament berth.