- Associated Press - Saturday, February 22, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - LSU might have been able to complete a season sweep of No. 18 Kentucky with one more rebound in overtime on Saturday.

That loose ball instead fell into the hands of Kentucky’s Julius Randle, whose tip-in with 3.9 seconds remaining handed the Tigers a 77-76 loss in a tight game they let it slip away after repeatedly positioning themselves for a victory in the extra period.

The Tigers (16-10, 7-7 Southeastern Conference) led 76-75 after Andre Stringer’s basket with 12 seconds left. Kentucky immediately came down and got the ball to James Young, whose attempt was blocked by Jordan Mickey. Randle was there for the short jumper that won it, and LSU didn’t get a chance to answer as Stringer lost the ball in the final seconds.

LSU defeated Kentucky 87-82 last month in Baton Rouge with the same determination, but couldn’t duplicate the outcome and lost its sixth straight road game.

“It came down to a loose-ball war,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “They were able to get that big loose ball at the end. They had a big tip-in to finish it.”

LSU had a chance to win at the end of regulation but Anthony Hickey’s 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the front of the rim and gave Kentucky (21-6, 11-3) new life.

The Tigers (16-10, 7-7) led by three twice in overtime but couldn’t stay in front. Jones wasn’t surprised by his team’s ability to keep the game tight despite playing in a hostile environment.

“I thought it was a hard-fought basketball game tonight from tip to finish,” he said. “I knew it would be that way from the game that we had earlier (in the season). It was a really well-played game. Both teams were playing extremely well. Unfortunately we came up a little short.”

Kentucky native Hickey did his part to keep the Tigers from falling apart with 20 points and eight assists. He made four of the team’s seven 3-pointers.

“This is a big stage,” Hickey said. “We fought all the way to the end. You’ve got to give credit to Kentucky and Julius Randle on that last play. Big players step up at the end and that’s what he did.”

Johnny O’Bryant III added 20 points and 12 rebounds for LSU. Jordan Mickey had 11 points and Andre Stringer scored 10.

O’Bryant did his part to help the Tigers win, scoring the game’s first six points and LSU’s first four in OT. He committed a late turnover in the extra session but followed with a rebound of Randle’s missed layup with a minute left.

“I think Johnny has been a force for us all year long,” Jones said. “He is a high-percentage shooting and can make his free throws. We wanted to get the ball in his hands late.”

Randle ultimately had the last word, with his shot providing a fitting end to a tight, tense game featuring 11 ties and 11 lead changes. He finished with eight points and 15 rebounds for Kentucky, which got 21 points from Aaron Harrison and 20 from Young including six in OT.

Kentucky once again won the rebounding battle (43-40) along with dominating the paint (50-28), but this time the Wildcats won after squandering those advantages in last month’s loss in Baton Rouge when the Tigers shot nearly 52 percent.

LSU shot just 40 percent this time, to 42 percent for Kentucky.

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