BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU guard Jeanne Kenney had endured a rough week, emotionally and physically.
It began with the death of her grandfather, whose funeral she missed when a snow storm prolonged a road trip. Then she was diagnosed with a stress reaction in her left foot, leaving her unsure if she could help LSU against No. 8 Kentucky.
Kenney managed to push all of that aside on Sunday, turning in the finest performance in her three seasons at LSU on a day when the upset-minded Lady Tigers could really use it.
She hit all five 3-pointers she attempted on her way to a career-high 22 points, and LSU upset No. 8 Kentucky 77-72 on Sunday.
"We needed this win. I was going to play," Kenney said, allowing for a slight, appreciative smile. "I needed my team and my team needed me."
Kenney had to miss her grandfather's funeral on Friday when a major snow storm in the Midwest postponed LSU's game in Missouri from Thursday night to Friday afternoon. Unable to find a flight home, Kenney went ahead and played Friday in honor of her grandfather, Cliff Beaulieu, who used to attend all her home games, and would often remind his scrappy granddaughter to hold her follow-through on her shot and not take so many charges, because he worried about her getting hurt.
But Kenney struggled in LSU's overtime victory at Mizzou, going 1 of 6 from the field.
"My mindset was Missouri was going to be a dedication game, and then I went in there trying to do too much," Kenney said. "So I, honest to God, tried not to think about that (on Sunday), because once you put emotions into it, I'm already an emotional person on the court, and I just needed to do enough."
Still, LSU went into pre-game warm-ups uncertain if Kenney could play at all until she told coach Nikki Caldwell, who had already decided against starting her, that she could give her at least limited minutes.
Kenney saved the Lady Tigers (17-10, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) in a reserve role, finishing 7 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 from the foul line in 26 minutes, and hitting a critical 3 right after Kentucky had tied the game at 64.
"Jeanne responded like her grandfather would have wanted her to," Caldwell said. "Today she was one of the most courageous players that I have had an opportunity to coach. ... Her presence on the floor was definitely felt by her teammates."
A'dia Mathies scored 20 and Jennifer O'Neill 15 for Kentucky (23-4, 11-3) which saw its four game winning streak snapped.
"That was a terrific game. It's a hard one to lose," said Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell, who remained one victory shy of tying former Kentucky coach Terry Hall's all-time school record of 178 wins. "LSU just played a great game of basketball and executed at critical moments. They had a really good day on offense and we just couldn't slow them down. I didn't think we played poorly."
Theresa Plaisance recorded her fifth double-double this season with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Bianca Lutley added 15 points for LSU, which shot 52.9 percent (27 of 51) , including 7 of 11 from 3-point range.
Kentucky shot 44.6 percent (29 of 65), but was only 6 of 23 from deep. LSU also outrebounded a Kentucky team renowned for its defensive play, 34-32, en route to its second upset of a Top 10 team in two weeks (having beaten then No. 9 Georgia 62-54 on Feb. 10).
LSU did have a potentially significant setback, however, when starting center Shanece McKinney left the game late in the second half with an apparent leg injury that required her to get help off the court. She had five blocks. Caldwell said she wasn't sure McKinney would be ready for LSU's next game against Alabama on Thursday, but expected her back this season.
LSU never trailed in the second half and led by as much as nine in the final 20 minutes when Plaisance's layup made it 49-40.
The Wildcats kept pushing back, with Mathies' 3 cutting the Lady Tigers lead to 62-60. Mathies later pulled Kentucky into a tie with her reverse layup with 4:03 left, but LSU did not wilt, thanks to Kenney, who drilled a 3 and a jumper in succession to make it 69-64 with 2:13 left. Kentucky never got closer than three points after that.
"We did a good job fighting to get in our position, but I think we just had some mental lapses at the end of the game," Mathies said. "When you drop a play, you have to turn around and execute, and that's something that didn't happen."
The teams were within four points of each other through most of the first half, with Kentucky taking a 24-22 lead on O'Neill's jumper.
That's when LSU started a 21-6 run covering most of the last 7:10 of the half. It began with Lutley's free throws, followed by Kenney's 3-pointer on her first shot of the game. Danielle Ballard's driving scoop and Adrienne Webb's back-court steal and quick jumper from the lane gave LSU nine straight points.
Kenney made all three of her shots during the first half, all from 3-point range, and added a pair of free throws in the final minute of the period, giving her 11 points in a span of 6:19 and staking the Lady Tigers to their largest lead of the game at 43-30 before DeNesha Stallworth's short jumper made it 43-32 at halftime.