ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Chuck Hayes came through in the clutch to keep No. 4 Kentucky perfect in Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal matchups.
Hayes hit a driving basket with seven seconds left and blocked a shot by Tack Minor seconds later as the Wildcats outlasted Louisiana State, 79-78, in overtime to improve to 18-0 in modern SEC tournament semifinal play.
LSU led from the start of overtime until Hayes' hoop. Kentucky scored the final six points of the extra session to improve to 14-1 all-time against the Tigers in the SEC tournament.
"I was struggling the whole game with shooting the ball and with foul trouble," said Hayes, who was shooting a miserable 2-for-9 from the field prior to making the winning shot. "When you're struggling like that you have to come through."
"I should have felt the screen. I should have felt the pick," said freshman forward Glen Davis, who was victimized by Hayes. "But that's something I need to work on."
Trailing 78-73, the Wildcats pulled within two on a 3-pointer by Patrick Sparks with 1:35 to play. Davis failed to pad the Tiger lead, missing a pair of free throws and Kentucky closed to 78-77 on a free throw by Kelenna Azubuike.
Azubuike, who scored 19 points, missed the second but Hayes snared the rebound and the Wildcats called a timeout with 16 seconds to play, setting up Hayes' winning hoop.
"We had some big plays at some big moments," Hayes said. "We were able to get the offensive rebound. You have to give credit to our team. We fought back."
"It really came down to two possessions where we couldn't get the rebound," Tigers coach John Brady said. "Especially the last one (by Hayes). That rebound, we weren't able to get it. The game would have been done (otherwise)."
Sparks scored 17 and reserve Joe Crawford added 14 for Kentucky (25-4), which will play No. 25 Florida on Sunday for the SEC title in a rematch of last Sunday's contest where Florida upset Kentucky 53-52 in Gainesville.
"We're pretty fired up about playing Florida," Sparks said. "They got us seven days ago, so it's fresh in our mind. We know what we have to do to win the game."
Antonio Hudson scored 21 points and SEC Player of the Year Brandon Bass added 16 for LSU (20-9). Bass hit a spinning jumper as time expired in regulation to tie the game, 70-70, and force overtime.
Bass thought he won the game with his shot in regulation.
"I thought the game was over," Bass said. "I thought we (were) down one. It was a big shot, but it would have been bigger if we won the game."
But it was not meant to be for the Tigers, whose next game will likely be in the NCAA tournament.
"We came up a point shy," Brady said. "It's a new season now. Nobody's lost a game and nobody's won. Even losing this game gives us some confidence."
LSU took a 32-31 lead into the break and extended their lead to 36-31 with 18:36 remaining in the second as Kentucky's starters came out slow to start the second half. But Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith called a quick timeout and replaced all five of his starters.
Led by nine points by Crawford, the Wildcats went on a 13-3 run to give Kentucky a 44-39 lead.
"Our bench was a great lift for us," said Smith, whose reserves outscored LSU's, 23-7. "That was a great, great win for us."
Kentucky improved to 18-2 all-time at the Georgia Dome and 107-17 overall in SEC tournament action. The Wildcats have now won 34 of their last 37 SEC tournament games, capturing 10 titles in that span.