Revenge. That’s the theme of the night in Memorial Coliseum as the 9/7 ranked Kentucky Wildcats play host to the 16/14 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. The Lady Cocks (huh?) already beat the Cats a few weeks ago 55-50 in Columbia, in a game that broke a 17 game winning streak for UK. All coaches preach about not wanting to focus too much on revenge and their opponent when playing a game like tonight’s, but no doubt about it, it will be on the minds of all Kentucky players tonight. Following the win over Vanderbilt on Sunday, Bria Goss was more than amped up about playing USC again, knowing the entire team would be extremely focused. The Cats come in tonight 21-3 overall and 9-2 in the SEC. They are in second place in the conference standings, sitting right underneath Tennessee and Texas A&M. If Kentucky wants to maintain their position, they’ll have to find someway to conquer the insanely tough defense of South Carolina, something most teams haven’t been able to do. Tonight is also the annual “Play4Kay” game as the Wildcats are wearing all pink Nike uniforms and shoes, and some ticket profit go to breast cancer research to honor legendary coach Kay Yow.
Press Conference Recap: Dawn Staley was salt truck levels of angry, answering four questions and trying to get up and leave three times. Her answer to what was the changing element of the game that led to Kentucky’s victory: “They scored more points than us.” Coach Mitchell was more than pleased, knowing this was a huge SEC game for the Cats, as he ran around the court pumping his fist after the game. Mitchell called Evans’ performance “instrumental and huge in tonight’s victory”. It doesn’t get easier for the Cats, as Kentucky plays again next Monday night on the road at 11th ranked Texas A&M. Go freakin’ Cats.
FINAL KENTUCKY 78 SOUTH CAROLINA 74 HOLY HELL. What a college basketball game. In the most exciting half of basketball I’ve seen from any team of any gender, the Kentucky Wildcats came back from a 16 point deficit to defeat the South Carolina Gamecocks. I have never seen such energy, emotion, or tenacity as I did in that last 20 minutes. Kastine Evans was the definition of clutch hitting a go ahead 3-pointer and sinking the game clinching free throws. Bria Goss came off the bench and scored 13 points joining Evans, O’Neill, and Mathies in double figures. Despite shooting 4-18, Mathies was there when the team needed her to be. O’Neill got back in her scoring groove with a team high 19 points UK had only nine turnovers. On an even happier note: Hayley and I will be going to the SEC Tournament in less than a month in Duluth, Georgia! This team>>>
2nd Half 3:33: Never have I ever seen a team with just four turnovers this far into the game….and losing. Kentucky has a whopping four turnovers tonight yet still find themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Like always, when the going gets tough, A’dia Mathies gets going. Look for her to be the go-to player as this game ends and will her team as much as she can. HOLY MOTHER OF MOSES this environment is unlike any I’ve ever seen. Every single person in this building is on their feet and yelling at the top of their lungs. The refs have come up with some HUGE “let em play” calls and it has benefited Kentucky boatloads. I’m sick to my stomach and for once the Cats seem to have confused the Gamecocks on offense. WOW A’dia Mathies nails a three-pointer and UK has done the improbable: Kentucky leads 69-68.
2nd Half 7:56: It’s hard to believe the first time these teams played the final score was 55-50. South Carolina has been on fire tonight, and I really don’t know why. Kentucky has left wide open gaps to the basket several times this half leading to easy layups, and that’s not something you see often from this Wildcat team. After a couple of slow games, Jennifer O’Neill has been the catalyst for Kentucky on offense tonight, with a game high 17 points. The guy on the end of the bench for South Carolina is the definition of “too much”. He is on his hands and knees banging the court while chanting DEFENSE…..calm down sir you are on the end of the bench for a reason. Huge next couple of minutes for the Cats as they try to cut into a 66-60 South Carolina lead.
2nd Half 11:59: If I could have one thing right now, it would be a horse tranquilizer, because this game is sending me straight to nervous breakdown status. Walker and Stalloworth, Kentucky’s primary post players, have not played one minute this half, and it shows. The Cocks go straight to the paint on every offensive posession, but the Cats aren’t backing down on the offensive side of things luckily. Something I’ve never seen before was A’dia Mathies post up in the paint but….she just did it and used her quick feet to completely glide across her defender. Trust me when I say it was very pretty. Sadly for UK, if the Gamecocks aren’t scoring, they’re getting fouled, and Kentucky has still not been able to stop them on defense. Samarie Walker comes in and does what she does best: clean up the trash. She comes in and gets an offensive rebound put-back and the Cats are a’fighting. She’s going to the line when we get back and Kentucky is trailing 58-52.
2nd Half 15:39: South Carolina’s defense is scary good. They are highly ranked in the NCAA standings of nearly every defensive statistical category, and unlike Kentucky’s fast paced transition oriented defense, the Gamecocks play grinding, tough, hard nosed sets. The Kentucky offense definitely looks steady early in the second half, but the Cats have got to stop Carolina on a consistent basis to chip into the lead. This crowd at Memorial is feeling the intensity of tonight’s game, making me wish I could get up and yell with them. A jumper by Kastine Evans fires up the crowd, and it is officially the loudest in here it has been all season. Kentucky has scored on three straight posessions but haven’t been able to get back and stop the Cocks inside. Welch hits a layup and-one, and South Carolina leads 53-44.
HALFTIME KENTUCKY 30 SOUTH CAROLINA 44 Sorry loyal KSR UK Hoops fans, but I was late to the game. After finishing up the big/little ceremony for my fraternity (shouts to my new little Taylor Carpenter), I sprinted to Memorial Coliseum. Sadly, I wasn’t too pleased to see what was going on. I caught the last four minutes of the first half and the Cats look……anything but good. South Carolina is last in the league in field goal percentage and they had over 40 points in one half shooting nearly 60%!?!? Something obviously wasn’t going right. A’dia Mathies had four points on 1-10 field goal shooting, and Kentucky is going to need a tremendous effort in the last twenty minutes if they want to fight for a win tonight. I imagine Mitchell’s halftime to speech to go a little like this: “WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED OUT THERE?!”. Go Cats?