Kentucky WBB hits rock bottom in 71-68 loss to Auburn at home
It’s difficult to see a way up from here for the Kentucky women’s basketball team.
On Thursday evening, Kentucky (9-11; 1-7 SEC) tumbled 71-68 to the Auburn Tigers (12-8; 2-7 SEC). The loss is Kentucky’s second-straight, and a significant step back from the team’s one-point loss to Mississippi State on Jan. 22. As poor as Kentucky played, someone had to score the points.
Maddie Scherr had the best Kentucky performance with 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists while shooting 6-11 from the field and 1-3 from beyond the arc. The Oregon transfer is averaging 16.8 points per game in January; impressive statistics in a not-so-impressive month for the ‘Cats.
As a team, Kentucky shot 24-57 (42%) from the field and 4-16 (25%) from downtown in the contest. UK’s shooting was a result of its ball movement. The team recorded just nine assists against the Tigers. Nonetheless, passing was the least of Kentucky’s worries.
Turnovers tear down Kentucky’s first-half hopes
If it weren’t for turnovers, Kentucky had a solid opening half. Unfortunately, those tiny turnovers make a massive impact. Kentucky committed 12 turnovers in the first half, choking away five within a two-and-a-half-minute period in the second quarter.
Worse, the ‘Cats couldn’t return the favor. UK didn’t score a fastbreak point through the first two quarters. Robyn Benton was the lifeline keeping the ‘Cats alive. The former Auburn Tiger struck at her one-time program as if she’d left the program two days ago instead of two years previously.
Benton led Kentucky at halftime with nine points on 4-8 shooting. Scherr, Jada Walker and Adebola Adeyeye each had six points, as well. In concerningly typical fashion, Nyah Leveretter and Ajae Petty were ghosts out on the court, invisible until they hurt the Wildcats’ effort.
After an 11-0 run from Auburn in the first half, Kentucky fought tirelessly to crawl out of their self-imposed grave. They succeeded. In ugly fashion, Kentucky cut the Tigers’ lead to 38-35 at halftime.
Soul-sucking second half
Although Kentucky was crawling, Scherr was sprinting. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to carry an entire team’s weight, especially when they refuse to come along for the ride. The 5-foot-11 guard scored six-straight points for the ‘Cats to open the third period. Scherr only shot one more time through the rest of the quarter.
Consequently, Auburn rattled off an 11-0 run. The streak only got easier when Adeyeye picked up her third foul with six and a half minutes left in the third frame. Kentucky didn’t score for five minutes, and the score didn’t hide it. Auburn strolled into the fourth quarter with a 59-50 lead.
After seemingly sitting in neutral the entire game, Kentucky kicked into drive in the final 10 minutes. The ‘Cats ran off seven unanswered points, injecting the sleepy Memorial Coliseum crowd with a shot of adrenaline. The run was fueled by four Auburn turnovers in four minutes.
The Wildcats continued to claw away at the lead, but struggled to overtake the Tigers. Adeyeye fouled out with 2:54 left in the fourth period. As if they felt bad for Kentucky’s loss, Auburn fed the ‘Cats chance after chance for a comeback.
Nonetheless, Kentucky refused to accept the gracious offer. With just under two minutes left, freshman Kennedy Cambridge missed two free throws that would have tied the game at 66 points. A mere 60 seconds later, Walker failed to convert at the charity stripe to cut Auburn’s lead to one point.
Those three points piled up. On Kentucky’s final possession, Cambridge forced up a nearly impossible shot from the paint. She missed and Kentucky desperately fouled. Auburn walked away with the 71-68 win.
Kentucky finished with 20 turnovers. In turn, the Tigers tallied 32 points off the Wildcats’ wasted possessions. Additionally, UK only scored two fastbreak points in 40 minutes. Anybody who watched this game did not need numbers to believe Kentucky played poorly.
Although Scherr had the best all-around game, Benton led the ‘Cats in points. The 5-foot-9 guard dropped 19 while shooting 7-18 from the field and 1-6 from 3-point land. Walker added 14 points on 4-10 shooting, as well.
Kentucky can’t mourn its loss for long. The ‘Cats take on Missouri at 3 p.m. on Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.