RECAP: Kentucky WBB suffers 74-54 loss to No. 1 South Carolina
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RECAP: Kentucky WBB suffers 74-54 loss to No. 1 South Carolina

Grant Grubbs01/09/22

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Article written by:Grant GrubbsGrant Grubbs

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Photo by Eddie Justice | UK Athletics

Kentucky Women’s Basketball didn’t find their fairytale ending on Sunday. But, they did suffer a disappointing loss.

On Sunday, the No. 21 Wildcats (8-4) fell to the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks (15-1) in a blowout 74-54 loss. The crushing defeat comes just three days after Kentucky picked up their biggest win of the season over No. 15 Georgia.

The contest marks the fifth straight victory for the Gamecocks in the series. Additionally, the loss solidifies Kentucky’s conference play record at 1-1.

Although no Kentucky players performed well in the painful loss, Robyn Benton led the team with 11 points and four rebounds. The team shot a season-low 30% from the field and 45% from the charity stripe.

Here’s how the ‘Cats found themselves at the end of an uninspired defeat.

Two styles collide

They say if you come at the king, you best not miss. Early in the contest, Kentucky took this advice to heart, only in this case it was the queen. The Wildcats made their first three attempts from deep to take a slight lead.

While Kentucky found their rhythm from range, South Carolina star Aliyah Boston dominated the paint. The 6-foot-5 center had 10 points in just the first quarter.

Head coach Kyra Elzy spoke on the difficulty of defending South Carolina’s star after the game.

Trust me, I was sleepless last night thinking about how you can defend Aliyah Boston,” Elzy said in the postgame press conference. “She’s very skilled around the basket, but she can step out. You have to bring so much attention to her.”

Sadly for the ‘Cats, their hot hands quickly began to cool. Kentucky finished the period 7-21 from the field. The two teams wrestled into the second frame tied at 18.

Scary quarter for Kentucky WBB

UK did not find shooting salvation in the next period, either. The Wildcats missed their first six shots in the second frame. Their poor offense led to a 13-3 South Carolina run.

Missed shots weren’t the only thing to blame for the Wildcats’ sudden deficit. The Gamecocks grabbed eight more boards than Kentucky in the quarter. Boston had 10 points and eight rebounds by halftime.

Kentucky’s star Rhyne Howard didn’t respond to the challenge. The reigning SEC Player of the Year went 1-7 from the floor in the first half. Worse, she wasn’t demanding the ball. After a miserable 10 minutes, Kentucky dragged themselves into halftime, trailing 41-27.

Things get worse in the third

The halftime break couldn’t save the ‘Cats, and the Gamecocks continued to assert their lane superiority. By the end of the third period, the Gamecocks had outscored Kentucky 46-20 in paint points.

What Kentucky lacked in paint defense, they didn’t supplement with their typical pesky press. For the majority of the game, Kentucky sat back in a man-to-man. The decision led to unwanted results on the stat sheet. Kentucky only forced a low 12 turnovers out of the Gamecocks.

Elzy discussed Kentucky’s defensive mistakes with the media.

“The margin of error is just so small against a team like South Carolina, and they made us pay for some defensive mistakes,” Elzy said. “They were very physical and made us rush some shots around the rim.”

Closing out Kentucky WBB

By the final frame, the Wildcats were all but finished. In fairness, Kentucky refused to lay down. The team tried a 1-2-2 press, forcing seven fourth-quarter turnovers.

The extra shots allowed Howard to regain some confidence at the end of the contest, as well. Howard scored six points in the final 10 minutes of the game. Despite Kentucky’s late-game silver linings, the day was a disaster.

When the final buzzer sounded, Kentucky fell 74-54 to South Carolina. All afternoon, the Gamecocks controlled the boards, outrebounding the ‘Cats 55-37. Moreover, South Carolina displayed why they’re the nation’s leader in blocks per game, swatting nine of Kentucky’s shots.

Other than Benton, Kentucky had three other players reach double-digit point totals. Jazmine Massengill, Dre’Una Edwards and Treasure Hunt each had 10 points. Howard finished with nine points, eight rebounds and six assists, on 2-14 shooting from the field.

Looking forward for Kentucky WBB

As much as the Kentucky Women’s Basketball team may want to erase this defeat from their memory, they can’t. More importantly, they shouldn’t. These painful losses are the ones that make you tougher come March. Elzy knows this better than anybody.

“You don’t toss [the memory] out. You got to learn from it,” Elzy said. “Every game, you take the opportunity and learn.”

This game was one painful lesson for the ‘Cats, but perhaps a useful one; only time will tell.

Kentucky will take on Mississippi State on Jan. 13 back in Memorial Coliseum.

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2022-05-19