With its third SEC win in a row, Kentucky Women’s Basketball is heating up at just the right time.
On Thursday night, the Wildcats (12-11) defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores (12-15) 69-65. The victory is Kentucky’s third in five days. The ‘Cats’ spirits are at an all-time high after pulling off the 11th largest comeback in program history against Mississippi State on Tuesday evening.
It isn’t a coincidence wins are finally starting to fall Kentucky’s way. The team went three weeks without having more than eight available players — at times, playing with as few as six. Now, Kentucky is at full strength, and it’s showing.
For the second game in a row, Dre’Una Edwards led Kentucky to victory. The redshirt junior dropped 20 points and seven rebounds. More impressively, Edwards was efficient. The 6-foot-2 forward was 10-16 from the field and had a team-high +/- of +17.
As a team, Kentucky shot 26-58 (44.8%) from the field and a solid 8-21 (38.1%) from beyond the arc. The stellar shooting performance is Kentucky’s best since Jan. 30 at LSU. Although Kentucky wasn’t always in control, they came through down the stretch to secure a vital victory.
Sluggish start for Kentucky WBB
Early in the contest, Kentucky was still coming down from the high of their win on Tuesday night. The team committed a whopping nine turnovers in the first period. After scoring the first three points of the game, Kentucky watched Vanderbilt go on a 10-0 run.
In Kentucky’s loss to Vanderbilt on Jan. 27, the team had 25 miscues. Obviously, the Commodores’ pressure causing problems for the ‘Cats was nothing new. After the game, head coach Kyra Elzy discussed her team’s ball control issues after the game.
“Early, I thought we were casual with the basketball. We had talked about in shoot-around that we had to make hard flashes to the middle, meet the pass,” Elzy said during the postgame press conference. “We were taking it up the sideline and that’s an easy place to get trapped.”
Despite their slow start, Kentucky quickly recovered. The team rattled off a 13-4 run to cut Vanderbilt’s lead to 18-17 heading into the second frame.
Star-filled second quarter
The second period saw the ‘Cats and Commodores exchanges shots like two prizefighters. Vanderbilt star Brinae Alexander threw the first punch, draining two 3-pointers in the period. It didn’t take long for Rhyne Howard to return the favor, though.
Kentucky’s All-American scored seven points in the quarter, including a stylish steal and finish. While the rest of the ‘Cats weren’t scoring with the same prowess Howard was, they were taking care of the ball.
UK committed just two turnovers in the second period. Nonetheless, Vanderbilt won the quarter 18-17. The Commodores’ solid period gave them a 36-34 lead heading into halftime.
Dre’una Edwards takes over for Kentucky WBB
Whatever Elzy said during the halftime break, it worked. After allowing Vanderbilt to score the first four points of the second half, Kentucky went on two 8-0 runs throughout the period. The team’s pressurized defense was key to the important stretch.
Kentucky squeezed six turnovers out of the Commodores in the third quarter. Ironically, the ‘Cats also scored six points from Vanderbilt’s miscues. When UK wasn’t scoring in transition, they were dominating in the paint.
Edwards scored 10 points in the third quarter alone. Elzy discussed her redshirt junior’s impact after the contest.
“‘Dre is just so versatile. We could put her in the middle of the floor. You saw today she got it off the glass. She’s being smarter because she’s not running over people.”
Fueled by Edwards’ surge of offense, the ‘Cats strolled into the fourth period ahead 50-45.
Closing out the Commodores
Vanderbilt would not go quietly into the night. The Commodores began the final frame with a 6-0 run. Unfortunately for Vanderbilt, the ‘Cats weren’t in the mood to play with their food.
UK responded with a 10-0 run of their own to all but seal the game. Edwards had another eight points in the final 10 minutes to increase her second-half total to 18 points. Freshman Jada Walker added two 3-pointers to extinguish any flame the Commodores had left.
When the final buzzer sounded, Kentucky WBB defeated Vanderbilt 69-65, avenging their loss from earlier this season. Once again, the ‘Cats won the battle of the boards. The team snagged 33 boards compared to Vanderbilt’s 31. Additionally, Kentucky’s ball movement took a major step forward. The ‘Cats dished out 21 assists, including nine assists from Jazmine Massengill.
Elzy was ecstatic about the team’s ball movement.
“21 assists today on 26 made field-goal attempts with four people in double figures. I was pleased with how we shared the basketball,” Elzy said.
As expected, Howard didn’t trail far behind Edwards in scoring. The reigning SEC Player of the Year recorded 17 points, four rebounds and three assists. Walker contributed 11 points as well, converting on three attempts from deep. Finally, Massengill did more than just pass. The senior guard contributed 10 points and five boards.
Kentucky’s gauntlet of games is coming to a close. UK will conclude its harsh, four-game week on Sunday with a battle against on the road against Arkansas at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.