The Kentucky Women’s Basketball team has had a tough week. Losing a heartbreaker at Texas A&M (73-71) and then battling nemesis South Carolina in Memorial Coliseum on Thursday night only to fall short in their comeback (74-70), the Cats were hungry for a win. They were even desperate for a win. And Florida seemed to be the perfect team against whom the Cats could regain their winning ways.
The Gators came into Rupp with a 5-16 (1-7) record and Kentucky definitely needed to get over .500 in conference play. In front of a crowd of 10,031, the stage was set for a fun afternoon.
Naturally, the Gators jumped out to a 9-0 run while Mitchell’s Cats couldn’t throw a ball in the ocean if they were standing on the shore line. I was suddenly taken back to the men’s game from the day before except this was happening in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena. The opponent wasn’t just supposed to be a little less talented than the Cats. They were expected to be many levels below Kentucky.
But with some hard-nosed defense led by Amanda Paschal and Taylor Murray, the Cats chipped away at the lead and by the time the first quarter came to a close, the game was tied at 15. Kentucky continued the steady play throughout the second quarter and by halftime, had stretched the lead to 30-23. And they did this without leading scorer Maci Morris having a single point (though she did have 5 assists).
Even after an exciting halftime show that featured the UK Cheerleading White Squad performing the routine they will be doing as they compete for their 14th National Championship this weekend, it wasn’t enough to keep the Cats rolling as they did to end the 1st half. The cold shooting struck again and by the end of the 3rd quarter, the Gators had reduced the Cats’ lead to 5.
But the 4th quarter definitely belonged to the ladies in Blue as their shooting improved (41% for the quarter) and the ultimately defeated Florida 62-51. Amanda Paschal had a career-high 9 rebounds while Rhyne Howard (16), Taylor Murray (13) and Maci Morris (10) all ended up scoring in double digits. Blair Green also had a solid outing logging 33 minutes and scoring 8 points while grabbing 5 rebounds.
Coach Matthew Mitchell was pleased with the win and said after the game:
“We need to win some more to position ourselves where we want to be. We want to make the NCAA Tournament and we have to win some more games. The team knows that, we’ve been very transparent and open with them about what we need to do. So it’s great to start February off with a win, they’re hard to get. We’ve earned five of them so far, that was a tough game. We have to give Florida a tremendous amount of credit. They have not had a lot of wins this year, but that was an extremely tough game that could’ve gone anyway. So a huge win to start off February and we just have to stay focused with the few remaining practices we have left. These precious opportunities to get wins in these games, we just have to keep it plugging and get it done.”
The Cats return to action on Thursday night as they travel to Auburn to face off against the Tigers at 7 pm.
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