It’s not the kind of game you would typically see in Rupp Arena. The Kentucky Wildcats Women’s Basketball team plays 2 or 3 games each season in Rupp and those are usually “big” games that draw crowds larger than would fit in Memorial Coliseum. But the successful season for Kentucky Volleyball meant leaving Memorial open should the Cats have to host NCAA tournament games this week. So, here we were with 1-5 Winthrop and the Volleyball Cats in Texas.
Matthew Mitchell’s team entered tonight’s contest sporting a perfect 9-0 record and a #14 national ranking, but sometimes it can be hard to keep focused on the task at hand. This is especially true when you play an opponent that is struggling and your next game is in-state rival and former #1 Louisville (yes, the women were also ranked #1 and lot before playing Kentucky!). Could the Cats avoid looking past the present opponent and do what they should do: win by 30 (or more.)
The first quarter answered that question as the Cats started hitting 3-pointers early and often and jumped to a 34-12 advantage. Jaida Roper started Kentucky’s onslaught of 3-point baskets and it seemed contagious. By halftime, the lead had grown to 54-18 and the Cats had already made 11 shots from long-range. Rhyne Howard had a very efficient half, scoring 12 points but early in the game, she stepped on another player’s shoe and “tweaked” her ankle. While she did finish the half, Mitchell kept her on the bench for the 2nd half as a precautionary measure. The coach emphasized that Howard would have finished the game if asked, but there was no need to press her further.
UK cooled off a bit in the 3rd quarter and the 3-point shooting slowed considerably for the 2nd half, but when the dust settled, Kentucky had made 13 threes, which fell one short of setting a new program record for made threes in a single game. The Cats only scored 16 points in this quarter but held the Eagles to 12 and entered the final period of the game with 70-30 lead.
The 4rh quarter was a return to hot shooting and better plays overall. Roper and Sabrina Haines led the charge and the Cats won by a final score of 91-36. Five Wildcats finished in double figures (Roper with 30, Howard with 12, Haines with 11, Blair Green with 13, and Tatyana Wyatt with 10).
In the category of “for what it’s worth,” last season Kentucky had 7 games where they made 10 or more 3-point baskets. This season, they have already had 5 games with 10 or more 3s.
While there were quite a few good things tonight, there are still some areas of concern as the Cats prepare for Sunday’s game. There were more than a few careless turnovers and this must be cleaned up. Also, free-throw shooting is not at all stellar. UK had been shooting 66.3% on the year but that number will certainly go down as they shot but 12-22 for 54.5% against Winthrop.
But for tonight, Jaida Roper can celebrate her 30 piece, the Cats can take comfort in the fact they beat Winthrop by the margin that was expected, and they came out of the game with no major injuries. Will they be able to clean up enough of these issues to hand Louisville it’s 2nd loss of the season on Sunday? Only time will tell, but I never count out Mitchell’s Cats.
Next game: Sunday 1 pm Rupp Arena
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