The University of Kentucky women’s basketball suffered a heartbreaking defeat tonight in Memorial Coliseum, as they fell short to the South Carolina Gamecocks, 58-81. South Carolina was ranked #4 in the country going into tonight’s game, and Kentucky is currently ranked #15. After a great team win over Tennessee last Sunday, we were really hoping for a good home win over the number one team in the SEC, but the Gamecocks tough defense and relentless rebounding brought them out on top. Kentucky’s loss can of course be attributed to a very sound and consistently great South Carolina, but also to a few shortcomings on the Wildcat end of things. Kentucky had one of their lowest rebounding games of the season, and was led by an unexpected standout, but when it all falls down, there was one key factor that left the Wildcats with yet another loss.
Unfortunately, South Carolina was another one of those teams that grew on me over the course of the game. It all started with a pair of shoes… Coach Staley was wearing the most beautiful pair of Christian Louboutin’s tonight and did not once stomp, raise her voice, or cause a scene in any way, which was a complete 180 since last week’s Insell. The team was not only well spoken in the post game, but was also polite and played as good sportswomen during the game. When Bria Goss went down with leg cramps mid second half, forward Aleighsa Welch tapped her on the back when she was on the way out of the game. South Carolina out-rebounded the Wildcats 44-19, had SIX blocks to our goose egg, and shot almost 53% from the field, while Kentucky was shooting 37.7%.
The Gamecocks win tonight was a first time win in Memorial for Coach Staley, who admitted that she was not expecting her team to have the kind of season that they have worked up to. South Carolina was predicted to finish 7th overall in the SEC, and they now stand at number four in the nation. Staley attributes the success of her team to sacrifice. She commented, “All of our players sacrificed to stay in the summer. We’re thrilled every day to go into practice.” Welch said that when Kentucky went on a run, there was only one thing that could be said to curb their comeback. In a timeout after Kentucky had started a 16-6 run, Welch told her teammates to “just calm down. We just want to slow down the tempo. We’re still in control of this game.” Their plan worked, and what had come down to only an 11 point lead was quickly extended back up to a eventual 23 point loss for the Hoops.
Let’s take a moment to look on the bright side though… Makayla Epps had a great game tonight. There must be some sort of hot mic on me at all times, because no sooner had I finished telling Wilder that she was “consistently good, but rarely great” does she decide that it’s time to make like a camel and throw the team on her back. Epps threw down 16 points in 17 minutes. She was 6-8 from the field and also hit all of her free throws, something this team has struggled with about as much as the men’s team has. Epps commented that her thought process behind her breakout was, “it can’t get no worse, so fight to the finish.” Wilder says he needs her to be this aggressive every single game, and something tells me that Matthew Mitchell would agree.
Coach Mitchell was not as angry as I thought that he would be post game, but I think that he has almost just come to his wits’ end with this team. He commented that this team “has to find a way to get [our] tenacity back between now and Sunday.” Mitchell continues to take a large part of the responsibility for his team’s loss, but how much longer can he blame himself? According to him, the team will be working on rebounding and defensive fundamentals starting tomorrow. O’Neill agrees with Coach Mitchell, saying, “we have to come out and be a better rebounding team than that.” Have fun with that ladies…
Next up for the Wildcats will be Texas A&M on Sunday at 2PM. It’s an away game, but you can catch it on ESPN 2. Luckily, Wilder will be exiting a 24 hour dance marathon @ 2, so he’ll be lively and sharp. See y’all then!