Duck Face+Game Face=Win
The time is finally here. After a long non-conference season in which Kentucky went 12-1 and finished ranked 6th in the country, it’s time for the Cats to prove their merit in arguably the hardest conference in America. The journey for a second straight SEC Championship begins tonight against the Florida Gators. Florida is currently 11-3 and no stranger to playing the Cats. The two teams played three times last year, with Kentucky winning each matchup by an average margin of victory of 3.5 points. It’s going to be a tough challenge for Mitchell and Co. but that’s life in the SEC. Cats are playing for a school record 12th straight victory and a school record tying 30th consecutive home win. Here. We. Go.
#6 Kentucky Wildcats versus Florida Gators
Postgame: Florida was picked to finish 8th in the SEC….just goes to show you how deep and competitive this conference is game in and game out. Kentucky Miss Basketball Sydney Moss had a terrible homecoming, finishing 0-10 with zero points. Coach Mitchell starts off by saying “I am very, very proud of my team and very excited to win such a tough game”. DeNesha Stallworth finished with another double-double with 17 and 10, and Kentucky sets the school record at 12 wins in a row. Mitchell said “Mathies played like the best player in the conference tonight, and she came out to set the tone for SEC play.” Coach Butler said the biggest difference with this years UK team is the added presence of post player DeNesha Stallworth, giving the Cats a bonus on the court. Next game for UK is Sunday afternoon on the road against Alabama, and the Cats go for the school-record 31st consecutive home victory next Thursday against Texas A&M.
FINAL KENTUCKY 76 FLORIDA 69 What a game. In the best home atmosphere all season for the SEC opener, Kentucky prevails against a VERY scrappy and hard fighting Florida team. Mathies had her best game of the season when the time called, scoring 20 points with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. The star trio for the Cats of Mathies, Stallworth, and O’Neill combined for 54 of Kentucky’s points, and they will be the key factors in the Wildcats push to a league championship. When Memorial got rocking, it was truly a great setting to be in. Cats move to – on the season and more importantly: 1-0 in the SEC. Should be a fun post-game presser with Coach Butler in town.
2nd Half 2:31: This game is getting to be too much for me as anxiety is seeping in. Florida has had many opportunities to tie or take the lead tonight, but luckily Kentucky has come up with the lose balls and clutch shots when the time has called for them. Gators have dominated the free-throw line, outshooting the Cats by 14 from the stripe. Mathies with a clutch 3-point shot gives her 18 points and the crowd goes WILD as Goss follows that up with a steal on defense and a beautiful lay-in by Stallworth. Tonight’s atmosphere has really been special, and the team is definitely playing off of it right now. Kentucky up 66-60…
2nd Half 7:29: Huge series of plays for UK as Stallworth comes up with a monster block and O’Neill answers with two beautiful 3-point shots to get the Cats out of a one posession game. The Gators have had nice balance on offense as George, Bonds, and Miller all have double-digits. Coach Butler of Florida just told the ref that she “is going to hate herself when she watches the game video” for all of the “bad calls”. O’Neill has turned into a Keyla Snowden type player, knocking down the tough jump shots when the team is in dire need of points. Just as Kentucky pulled out a nine point lead the Gators go on ANOTHER run to cut it to four again as Kentucky is winning 58-54.
2nd Half 11:38: Florida has used some tough foul calls against the Cats to become efficient scorers from the free throw line, as the Gators are 14-16 from the stripe. This game will be decided by who has the final run of the game, as neither team is backing down. We are sitting on pins and needles here on press row as one posession games are NOT good for my sanity. This is coming down to pure execution on the offensive end, as the Gators have not allowed UK to score in transition tonight. Kentucky holding on 50-47.
2nd Half 14:24: DeNesha Stallworth is in double figures again, as she has been for 86% of the games this year. Her presence in the post has made a huge difference for the Cats when they are in need of a bucket on offense. Kentucky jumps out of the gates red hot and Coach Mitchell is fist pumping with happiness. Mathies is surely impressing the WNBA scouts from Seattle here to watch her play. Coach Butler must have gotten on her star player George to impose her will the rest of the game, and she’s doing so to start this half. Walker nails her first bucket of the game, but Florida answers with a three-pointer. Back and forth we go, Cats leading 48-44.
HALFTIME KENTUCKY 39 FLORIDA 35 Very entertaining half of basketball, especially for all you women’s basketball haters out there. Both teams have put their all on the court tonight, and the coaching strategies have changed at virtually every timeout. The Cats were able to control Jennifer George, but some late fouling issues allowed the Gators to once again get right back into the thick of things and take the lead for a moment after a 12-4 run. Mathies led all scorers with 13 points, but the shooting prowess of Kastine Evans allowed Kentucky to pad a very small lead entering halftime. It’s gonna be a goooood finish…if you aren’t watching yet, DO IT. Tonight’s halftime entertainment were dogs jumping for Frisbees…..without a doubt the best show I’ve seen.
1st Half 3:45: Florida’s Coach Butler gets hit with a bench warning as she has been on top of the refs all night. She responds by telling her bench to “DON’T SAY ANYTHING, THEY CAN’T TAKE IT’. Future techincal foul in the making? She is definitely entertaining to watch, that’s for sure. Mathies continues to dominate for the Cats on offense, as her and Stallworth have been the only consistent scoring options for Kentucky. This has been a game of runs, as are most contests with the Gators, and each team is matching each other bucket for bucket. Mathies has 13 points, four assists, and four rebounds proving her merit as defending SEC Player of the Year. Cats lead 34-27.
1st Half 7:06: Cats have been trigger happy from the three-point line already firing 10 shots from behind the arc. Long rebounds have allowed Florida to score in the transition and cut into the double-digit Kentucky lead. Sloppy play in the halfcourt has Kentucky struggling to score points lately, and the Gators have gotten right back in the game. Stallworth stops the Florida run with an uncharactericstic three-point make, and the strategizing continues on both benches. Cats up 26-21.
1st Half 11:19: Kentucky guards Bria Goss and Jennifer O’Neill have been pedal to the medal so far this game, pushing the offense and shooting early on when they can. The Cats knew they would be facing extensive post pressure from the conference foes, as teams will specifically gameplan to shut down the forces of Walker and Stallworth inside. Turnovers have been an issue for both teams so far as the Cats have six and the Gators have eight. Mathies is on fire early, scoring nine points from all parts of the court and Mitchell is all smiles. Kentucky is breaking open a 23-12 lead despite Florida’s efforts to slow them down.
1st Half 15:57: Cats started the game as well as they could hope: a Stallworth jumper and Mathies steal for a layup forces the Gators into a quick timeout. Mathies has played pretty conservatively so far this season, saying she has been focusing more on being the leader this team needs. Her scoring numbers are down from last year, but that’s mainly because players like Stallworth and O’Neill have taken over the pressure of scoring points. Mitchell knows Mathies needs to increase her level of aggression in order for the Cats to repeat as SEC Champs, and she seems to be doing so this game. Both benches are HYPED jumping up at every play. Very physical game early on and Cats lead it 9-6.
BZzzzZZZzzZzZzZ: The anticipation is rising as the crowd continues to grow in what will surely be the best home atmosphere of the year. Florida comes into this game with one of the best players in the league: Jennifer George. This preseason All-SEC pick is almost averaging a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds a game. The Gators also boast last years Kentucky Miss Basketball Sydney Moss, a player Coach Butler stole from Boone Co. to play in the swamp. The starting lineups have been announced and SEC season is almost underway. Kentucky wins the tip aaaand we’re off!
10 Minutes till Tip: The energy of Memorial during SEC season is unique and extremely fun to be a part of. The teams, players, coaches, and fans all realize the importance of each and every game, and in such a competitive conference: any team can win any game…anytime. Tonight is the one year anniversary of our stint on press row covering UK Hooops for KSR, and Hayley and I would like to thank our faithful supporters (that’s you Gypsy Robyn and Linda Taylor). If you can’t make it to the game tonight, be sure to catch it on SportSouth, FS Southwest, Sun Sports or Fox Sports South. It also will be available on ESPN3 and the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price. Florida coach Amanda Butler is one of the most animated characters on the sideline, so tonight will be interesting.
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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