Playing against another team who Kentucky failed to beat in two tries this season, the Wildcats came out firing on all cylinders and never looked back, taking down the top seeded and 5th ranked South Carolina Gamecocks 68-58. Just two weeks ago UK fell at home to this same USC team 81-58, but the Cats put the past behind them and dominated the SEC regular champions from the opening tip. Bria Goss led the way offensively for the Cats with 14 points, but four Kentucky players finished in double-figures, namely the two freshman guards Makayla Epps and Linnae Harper who paced the Wildcats the entire game.
With yesterday’s win over Florida and today’s over South Carolina, Kentucky has back-to-back wins over teams that swept them in the regular season. #RevengeTour?
Let’s break it down….
Color me shocked. Without a doubt the most positively encouraging performance I have seen from Kentucky in a long time. We won’t lie, not many people gave Kentucky a chance going in to today’s contest. They recently got smacked at home against USC, so how could things have changed so drastically from then to now? Well, the Wildcats looked completely different. They were confident, and perfectly executed Coach Mitchell’s game-plan of “stay in attack-mode”. “That was the word that we wanted to rule the day for us, don’t worry about the outcome, the result, just get in attack mentality and stay there.” Stay there they did as after a 12-2 start to the game had the Wildcats energized they were able to maintain that effort for a full 40 minutes. “We probably had more poise and patience today than I’ve seen in a long time.”
Last time out against South Carolina, the Gamecocks out-rebounded Kentucky 44-19 in what was called an “embarrassing” performance for the Cats on the boards. This afternoon UK still lost the rebounding battle, but kept it close at 39-34 and only allowed seven offensive boards, a stat that has killed the Cats in the past.
Makayla Epps and Linnae Harper scored a combined 22 points in today’s victory, and have become a staple of success for Coach Mitchell. Oftentimes the head coach opted to put one of his freshman in at point guard, sitting veterans Jennifer O’Neill and Kastine Evans on the bench. These girls, with boatloads of high school success, are finally reaping the rewards of the effortless work they’ve put in throughout the season. Look out, because the key to this team’s success could rely on the play of the first year players, something no one around this program expected….
Stat of the game? Kentucky only commited FIVE turnovers…just five! In our three seasons covering this program, we have never seen such efficient numbers offensively. Meanwhile, the Cats got back to their old ways forcing the Cocks into 16 miscues and scoring 16 points off of those. “It was all us making really uncharacteristic decisions with the basketball,” said Carolina Coach Dawn Staley. The Cats were scrappy, and pressured the ball handler on every pass, giving USC nothing which led to tons of mental lapses.
Senior DeNesha Stallworth is what we kids say “on one” lately. While her 12 point performance today wasn’t a season high, her points came at a premium. South Carolina has one of the top-front courts in the nation, and Stallworth was able to take in the contact from the Gamecocks and score some tough-nosed layups inside when the Cats needed them the most. Your hard work did not go unnoticed D….
Today’s game should work wonders for Kentucky’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN Bracketologist Charlie Creme currently has the Cats as a four seed and South Carolina as a one seed, so one would assume today’s win and a potential championship tomorrow will surely move UK to at least a three seed. The difference of a three seed and a four seed is major, especially in the women’s game…as you would avoid a Sweet 16 match-up with a one seed (two of them are still undefeated….)
The Cats will hit the floor for the SEC Tournament Championship tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 against the winner of Tennessee and Texas A&M who are playing right now. Until then….keep on hittin’ that Nae Nae.