Despite second-half improvements by the Wildcats, Kentucky could not overcome Louisville’s dominating lead, and UK fell to their in-state rivals 87-53 inside Memorial Coliseum. The unranked Wildcats’ loss to No. 3 Louisville drops their record to 8-4 on the season. For Savannah’s immediate game recap notes, click here. Otherwise, fill yourself in on the top three takeaways from today’s loss.
A Costly Second Quarter
After hanging on throughout the first ten minutes of play — Kentucky trailed by seven at the end of the first quarter — the Wildcats went ice cold in the latter half of the period. Kentucky scored just nine points on 3-13 shooting throughout the entirety of the quarter, while the Cardinals recorded 24 points.
“We let it get away in the last 12, 13 minutes of the first half,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said following the game. “I thought the end of the first quarter was bad and then, you know, obviously the second quarter we didn’t do what we needed to do to hang in there.”
Louisville built their biggest cushion of the half during the final three minutes, increasing their lead significantly during the end of the quarter. Kentucky trailed 47-25 at the half, and they were never able to recover. The 22-point deficit proved to be too much for the Wildcats to make up in the second half.
“After that really tough second quarter, our mind in the second half was trying to come out and get back, chip into the lead, see if we could cut it to ten or so, get it under double-digits and see if we could get ourselves back in a position to win,” Mitchell said.
In trying to chip away this lead, the team got frantic. They committed six turnovers, fouled six times and grabbed only one offensive rebound. Guard Maci Morris recognized this franticness as an issue, but sees it as a learning opportunity.
“I think what we have to learn from is just, when teams go on run, we can’t just panic and try to catch up right then and there,” Morris said. “We have to slow down and just chip away from those leads.”
Two-on-Two, Louisville dominated
All season, Kentucky has shown – and relied upon – the depth of their bench. Today was no different. Nine Wildcats saw the court, and all nine of them scored (eight of which recorded field goals; Amanda Paschal had one point on 1-2 shooting from the free-throw line).
While nine players scored, only two hit double digits. Maci Morris was the team’s leading scorer, finishing with 16 points, followed by Tatyana Wyatt, who added 10 points. Point guard Taylor Murray had a relatively quiet game, contributing eight points and seven rebounds. Jaida Roper had nine points, while Taylor Murray and Alyssa Rice both added eight. Still, UK and UofL finished the game with the same number of bench points: 16.
While Kentucky’s top two scorers combined for 26 points, Louisville’s top two finished with a combined 50 points. Junior Asia Durr scored a whopping 32 points, and senior Misha Hines-Allen added 18.
Limiting the productivity of UK’s typical scorers was obviously a part of Louisville’s game plan, but Cardinal head coach Jeff Walz said other Kentucky players did a good job of stepping up and scoring.
“We doubled on ball-screen when Morris came off of it, and she throws it back and McKinney hits a three. Tatyana Wyatt hits a three. So they had kids step up and make some shots, too,” Walz said. “Which you have to have when you’ve got players of the caliber of Asia [Durr] and Maci Morris that you’re competing against.”
It was a physical one
As a rivalry game, today’s matchup held true to form. Memorial was packed and energetic, and the game got rough. From diving for loose balls to hard fouls and tough rebounds, players from both teams will feel this game tomorrow. Those hard-fought rebounds were tough, but they were the key to success in this game.
“They’re an aggressive team. Their guards rebound the ball so well – I think Taylor Murray had seven rebounds,” said Hines-Allen. “Say we did get the ball, their guards would be right there. I know I got one poked away from me. Their guards are really aggressive; their post players are just so big. We just have to be strong with that ball.”
Despite the physicality of the game, both Morris and Murray remained on the court for the full 40 minutes.
“We were just trying to get better. We had a rough first half there, and we’re counting on those two,” Mitchell said. “They’re also two really strong competitors that want to win, and this is a big game with a lot of pride on the line there. So we were trying to play our very best. Those two never ask to come out, they never ask for a break – that tells you what kind of warriors they are.”
The persistence of Morris and Murray surprised Louisville.
“We were up like 15 or 20 but we had to keep going,” Durr said. “[Mitchell] didn’t take his best two players out for the whole game. He was trying to make a statement.”
But, according to Mitchell, he wasn’t trying to make a statement. He was just trying to win.
“We were trying to get back in the game and win the game – that’s the statement we were trying to make there,” Mitchell said. “We were just trying to play our best basketball. We didn’t today, but there are brighter days ahead.”
Now on a three-game losing streak, the Cats will look to return to the winning path Thursday Dec. 21 at noon when they take on the California Golden Bears inside Memorial Coliseum.