Following their first loss since November 13 of last year, the Kentucky women’s basketball team is back at it again this afternoon in Memorial Coliseum as they play host to the LSU Tigers. The 18-2 (6-1) Wildcats are looking to rebound from a tough, physical defeat at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks on Thursday night. This will be a tough game for the Cats, as LSU beat UK twice last year: once on the road, and once in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. The Tigers are a team that always seems to have Kentucky’s number, so expect a tough match up. LSU comes into today’s game at 12-7 and 3-3 in SEC play. It’s been an up and down season for Nikki Caldwell’s club, as they have the talent, but have yet to show consistent efforts game in and game out. It’s drama time…let’s Go Cats.
#5/4 Kentucky Wildcats versus LSU Tigers
FINAL KENTUCKY 73 LSU 60 Not sure many people expected this game to turn out the way it did today, but the Cats found a way to notch another SEC victory at home. Despite the surprisingly quiet play of O’Neill and Stallworth, the two bench players of Janee Thompson and Azia Bishop stepped up big time to guide the Wildcats to victory. It was close from the opening tip, and despite a late technical foul from Kentucky’s Samarie Walker, UK held on. Honestly, it wouldn’t be a complete UK Hoops game without some late game dramatics. Bishop had a team high 17 points, a new career high, and ever steady A’dia Mathies finished with 15. The Cats have now won 34 straight games in Memorial Coliseum, and this one was special. The crowd was loud, and the Tigers were visibly upset near the end of the game at Kentucky’s ability to simply wear a team out…#40MINS at it’s finest. Kentucky improves to 19-2 and 7-1 in the SEC.
2nd Half 3:36: Usually turnovers are Kentucky’s key to success, but this afternoon they have been the opposite as LSU has capitalized on a few unlikely miscues from the Cats to stay in it. The Tigers have been very good with ball handling today, the Cats have not gotten many transition opportunities. Jeanne Kenney for LSU went down hard and both teams got a chance to catch their breath after the long medical injury timeout. The story of today’s game: Azia Bishop. She has played out of her mind, and now has a career high 17 points. Stallworth hasn’t played a lot of the second half, and Bishop has been a huge contributer for the Wildcats. Kentucky hanging on 60-55.
2nd Half 6:58: Kentucky has desperately tried to extend this lead to double-digits, but Caldwell’s club just simply won’t let that happen. Bishop is having her best game of the season, now with 13 points, and has completely taken over the post from the usual dominance of Walker and Stallworth. Kentucky seems fairly comfortable with this 4-8 point lead, but you know the Tigers will try for one last push to make the game just a little bit more interesting. Cats lead 55-47.
2nd Half 11:32: Just as the Tigers cut the Kentucky lead to one, Stallworth nails her first bucket of the game to give the Cats a little more breathing room. Plaisance answers on the other end for LSU, and here we go again. Both teams are going toe for toe, as Goss nails her first three point shot of the game for the Cats. The crowd is making itself known, and the team is feeding off the electricity here in Memorial. The announced attendance is 6,428, and you can hear each and every one of them. After a dismal three-point performance on Thursday night from the bench, the substitute players this afternoon have played a huge role in getting Kentucky a 46-42 lead.
2nd Half 15:33: Shocking stat of the first half: junior center DeNesha Stallworth finished with a whopping zero points. Stallworth has scored in double figures in every single game this season but two, so that goose egg performance is definitely not something anyone could have predicted. Cats come out hot on offense as O’Neill nails a three, and LSU has slowed down considerably in terms of their halfcourt scoring. Plaisance is back in the game for the Tigers, and expect Caldwell to get the offense stimulated through her. Kentucky jumped out an eight point, but the Tigers are hanging in there as UK now leads 36-32.
HALFTIME KENTUCKY 31 LSU 26 A very good, entertaining half of basketball just took place in Memorial. A’dia Mathies simply took over for the Cats at the end of the 1st period. Neither team would give an inch, and the largest lead for both the Tigers and the Cats never got higher than a mere five points. This one is going to come down to the wire, and I’m nervous for my mental sanity. Azia Bishop nailed an unlikely 3-point shot, Cats forced a turnover on the inbounds, and Bishop came right back to nail a layup to end the half. Girl is having her a game today with eight points in only nine minutes.
1st Half 3:17: Back and forth we go. Each time either team makes any sort of “mini-run”, the other team responds immediately. Big swing for LSU as their leading scorer Plaisance is on the bench with two fouls, but the Tigers have still found a way to score without her. The refs have played a big part early on here, as close calls both ways have either infuriated or pleased the benches for both teams. It’s been a balanced scoring effort for Kentucky as many different Wildcats have put points on the board. Cats clinging on 24-23. Is it hot in here, or is that just me?
1st Half 7:22: Today’s game is a perfect example of a “chess match”. Both coaches are alternating plays, adjusting lineups and yelling their lungs out from the sideline. Coach Caldwell for LSU got the best of UK in her first season, and you know Coach Mitchell wants to prove he can find a winning recipe to defeat a tough Tiger squad. Both teams are all over the floor and getting good lucks, but unfortunately not many shots have fallen for either offense. Jennifer O’Neill has turned into a machine for the Wildcats, and is a constant source of pressure on defense. She single handedly forces a steal, runs in for a layup, and LSU turns it over on the inbounds. Kentucky looking hot and lead 19-16.
1st Half 10:44: These teams are going basket for basket on offense, executing their respective gameplans fairly well. The Cats have used a lot of cutting and passes in and out of the post, leaving various players open for three-point shots but no one from Kentucky has been able to knock one down. Things are beginning to get very physical, as two of the conference’s best players Plaisance and Stallworth are all over each other tangled up in the post. The small contingent of LSU fans at the game today are….not happy. The Cats look good in terms of hustle and intensity, but the shots just haven’t fallen for UK yet. Close, tense game tied at 12.
1st Half 15:25: The results are in, and I’d have to agree that Coach Caldwell is definitely one of the best dressed college basketball coaches in America. The Tigers are led by Theresa Plaisance, who leads the SEC in points per game with 18.3, and she is head-woman for LSU in nearly every statistical category. It’s been proven already this game it’s going to be a tough, grind it out game, as it always is with the Tigers. Neither team is giving an inch, and both coaching staffs are up and LOUD. SEC women’s basketball at it’s finest. Cats lead 4-2 with Azia Bishop going to the free throw line.
BzzzZZZzzzzZZzZ: We’re close to getting this one started this afternoon, in a classic SEC battle. The Cats need this one to continue to stay at the top of the standings with Tennessee, and LSU needs this one to bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Tigers are near the bottom of the league in every sort of rebounding category, so the post players of Kentucky should be able to assert their dominance inside on the glass. It’s a near packed house today in Memorial, as the Cats are currently riding a 33 game home winning streak. The tip is up, Tigers win it, and we’re underway. Let’s do this.
10 Minutes till Tip: The biggest struggle for Kentucky last game against the Gamecocks was the lack of toughness against the constant pressure defense of Carolina. The Kentucky women seemed a little like the Kentucky men in terms of inability to generate offense against physical inside play from their opponent. After the monstrous struggle on Thursday night, LSU isn’t the team you would ask to play next, as the Tigers have been known to disrupt offenses on the regular in the past, however not so much this year. Look for Mathies to get back on track this afternoon after a dismal shooting performance her last game. LSU’s Coach Caldwell has been said by many to be the most fashionable college basketball coach in the country, so I’m excited to see if that’s true today….
Hit me on the Twittersphere @WilderTreadKSR