Well, to say today’s game is a big one would be quite the understatement. Today’s match up against 8th ranked SEC Regular Season Champions Tennessee has many facets to it, and all signs point to it being an instant classic. Today the University of Kentucky and Big Blue Nation honor one of the finest athletes to don the blue and white. A’dia Mathies is suiting up for her final game in Lexington, and will go down as one of the best players to play basketball at UK, man or woman. She needs just 117 points to net 2,000 for her career, putting her in elite territory with just Issel, Still, Walker and Givens reaching that pinnacle. Brittany Henderson joins Mathies as part of the most successful senior class in school history. If that wasn’t enough reason to care about this game, a win today would make Matthew Mitchell the all-time winningest coach in school history. In only his 6th year, coach has done some serious work here in Lexington. The Cats are currently 24-4 and with a 12-3 conference record are sadly out of the race for another SEC Championship, but they can clinch the two seed in the SEC Tournament today. Make sure to tune in on ESPNU.
#10 Kentucky Wildcats vs #8 Tennessee Lady Volunteers
2nd Half 5:53: Not much has changed in the game of late. Tennessee is trying their hardest to put together a late spurt of offense, but Kentucky is having nothing of it. Every time the Lady Vols get anywhere near the UK lead, a player steps up to stop the run. Be it Mathies, O’Neill, Bishop, or Stallworth, this Wildcat team has played the perfect balanced game this afternoon. Forcing a Tennessee team that only averaged around 15 turnovers a game coming in, into 31 turnovers today, has been impressive. Even better than that, Kentucky has only committed 11 turnovers themselves. Kentucky looking to seal the win, leading 67-51.
2nd Half 11:36: Kentucky is just in their zone today. On both offense and defense the Cats are outplaying Tennessee, and UK looks like a vastly superior team. Mathies nails back-to-back three-point shots and as Memorial erupts, Coach Warlick of Tennessee simply hangs her head on the bench. The senior star now has a game high 14 points, the Cats are simply scoring at will. Mitchell is pleased, and surprisingly sophomore Azia Bishop scores her eighth point of the game. The Wildcats lead 57-38.
2nd Half 15:54: Perfect start to the half for Kentucky. The Cats have already forced Tennessee into three more turnovers, Mathies nailed her first 3-pointer of the game, and UK is back up double digits. The entire blue clad crowd is up on their feet and yelling…this is Kentucky basketball. Tennessee has taken their frustration into being the thugs that they are, as Jasmine Jones threw A’dia Mathies to the ground in pursuit of a loose ball, and no foul was called. The crowd was irate, and to make matters worse Cierra Burdick walked around the court egging on the Wildcat fans in the stands. Despite the drama, Kentucky has taken a 45-35 lead.
HALFTIME KENTUCKY 36 TENNESSEE 32 A good and effective half of basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats that didn’t end too well. Their defense pressure bothered the Vols from the start, and confused UT into forcing 19 turnovers. It was a balanced scoring attack for UK as the home team was paced by nine points from O’Neill and eight from Stallworth and Goss. Tennessee was able to claw back into the game at the end of the half as UK went completely stagnant on offense and allowed the physical play of the Vols to bother them in the paint. The lady of honor A’dia Mathies was held to only three points in the first period of play, but look for her to explode in the second half. A disputed call as time expired led to a long delay and confusion, but Bishop was awarded the basket and a Walker somehow got to shoot free throws? It was weird but yeah…Go Cats.
1st Half 3:51: The Vols are not happy, and they’re letting it show. After turning it over (again) Simmons slammed the ball to the floor in frustration. Tennessee has gained a little momentum of late, as UK has failed to capitalize on some easy layups on offense…mistakes that the Cats don’t want to haunt them later on today. What a sight it is to see Memorial packed to the rafters for a women’s game. Coach Mitchell has done an incredible job building this program up to what it is today. Despite shooting only 33%, the Cats are winning 30-22.
1st Half 7:20: Tennessee looks completely out of sorts as UK has already forced the Vols into 14 turnovers. The Cats have taken advantage of the UT miscues and turned them into 13 points. Coach Warlick looks downright angry, stomping up and down the sideline with a complete look of frustration on her face. Goss, Stallworth, and O’Neill all have six points and pace Kentucky who looks very balanced offensively so far. Internet was down earlier so I wasn’t able to post about the senior day festivities, but it was a very warm welcome for Henderson and Mathies as they ran out on the court for the last time ever at Memorial. Not gonna lie, goosebumps happened. Kentucky winning 23-13. SEC Update: Georgia beat Vandy and LSU topped Texas A&M so now the only way UK can get that tournament two seed is to win. A loss and the Cats fall to the three seed.
1st Half 11:51: Sorry about the update delay, but the internet is finally cooperating. Kentucky is playing inspired basketball and feeding off of the electricity from the crowd. The Wildcats are hot from outside as both Bria Goss and Jenn O’Neill have already hit two 3-pointers, and UK is using it’s patented pressure defense to rush the Vols into some sloppy mistakes. Mitchell has already used 10 players from his lineup and these ladies look fresh, despite having played a game on Thursday night. The UT fans aren’t happy and neither is their coaching staff as Kentucky has raced off to an 18-8 lead.
BzzzZZZzZzZ: Here we gooooo…Memorial is packed to the brim and the crowd is rockin’. Former UK assistant coach Kyra Elzy now coaches at UT, so seeing her embrace with her former coworkers before the game started was a sweet and sentimental moment. Cats have to keep the press on early and often, and limit the SEC’s leading scorer Meighan Simmons from having a big afternoon. Vols win the tip and in case you forgot, orange is the ugliest color out there.
10 Minutes till Tip: The electricity around Memorial Coliseum today is truly something special. This game has been sold out for two weeks, and the fans are jacked up and ready to go. Tennessee has only lost one conference game all year in Coach Holly Warlick’s first season replacing the legend of Pat Summitt, and have dominated their competition. UK won a thriller at home last season against the Vols by one point on a Mathies last second shot, and if today’s game is anything like that…there will be an earthquake in Lexington. It’s actually really hard to cover today’s game, because choosing one story line to focus on is nearly impossible, and the excitement Hayley and I have about our departure for the SEC Tournament in Georgia on Friday is too much to handle. Warm up videos on, starting lineups announced, let’s do this.