Talk about deja vu! The 8-1 UK Hoops came back from a 16 point deficit at the YUM! Center in Louisville to defeat the Dirty Birds 77-68, handing the Birds their first loss of the season (8-1). Before today’s game, Kentucky was ranked 13th, but after knocking off the number 7 Cardinals, we’re going to be moving on up! L YEAH!!!! Lead by junior Janee Thompson with 19 points and five rebounds, the Cats have now beat the Cards 4 years in a row. So, #L1C0and4. After falling down by 16 at the 6:44 mark in the first half, Kentucky was able to go into the locker room and make some adjustments at halftime that changed the outcome of the game. Let’s take a closer look at the things that the Wildcats did that brought this team back from the grave.
Offensively, the first half was a wreck. Jennifer O’Neill had the most points with nine, while Bria Goss had seven and Makayla Epps had six. Apart from those three, the next leading scorer had three. To be successful, this team has to have multiple players scoring almost equally as high numbers, so only having three people contributing was very disheartening. The post players were virtually nonexistent. Going into halftime, between our four post players, they had a combined total two points. TWO! After the halftime attitude adjustment, we can only assume that offense was a huge topic of discussion. Janee Thompson said that they came out “a lot more aggressive” and started things on the defensive end, which got the offense started as well. She scored 16 points in the second half alone, while Linnae Harper also jumped out of the crowd and scored 10 points in the second half. The game concluded with five players scoring in double figures, all five being guards.
Defensively, the first half was complete rubbish. Louisville out-rebounded the Cats 26-17. Louisville had 10 second chance points to Kentucky’s two. The Wildcats started this game completely flat-footed, and looked like they just really did not care. Watching this team struggle for a full 20 minutes to even pretend like they were giving Louisville a tough road was hard for us. Luckily, Coach Mitchell knocked some heads together and was able to convince these ladies to get their hearts back in the game. Kentucky may have gotten out-rebounded by 12 for the whole game, but in the second half, we were only worked over on the boards by 3. With our post players virtually not existing, I can be completely content with those numbers.
Let’s talk Janee Thompson. Some of you who follow this team closely will remember that she was the freshman who hit the buzzer beater two years ago to give Kentucky the victory. Well, once again, she was absolutely crucial in the Wildcat’s success. She scored 16 points in the second half, propelling the Wildcats over the Cardinals. Thompson had four steals, went 8-10 from the free throw line, and shot 50% from the field. She also hit a three to tie the game with a 2:45 left in the game, giving the Cats the energy to push past. Thompson does a great job of playing a tough and clutch game on the road, but especially so in the YUM! Center.
Today’s game was very high in fouls. Kentucky had two post players foul out with plenty of time left in the game. Jennifer O’Neill and Alyssa Rice both had four fouls at the final buzzer, and Bria Goss and Linnae Harper had three. We can more than likely contribute these foul problems to our inexperience in the post, as fouling was usually our last resort in stopping drives to the basket. Kentucky was not alone in their physicality though. Louisville had one player foul out and had three others end the game with four fouls. It really was a vicious and hard fought win for the Cats, and we’re lucky we all walked away without broken bones or in need of stitches.
Finally, Jeff Walz, the Louisville head coach, is a Jerkasaurus. In the post game press conference, Walz took several jabs at the Wildcats, and even said a few things about his team that made me rather unhappy. He started off by saying that he “plays three freshman,” implying that there should not be too much expected of them on the court. Hi Jeff Walz, we actually also play two true freshmen on the blocks, start one if you count Kyvin Goodin-Rodgers, who took a medical redshirt last year. There’s no excuse for you there. Next, he moved onto his next excuse, saying that “our guard depth is not where it needs to be at this point in time.” Well, you’re a coach. Do something about it. Coach Walz loves to turn my questions for him into rants, and did so when I asked him what he said to his team after the game. Rather than say anything related to my question, he took off on a rant about how “It’s one game” and continued to say the following: “What do you want me to do? Throw in the towel and quit? Three out of the four years we’ve advanced further in the tournament.” OK Coach Walz, but what did you say to your team? I’m still wondering…
Coach Mitchell was, of course, nothing but classy when Walz’s remarks were brought to attention. He answered that Louisville was a great program and that they were well coached, and that he was “happy to win today.” Mitchell, always keeping it clean and taking the high road.
The Hoop’s next game will be on Friday night at 9PM, where they will be taking on MTSU, aka EX-Assistant Coach Shalon Pillow. Until then, never, EVER, stop hating Louisville.