It really did look good, y’all. The no. 9 Cats stared the game strong like Matthew Mitchell has been wanting them to all season. They held no.2 South Carolina to just 8 points in the first period, the fewest points they’ve scored in a period all season and led 14-5, the largest deficit the Gamecocks have faced all season.
“We came out and punched them in the mouth really early so it kind of caught them off guard, you can tell by their reaction,” said junior guard Makayla Epps.
The first half was pretty. Guard play was phenomenal, outscoring a much bigger South Carolina team in the paint 24-14. Epps made early shots that thrusted the teams momentum, Janee Thompson, and Maci Morris all contributing as well.
While the bigs weren’t necessarily knocking down shots left and right, they did a great job defending again, a much bigger team. Alexis Jenning had five rebounds and Evelyn Akhator had four before going to the bench in foul trouble in the second period. The entire team out rebounded the Gamecocks 24-22.
And then half-time happened.
Kentucky started the second half up 32-28. Kentucky held a strong lead, getting up 47-40. And then with a little over three minutes left in the half, Evelyn Akhator send South Carolina to the line, where Khadijah Sessions went 1-2, allowing the Gamecocks to rebound the ball and hit a three that put the game at 47-44.
The Gamecocks eventually took the lead with 1:18 left to play in the third period at 49-48. Kentucky would regain the lead at 51-50, but only for a hot second before they lost it again.
After that, the Cats struggled to score for the rest of the game. They allowed South Carolina’s Wilson to score 26 points and grab 13 rebounds. Kentucky allowed the Gamecocks to use their size to come in with authority in the paint and run all over the Cats.
“It was very frustrating offensively in the second half. What we did on defense is that I think we lost focus in the post position and the guard position,” said a visibly frustrated Thompson.
At the end of it all, the Cats went 37.5% from field-goal range and 33% from behind the line. Thompson and Epps led the team with 16 a piece. And it all resulted in Kentucky’s first home loss of the season at 73-62.
However, the Cats do get a chance to turn in around on Sunday when they play Auburn at 1 on Sunday in Memorial Coliseum.