In a tournament-like game featuring five lead changes and 10 ties, the 11th ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team held on to defeat the Ole Miss Rebels this afternoon 64-58. It was a homecoming for former Kentucky assistant Matt Insell, current coach of the Rebs, and his squad fell just short of their biggest win of the year. The Wildcats move to 13-2 on the year and 2-0 in the SEC.
“Sure was a great victory for us today. I can’t say enough about hard Ole Miss played and how prepared and aggressive they were. They had us back on our heels when we played on offense. We are still struggling to get off to good starts. We were able to get the victory, we aren’t playing a lot of players right now, so it’s a different feel and vibe for us. We found a way in a game that was really tough for us.” said Coach Mitchell.
The Cats once again had to come back from an early deficit in today’s game as they continue their trend of slow starts. “There are just moments in the game when they don’t sense how hard they need to play, and thank goodness they can turn it around quickly…You gotta do what you can do right now so we can win some games until we can smooth this one out a little bit and become a complete team,” said Mitchell.
Offensively, junior Janee Thompson led the way with 17 points, nine of which came from the free throw line, but the real MVP was sophomore Linnae Harper. Harper played 36 minutes and scored 12 points and career-high 14 rebounds for her third double-double of the season. “I love rebounding, I’ve always loved rebounding,” said Harper. She was flying all over the court and did a good job competing with all-SEC forward Tia Faleru who had a game high 21 for Ole Miss.
After Kentucky had fallen down by six points, Jennifer O’Neill hit the first 3-pointer of the game for the Cats to jump start them into the lead soon after. “When Jen O’Neill scores, that’s Kentucky’s energy. She’s an energy player with her scoring ability,” said Coach Insell. The game would go back and forth for the final minutes, but Ole Miss couldn’t make the plays at the end, after losing two players to foul trouble. “That hurt us a lot, that’s a big difference in the game.”
With seven teams receiving votes in the AP Poll, the SEC is arguably the toughest conference in the nation. No game is easy, and every win is monumental in deciding the champion of the league. With two wins over Alabama and Ole Miss to start the year, Kentucky is trying to stay on par with the SEC favorites South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas A&M as the year goes on.
Kentucky returns to action Thursday night at home as the Auburn Tigers come to town at 7, and Thursday will mark the final game for me as the UK Hoops beat writer for KSR. Join the fun and the tears, it’s sure to be a good one.