Good afternoon Big Blue Nation! After a week in the Outerbanks surrounded by snooty Duke fans and UNC fans asking me what the road signs said, I am finally back to basketball and in Memorial Coliseum with my partner in crime, Austin, for today’s Hoops game against the seventh seeded Dayton Flyers.
The Cats steamrolled their first opponent of the tournament, Tennessee State, on Friday by 45 points. Now, Kentucky is looking to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for a school-record fourth straight season. Standing in their way is Dayton, who advanced Friday afternoon with a 78-66 win over the tenth seeded Iowa State. Dayton is 26-9 on the season and is led by Andrea Hoover in scoring (17.7 ppg), followed by senior Ally Malott with 15.3 ppg.
The game will tip at 2:30 and will be broadcasted on ESPN2. Follow along with Austin and I here for all the action.
FINAL, Dayton 99- Kentucky 94: The Cats managed to tie the game with under four minutes left, and after a media timeout took the lead with a pair of free throws by Linnae Harper, 83-81. A turnover by Dayton’s Kelley Austria definitely gave Memorial some air in their lungs, followed by a layup by Bria Goss to extend Kentucky’s lead to four. But, Jelleah Sidney fouled out at the 2:27 mark, giving Dayton the opportunity to tie the game. O’Neill gave Kentucky a two point lead shortly after, but a foul on Goss on the next possession once again gave Dayton the opportunity to steal the lead back, and a huge three pointer by UD’s Austria extended it to three. Flyer Jenna Burdette fouled out with only 53.5 seconds remaining, sending O’Neill to the foul line with the opportunity to cut it to two. But, A three from Amber Deane put the nail in Kentucky’s proverbial coffin and ends Kentucky’s season. UK’s championship dreams die in Memorial Coliseum, 99-94.
Second Half: 4:10: Austin: With just over eight left to play, Dayton’s leading scorer, averaging nearly 18 points per game, Andrea Hoover, fouled out with just 5 points. After Hoover went to the bench, Matthew Mitchell went with the four-guard lineup he likes to sometimes use, but Kentucky struggled and Dayton erased the eight-point second half lead to tie the game up at 73-all going into the media timeout. Following the timeout, Dayton was able to grab their first lead of the half, in large part due to hitting five straight field goals, to go along with Kentucky’s offense missing four of their last five. The Flyers have now hit nine three-pointers this afternoon (shooting 56 percent on shots coming from behind the arc), and are hitting a deep shot every time it looks like UK may extend a lead. The two-seed Kentucky trails Dayton, 81-80.
Second Half 9:40: J.C.: Back-to-back baskets by Makayla Epps set the ball rolling for the Cats coming out of the timeout and giving them the four point lead with 14:47 remaining. At the 13:50 mark, Dayton had made none of their last four shots. A big three pointer from Epps got Memorial rocking and Kentucky’s lead to six. In the last few minutes, Epps has went OFF- she already has thirteen points in this half alone. A three pointer by Ally Mallott for Dayton brought them to within three, forcing Coach Mitchell to call a timeout. After the timeout, Dayton brought it within two, but Linnae Harper, assisted by Epps, put it in to give the Cats the four point lead. Cats 68- UC 64.
Second Half: 15:50: Austin: Dayton has three starters in foul trouble now — Cornelie-Sigmundova and Andrea Hoover have picked up their third, and Jenna Burdette now has four. Fortunately for UK, Alexis Jennings is the only player in blue with more than two. Kentucky has continued to focus on forcing turnovers so far in the second half, making Dayton throw three of them in just the first couple of minutes out of the locker room. However, Dayton hitting five of their last seven shots, combined with Kentucky missing their last four, has led to the game being tied at 48-48 with just under 16 minutes remaining in the game.
HALFTIME: J.C.: In last few minutes of the half, Kentucky went 2 for 10 from the field, but managed to hold on to the lead with (what seemed like a ton) of foul shots. Jen O’Neill got the crowd going with a big and-one play with 24 seconds remaining to give Kentucky a three point lead going into the locker room. In the first half, Kentucky has forced twelve turnover on the Flyers, converting twelve points off of them. Dayton is shooing 50% from the field and 60% from the arc while holding UK to 39% and 33% respectively. Three of Kentucky’s post players have two fouls-definitely not a good thing with Azia Bishop out. Epps, Goss, and Sidney all have seven points and Jen O’Neill leads with 10. Linnae Harper leads all rebounders with seven. Cats lead, 45-42.
First Half: 4:24: Austin: After falling asleep on defense and giving up a wide-open layup, Jelleah Sidney comes down on the next offensive possession and drains a three from the top of the key with just over seven minutes remaining in the half. Sidney has had a quiet first half, and with Bishop out, she and Rice, who also has struggled today, need to keep looking for shots in order to UK to have a chance. Alexis Jennings has probably played the best out of UK’s thin frontline this afternoon, but she’s currently sitting on the bench with two fouls. The Flyers have three players with two fouls each. Makayla Epps looks healthy today, and is doing a great job leading the offense, with 7 points and 2 assists. One of the staples of the Wildcats’ success all season has been the turnover margin, where they rank near the top in the nation, and today they’re continuing that trend by forcing eleven compared to their four. Just before the final media timeout, Kentucky was able to pick up a quick four points from Sidney in a matter of seconds, thanks to a Dayton turnover during an attempted in-bound play underneath the Kentucky goal.
First Half 9:24: J.C.: A big steal by Jelleah Sidney followed by a layup by Bria Goss out of the first media timeout gave Kentucky a little bit of energy to start cutting into the Flyers’ lead. A big and-one play by Alyssa Rice cut it to three with 14:31 left to play. But, the Cats are going to have to start defending the three, Dayton is shooting lights out, going 5-7 from the arc. After Dayton gave up 3 turnovers in a minute and half, Kentucky was able to go on an 8-0 run and cut the Flyers’ lead to 1. A big three pointer by Makayla Epps tied the game at 22 a-piece and gave the Cats an opportunity to take the lead, which they did with a jumper by Jen O’Neill. Right now, Kentucky leads by 2, 24-22.
First Half: 15:53: Austin: Alyssa Rice got the start in place of the suspended Azia Bishop. Jennifer O’Neill, despite being voted as the most important bench player in the SEC, joined Rice in the starting lineup, and made a long two-point field goal right out of the gate to get the Cats on the board first. After the make by O’Neill, Kentucky went on to miss their next seven shots (1 of last 10), allowing for Dayton to grab an early lead. Ally Malott, the Flyers’ second leading scorer this season, has been aggressive early, already scoring six points. Kentucky has struggled to get their offense rolling so far, and Dayton leads at the first media timeout, 11-6.
10 minutes until Tip: J.C.: The biggest news right now is that Azia Bishop will not be playing in today’s game due to a one-game suspension for “not upholding team standards.” It must have literally just happened, because they listed her in the starting lineup on the prep sheet I got an hour ago. She still warmed up with the team and is dressed, so consider me confused. In other news the Dayton band is incredible. The slogan on their band director’s shirt says ‘Go Crazy or Go Home’ and that pretty much sums them up. Not only do they play their instruments, but their rap game is also on point. There’s also a dance routine they practiced while they were rapping. No offense, UK band, but y’all need to step your game up.