The Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team beat the Virginia Cavaliers 63-51 in Rupp Arena on a snowy Thursday night in Lexington.
Kentucky’s offense was inconsistent throughout the night, but the defense was a brick wall for 40 straight minutes, forcing the Cavaliers to 32 turnovers.
Kentucky shot a poor 23-69 from the field (33 percent) in the game, going 5-23 from three.
Senior Taylor Murray led the Wildcats with 12 points on 4-9 shooting and some excellent individual defense. Murray hit two free throws in the waning seconds of the game to become the 34th Kentucky player to reach the 1,000 point mark.
Both teams struggled to score in the first half. Kentucky could hardly buy a bucket, shooting 10-37 from the field in the first 20 minutes. The Wildcats didn’t hit their first three of the game until Tatyana Wyatt knocked one down with under two minutes remaining in the half. The team scored seven points in that span to take a 21-20 lead at the intermission.
Virginia struggled to score thanks to a Kentucky defense that was mostly impenetrable. The full-court press wasn’t as effective as it had been in the first two games of the season, but the halfcourt trap was executed to perfection.
Virginia shot 57 percent in the first half, but on only 14 attempts, and turned the ball over 18 times compared to only seven turnovers for Kentucky.
The height and speed of the Cavaliers allowed them to create space in the back half of the court and throw over top of the pressing Kentucky defense, but constant trapping near the halfcourt line made it nearly impossible for UVA to get any sort of rhythm. The double teams kept coming and Virginia played right into the hands of the defense.
The Wildcats held the Cavaliers to only eight points in the first quarter – although Kentucky was limited to eight points themselves.
Senior Maci Morris was 3-10 from the field in the first half and freshman star Rhyne Howard was 1-7.
In the second half, the pace picked up and so did the points.
Kentucky outscored Virginia 23-10 in the third quarter, forcing another six turnovers and pushing the ball in transition practically every time down the court.
Virginia’s tallest player – Felicia Aiyeotan, who, at six-foot-nine, was the tallest player in women’s college basketball last season – was double-teamed the second she touched the ball. If Virginia was fortunate enough to get the ball across halfcourt, they were constantly looking for Aiyeotan but could hardly find her thanks to terrific team defense. She was limited to eight points on the night.
After making only 10 shots in the entire first half, Kentucky hit nine shots in the third quarter alone, including 3-6 from three.
The first five minutes of the fourth quarter was much of the same as the fourth, as Kentucky continued to add to its double-digit lead. It wasn’t until UVA was able to go on a 7-0 run and later cut the lead to 10 with under two minutes remaining that the suspense in the game began to build a bit.
A couple of key forced turnovers, offensive rebounds, and clutch free throws down the stretch ultimately closed out the win for the Wildcats.
Kentucky is now 3-0 to start the season. They were impressive in their first two wins against inferior teams but proved they have a potentially elite defense against a Virginia team with NCAA Tournament expectations.
Head coach Matthew Mitchell was happy with their efforts, to say the least.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) November 16, 2018
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