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Stand up and pat yourself on the back if a month ago you envisioned this Kentucky women’s basketball team winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time in 40 years.

Did I? Absolutely not. Rather than a 10-game win streak like coach Kyra Elzy’s team is on now, I thought UK might end the season losing game after game.

Instead, Kentucky did the impossible. It won six straight games to end regular season play and then knocked off No. 2 seed LSU, No. 3 seed Tennessee and No. 1 seed South Carolina — who just happens also to be the nation’s No. 1 team — to win the tourney title in Nashville 64-62 Sunday on Dre Edwards’ 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left.

The Cats (19-11) closed the game on a 11-0 run and outscored South Carolina, a bigger and more physical team, 14-2 the final 5 1/2 minutes despite playing four games in less than 72 hours.

“I’m sure they were sore, but what I kept pumping in their heads, we have enough. We’ve played four games in eight days twice this year. We’ve played with six people. We have enough, and it’s going to be mentally taxing, but that’s why you practice,” an emotional Elzy said after the win.

“That’s why you’ve been to the weight training room, the extra suicides, all for this moment, and they’re not worried about feeling sore right now.”

The team certainly had no pain during the confetti celebration and smiles — and tears — were everywhere.

But how did a team that looked like it had no prayer at making the NCAA Tournament a month ago overcome a 15-point deficit in the second half against the team most expect to win the national title?

“I just kept telling my team it ain’t over, it ain’t over. We kept propping each other up and they kept propping me up and they kept telling me, can’t nobody guard you, go out there and score. And I had to do it for my team,” Edwards, who had 19 of her 27 points in the second half, said.

She was 11 of 21 from the field and had three 3-pointers. She also had nine rebounds, one assist and one block against the bigger Gamecocks.

All-American Rhyne Howard, the focus of South Carolina’s defense, also came up big when it counted most and finished with 18 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.

Howard said watching Edwards drain the game-winning shot was surreal.

“You know in the movies when they take the game winner and everyone is like — that was me. I was like — and it went in, I don’t even know what I saw. Everybody was just jumping around. They didn’t even — I don’t know why they didn’t throw the ball in because we were not set, but it was one of those moments, like picture perfect,” Howard said.

It was a star-filled crowd that included men’s basketball coach John Calipari and his wife, UK president Dr. Eli Capilouto and athletics director Mitch Barnhart.

“They’re never going to walk away from you. They’re always going to support you whatever the case may be, and that is exactly what they did today,” Howard said.  “Dr. Capilouto being here is just extra motivation for us. They don’t come to a lot of our tournaments and stuff, so we knew we had to thug it out and pull it out and get the win.”

Elzy watched her team celebrate knowing it secured a big to the NCAA Tournament and went from not being in the field to being a possible bubble team to being one of the last teams in to now where it could be a No. 8 seed. No wonder she could not even think about being the first team to beat the top three seeds in a single SEC Tournament.

She also now is that rare person to have won a SEC Tournament as a player (at Tennessee) and coach.

“It really has not sunk in, but it is truly an honor to be the head coach at Kentucky,”Elzy said.  “Now I can say I’ve won it as a student-athlete, I’ve won it as an assistant coach, and now winning it as a head coach, and to be your first, this will be a memory that I will never forget.”

Neither will Kentucky fans because no one saw this coming, especially in such a dramatic comeback win over the nation’s No. 1 team.

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as, and Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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