A rather sparse, but spirited, crowd settles in just in time for tipoff (Dr. John Huang photo).
(COLUMBIA, Mo.) – I’m a glutton for punishment. After last night’s demoralizing loss by the UK men’s basketball team to the upstart Tigers from the Show-me State, I should have high-tailed it back to Lexington. Just think, I could have been home already, enjoying some Thursday Night Football on my comfortable basement couch with my trusty pooch nestled comfortably at my feet.
Instead, I decided to stay an extra day to catch the UK women’s basketball team take on their Missouri counterparts. It wasn’t quite the result I was looking for, but the Cats gave a resilient effort, fighting hard before falling 74 – 71 in an entertaining, much-closer-than-expected road contest.
“We didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Coach Kyra Elzy said afterwards. “We came here to win. I did think we competed. But at the end of the day, there are some things we need to clean up in order to be on the other side for victory.”
Alas, there are no moral victories. Kentucky drops to 8 – 5 on the year, 0 – 1 in the SEC. They were pounded again on the boards, outrebounded 41 – 27, outscored in the paint 32 – 18, and beaten 19 – 5 on second chance points. If they don’t develop more of an inside presence, it’s going to be a very long conference grind.
Offensively, Kentucky wasn’t horrible, hitting 40 percent from the field (24 – 60) and 38 percent (10 – 26) from behind the arc. The Wildcats put four scorers in double figures in this one. Robyn Benton led the team with 22, Jada Walker added 15, Blair Green had 13, and Maddie Scherr chipped in with 11.
Defensively, Kentucky forced 25 Missouri turnovers resulting in nearly half of their final point total.
Early on, the Cats jumped out to an uncharacteristic 17 – 5 lead, before going cold in the second quarter, relaxing defensively, and watching Missouri ease ahead to a 39 – 30 lead at the half.
I was excited to see Red Panda return for another halftime performance (she killed it at the men’s game last night). But even our heroes can have off nights, as I counted at least 3 drops by the unicycle riding, bowl kicking, head balancing superstar.
The second half had both teams making runs. Missouri would threaten to break the game open, only to see Kentucky battle back. Coach Elzy has emphasized resiliency all year, and her team didn’t disappoint. In fact, Kentucky had several chances to tie in the final thirty seconds, but just couldn’t execute the plays needed for the critical score.
“We have to be resilient,” Elzy reemphasized again. “We have to take away the good things we did tonight because we actually did some good things even though it didn’t turn out in our favor. I told [the team] it was not because of heart, it was not because of hustle. It was just some executional things down the stretch that cost us.”
Kentucky will get another chance to show continued improvement on a New Year’s Day matchup with the Arkansas Razorbacks in Memorial Coliseum.
After 48 hours and two tough losses in Columbia, Missouri, I can’t wait to get back to my old Kentucky home. I’m sure the team feels the same way.
Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669