By: Tyrus York – The #3 seeded UK Hoops team accomplished something Monday night that was a first for the program. By defeating #6 seed Syracuse 64-59, they advanced to their 3rd straight Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
The win did not come easy for the Cats, especially after their near 50 point romp over Wright State on Saturday. The offense slowed to a near halt Monday night, shooting only 36.2% behind 21-58 shooting.
The good news was that the Kentucky defense stepped up and limited Syracuse to only 33.3% from the field. The Wildcats also forced Syracuse into 23 turnovers which included 15 steals.
The Orange presented a different matchup for the Cats with more size down low than Kentucky seemed to be ready for. Many of their misses came from inside the paint on missed layups. Syracuse was also able to out rebound the Cats 41-38.
Despite the size of Syracuse, Kentucky’s DeNesha Stallworth was very effective, going for 13 points and 6 rebounds. She gave the Wildcats consistency down low while the other post players struggled offensively.
Samarie Walker was one of those players that struggled, scoring only 1 point, but she made her presence known on the glass grabbing 7 rebounds.
Bria Goss was the leading scorer for the Cats with 17 points as she overcame a 3-7 shooting performance by knocking down 11-12 from the free throw line. Most of those free throws were down the stretch to put the game away for Kentucky.
Senior Kastine Evans provided a much needed lift on the otherwise cold shooting night for the Cats hitting 3-4 from the three point line.
Syracuse was without their leading scorer in Brittany Sykes as she went down with a knee injury in the first round on Saturday. That no doubt limited the Orange, but players like Brianna Butler (15 pts), Briana Day (13 pts), and Alexis Peterson (12 pts) all stepped up to keep the game close.
Kentucky will play Baylor in the Sweet 16 in what will be a rematch of one of the most epic games in women’s basketball history. The two teams met on December 6 in a 4 overtime game that ended up being a 133-130 Kentucky win.
That game is scheduled to tip off Saturday at noon in South Bend, Indiana in the Notre Dame region.