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Lexington, KY 12-16-22 Graham Shepherd
Following a disappointing loss to Louisville at Rupp Arena last Sunday afternoon, the Kentucky WBB team fell again Friday night to another in-state school in Murray State by a score of 51-44. The Racers entered the game with a 5-2 record on the season, with their only other Power 5 matchup coming in the form of a 29-point loss to Purdue. The ‘Cats came into the game with a 7-2 record on the season with their two losses coming from Virginia Tech (82-74) and Louisville (86-72). The ‘Cats schedule features 3 games in a span of just 6 days, with Murray State being the first game followed by Florida Gulf Coast University on Sunday (December 18) and Ohio next Wednesday (December 21). The Racers offense this season has been led by Young (20.6 PPG) and Turley (13.6 PPG), while the ‘Cats offense primarily features Benton (15.3 PPG) and Walker (14.0 PPG). Some keys things to look for and improve upon in the game for the ‘Cats was the turnover game (‘Cats average 16.8 TO per game), three-point shooting, and a consistent post presence on the block.
The starting lineup for the ‘Cats featured Benton, Walker, Scherr, Green, and Leveretter.
After both teams started the game scoreless for the first 2-minutes of action, Walker drove and angled a layup in to give the ‘Cats the first score of the game and a early 2-0 lead. Petty was the first ‘Cat to be subbed into the game after a slow start on the offensive end for the ‘Cats offense, a sign of things to come. A 9-0 Racers run after the ‘Cats scored the first points of the game gave Murray State a 9-2 lead at the media timeout in the first quarter. Kentucky started their night shooting 1 of 9 from the field (0-3 from three-point range). A steal and transition layup by Walker ended the ‘Cats scoring drought after the timeout. It was a first quarter of scoring droughts for the ‘Cats, as they ended the quarter how they started, this time with a 3-minute drought to close the quarter. The ‘Cats shot just 23% from the field in the quarter and coupled that poor shooting display with 7 first quarter turnovers. The score saw Murray State lead 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter started with a Scherr three-pointer from the top of the key, quickly followed by a Racers turnover that the ‘Cats failed to convert to points. Cambridge, who is seeing an increase in minutes each game, found Petty trailing in transition to bring the score to 16-14 Murray State with 7:30 left in the first half. The ‘Cats defense turned up a notch midway through the second, leaving the Racers with no field goals throughout a 3-minute stretch. After consecutive offensive boards by the ‘Cats, Scherr found the ball and the open shooter in Benton who nailed a corner three to bring the score to 18-17 Racers. The score at the media timeout in the second quarter was 22-19 Murray State. The ‘Cats again finished the quarter on over a 2-minute scoring drought. The halftime score was 25-20 Racers. The ‘Cats shot just 29% from the field in the first half (25% from three-point range). The ‘Cats also committed 9 first half turnovers. Scherr and Petty led the way for the ‘Cats in first half scoring with 5 points apiece, with Petty also mixing in 5 first half rebounds.
The second half started with a Kentucky turnover that was followed by a Racers three-pointer to give Murray State a 28-20 lead. Some better ball movement on the offensive end for the ‘Cats left Green with an open layup to bring the score to 30-24 with 8:30 remaining in the third quarter. At the media timeout, the score was 32-26 Racers. Another Murray State three-pointer grew the lead to 35-26 with 4:29 left to play in the third. The ‘Cats continued their cold shooting night in the third quarter, again shooting just 29% from the field and scoring just 8 third quarter points as a team. The Racers, however, did even worse offensively in the quarter, shooting 25% from the field but garnering 10 points in the quarter to push their lead to 35-28.
The fourth quarter started with urgency on the ‘Cats side, with Petty hitting an easy layup. The Racers quickly responded with a layup of their own to bring the score to 37-30 Murray State. Freshman Saniah Tyler checked into the game with a little over 6-minutes left to play in the game as Coach Elzy looked for a spark off the bench with the ‘Cats trailing 40-32. At the media timeout, the score saw the Racers take a 42-34 lead with 4:57 remaining. The ‘Cats and Racers traded buckets for a few possessions as the score slightly shrunk to 5 with the Racers leading 45-40 with just 2:48 to play. A misfired three from Scherr left the ’Cats down 48-40 with 58-seconds remaining after a foul. A 2-minute ‘Cats scoring drought in crunch time was broken by a Benton mid-range jumper that brought the score to 48-42 with 27-seconds left in the game. The Racers hit the important free-throws down the stretch (7-10 on FTs in the 4th) and upset the ‘Cats 51-44 at Memorial Coliseum.
Both teams finished shooting a dismal 33% from the field, with the Racers shooting 50% from three and the ‘Cats just 12% from beyond the arc. The Racers outrebounded the ‘Cats 42-35 (14-11 Off Reb). The ‘Cats committed 16 turnovers in the game (7 by Walker). Hughes and Young led the Racers in scoring on Friday night with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Benton led the ‘Cats in scoring with 15 points (10 in the 4th Quarter). Petty added in 11 points and 9 rebounds for Kentucky in 21-minutes of action. Cambridge was the plus/minus leader for the ‘Cats in the game, posting a +1 in 17-minutes. Cambridge also shared the lead for assists for the ‘Cats with 3 (Scherr also collected 3 assists).
The ‘Cats have a quick turnaround this weekend following their second straight loss as they are set to face the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Sunday, December 18 at 1:00 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum. The game will be available on SEC+.