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Lexington, KY 1-26-23

Thursday nights matchup versus the Auburn Tigers (11-8, 1-6 SEC) was one of the best remaining opportunities for the ‘Cats to get a home SEC win left on the schedule. When it was all said-and-done, the ‘Cats fell for the 7th time in their last 8 SEC games to fall to 1-7 in SEC play on the year. It was a game the ‘Cats had plenty of chances to win down the stretch, but lack of focus and execution proved too much for the ‘Cats to overcome. Auburn entered the game coming off their first win in SEC play this season, a 77-76 win in OT versus Ole Miss last Sunday afternoon. The Tigers were ranked No. 82 in the latest NET rankings. The Tigers offense is led by Aicha Coulibaly (17.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.1 APG), Honesty Scott-Grayson (14.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.2 APG) and Sydney Shaw (8.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3 APG). Kentucky entered Thursday nights game with a 9-10 record on the year and just 1-6 in SEC play. The ‘Cats were coming off a close loss to Mississippi State last Sunday in Starkville, falling 77-76. Benton (24 points), Walker (22 points), and Scherr (16 points) combined for 62 of those 76 points in that game. The ‘Cats checked in ranked No. 91 in the latest NET rankings. The ‘Cats offense is again led by Robyn Benton (17.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.4 APG), Jada Walker (13.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.3 APG), and Maddie Scherr (10.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.9 APG). The keys to the game for the ‘Cats against the Tigers were to limit their turnovers, convert scoring opportunities (27.4% from three this season), continue to display good guard play (Benton, Walker, Scherr), have a fast start offensively, and prevent a “cold” scoring quarter that has plagued the team this season.

The starting lineup featured Walker, Benton, Scherr, Green, and Leveretter.

Game Recap:

The game scoring started with the ‘Cats executing a perfect backdoor cut where Green found Benton for an easy layup for the first points of the game. The Tigers scored their first three points via a free-throw and layup that brought the score to 4-3 Kentucky with 6:30 left in the first quarter. The ‘Cats offense to start the game featured a lot of good ball movement and open looks. The ‘Cats took a 10-8 lead into the media timeout. After an Auburn layup tied the game at 10, Benton hit 1 of 2 free-throws to put the ‘Cats back in front by 1. King came off the bench to hit the ‘Cats first three of the game that brought the score to 14-10 Kentucky with 1:30 left in the quarter. Benton hit a mid-range jumper to push the score to 16-10 Kentucky. After that ‘Cats 6-0 run, the Tigers went on a quick 5-0 run that brought the score to 16-15 before Scherr hit a long jumper just before the buzzer to push the score to 18-15 ‘Cats at the end of the first quarter. It was one of the best starts of the year for the ‘Cats. Benton led the ‘Cats offense with 7 first quarter points. The ‘Cats did, however, commit 6 first quarter turnovers, continuing their season trend.

The ‘Cats started the second quarter scoring with a Benton floater down the lane. However, the Tigers quickly took a 21-20 lead thanks to a 6-0 run. Kentucky started the quarter with 5 turnovers in the first 3-minutes, bringing their game total to 11. That 6-0 Auburn run turned into an 11-0 run before Walker ended the ‘Cats 4-minute scoring drought with two free-throws that brought the score to 26-22 Auburn. Walker responded to another Auburn score with a nifty layup, followed by a transition three from Green that pushed the score to 28-27 Tigers with 3:56 remaining in the half. The ‘Cats retook the lead with layups from Walker and Adeyeye that brought the score to 31-30 Kentucky. Adeyeye again scored via an assist from Scherr that tied the game at 33. After trading baskets for the last few possessions, Auburn ended the first half scoring with a three-pointer that gave them a 38-35 lead heading into the half. The Tigers scored 21 points off 12 first half turnovers by Kentucky. Kentucky shot an efficient 50% from the field in the half while going 2 for 7 from beyond the arc. Benton led the offensive charge for the ‘Cats in the first half with 9 points while Scherr, Walker, and Adeyeye all mixed in 6 points. Coulibaly led the Tigers in first half scoring with 10 points.

The second half scoring started with a mid-range jumper by the Tigers that brought the score to 40-35 Auburn. The ‘Cats first points of the half came in the form of a driving and shifty layup by Walker. Scherr hit her first three of the game to push the score to 44-40 Tigers. Scherr drove down the lane for an and-one opportunity after a tough layup. After the converted free-throw, the ‘Cats were back within 1 by a score of 44-43. The ‘Cats (and the refs) got foul happy in the third quarter, with Kentucky committing 5 fouls in the first 3:30-minutes of action. After a 6-0 ‘Cats run, Kentucky’s offense quickly went cold for a stretch in the third. The score at the media timeout was 48-43 Auburn with 5-minutes to play in the quarter. A 9-0 Tigers run over the course of 2:30-minutes pushed the Tigers lead to 10 at 53-43. A 5-minute ‘Cats scoring drought was finally ended via a Leveretter free-throw that brought the score to 55-44 Auburn. Benton hit two free-throws to end the third quarter scoring and left the ‘Cats down 9 by a score of 59-50. The ‘Cats ended the third quarter hitting just 1 of their last 9 FG attempts and were outscored 21-15 in the quarter.

The fourth quarter scoring began with an Auburn layup after a missed Kentucky three off a steal. The ‘Cats responded with a Scherr jumper on their next trip down the floor that brought the score to 61-52 Auburn. Adeyeye provided a spark off the bench for the ‘Cats throughout the game, but especially during a critical stretch in the fourth. She offered an intensity and physicality on the boards and through screens that no other forward for the ‘Cats provided during Thursdays matchup. Benton hit a three to push the ‘Cats within 6 by a score of 61-55. An Adeyeye steal led to two Walker free-throws that left the score at 61-57 Tigers. The ‘Cats defense held Auburn without an FG for over a 3-minute stretch in the fourth. The Kentucky defense helped the ‘Cats narrow the lead to 3 at 62-59 with 5:50 left to play. The Auburn FG drought was ended with a driving layup that pushed the score to 64-60 Auburn. Scherr hit a mid-range jumper to bring the ‘Cats back within 2, 66-64 with 3:30 to play. Cambridge missed two free-throws that would have tied the game with 2-minutes to play. A Walker steal and and-one scoring opportunity brought the score to 68-66 after the missed free-throw with 1-minute remaining in the game. Two Walker free-throws with 40-seconds remaining brought the ‘Cats back within 2, 70-68. An Auburn turnover occurred with 15.5-seconds to play due to a careless pass while the ‘Cats were playing off the ball with time trickling away. The ‘Cats couldn’t get a clean shot attempt and a scramble for the loose ball ended with a jump ball that gave the possession to the Tigers with 1.8-seconds left in the game. The final score was 71-68 Auburn.

The Tigers shot 46% from the field and 29% from three (2 for 7). Kentucky shot just 42% from the field and 25% from three on 4 of 16 shooting behind the arc. The ‘Cats won the rebounding battle by a count of 36-30. The ‘Cats continued to turn the ball over throughout the game, finishing with a total of 20. Auburn committed 16 turnovers in the game. Coulibaly led the Tigers offensive charge with 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists. Benton led the ‘Cats in scoring with 19 points (3 rebounds). The do-it-all Scherr had a full stat-line of 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals in the game. Walker also scored in double figures with 14 points (3 rebounds). Leveretter led the ‘Cats in rebounding with 11 boards. Walker led Kentucky in plus/minus total for the game with a +9 in 28 minutes. Also of note, Adeyeye checked in second on the team with a +7 in just 16 minutes of action (fouled out).

The ‘Cats (9-11, 1-7 SEC) return to Memorial Coliseum for another opportunity to get back on track this Sunday, January 29 for a matchup versus the Missouri Tigers (14-7, 3-5 SEC). Tipoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

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