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Lexington, KY 2-16-23
The ‘Cats (10-14, 2-10 SEC) entered Thursday nights matchup versus Georgia having dropped 3 consecutive conference games and 5 of their last 6 with their sole win coming at home to Missouri (77-54). On the other side of the court, Georgia (17-9, 6-6 SEC) arrived in Lexington winners of their last 2 conference games and 4 of their last 5, with their only loss coming at LSU (82-77). The Bulldogs were ranked No. 43 in the latest NET rankings while the ‘Cats checked in at No. 81. Diamond Battles (14.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.0 APG), Brittney Smith (12.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG), and Javyn Nicholson (9.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG) have led Georgia’s offense this season. Before the game Kentucky announced that the two focal points of their offense this season and primary guards Maddie Scherr and Robyn Benton were out for Thursdays game. Scherr (Illness) has been the motor for the ‘Cats and their offense this year, accumulating averages of 10.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 4.5 APG this season while shooting the best percentage from beyond the arc at 33%. Benton (Ankle) has been the primary offensive weapon for the ‘Cats as she leads Kentucky in scoring on the year with 17.1 PPG while adding 2.5 RPG and 2.1 APG this season. With those two stalwarts out, the ‘Cats would look towards Jada Walker (13.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.5 SPG) and Blair Green (8.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG) to lead their offensive attack. Some keys to the game for Kentucky were bench play with two starters out, limiting turnovers on the offensive end and creating takeaways on the defensive end, three-point shooting, rebounding, preventing a “cold” quarter and getting off to a quick start.
With Scherr and Benton out, the ‘Cats starting lineup featured Walker. Cambridge, Green, Adeyeye, and Leveretter.
Battles pulled up for a mid-range jumper to tally the first points of the game and put the Bulldogs up 2-0. Walker responded for the ‘Cats with a deep three for the first Kentucky score of the game. Leveretter had consecutive aggressive takes to the basket, resulting in a layup the first trip and 2 free-throws on the second. An Adeyeye angled layup put the ‘Cats in front 7-4. The score at the media timeout was 7-6 Kentucky with 4:01 to play in the first quarter. Russell was the first player off the bench for the shorthanded ‘Cats. Crisp ball movement from the ‘Cats opened up Green for a corner three to push the ‘Cats lead to 11-8. Freshman Cassidy Rowe, who has played sparingly this season, checked in for the ‘Cats with a minute to play in the first quarter. The Bulldogs took the lead by a score of 13-11 with the help of a 5-0 run to finish the quarter. The ‘Cats shot just 27% from the field in the quarter but did collect 12 first quarter rebounds (Georgia with just 6). Green led the ‘Cats with 4 first quarter points and 3 assists.
The second quarter scoring began with an Adeyeye free-throw that brought the score to 13-12 Georgia. Green and Adeyeye both picked up their second fouls early in the second quarter. The ‘Cats also turned the ball over on 3 consecutive possessions during the opening stretch of the quarter, after just 4 turnovers in the entire first quarter. Petty scored for the ‘Cats to push them back in front by a score of 14-13 with 6:30-minutes to play in the half. The ‘Cats led 16-15 with 4:40 to play in the half at the media timeout following another Petty score. Kentucky endured over a 4-minute scoring drought midway through the quarter as Georgia took a 19-16 lead with 1:25-minutes to play in the half. Georgia finished the quarter on a 6-0 run, while the ‘Cats lengthened their scoring drought to 5:17-minutes to end the half. Georgia led 21-16 at the break. The teams combined for just 13 total points in the second quarter (Georgia scored 8 points, Kentucky scored 5 points). The ‘Cats doubled their turnovers with 8 in the quarter, bringing their first half turnover total to 12. The ‘Cats shot just 26% from the field in the half. Petty and Green “led” the ‘Cats in first half scoring with 4-points apiece. Cambridge crashed the boards for the ‘Cats in the half, collecting a game-high 6 rebounds in the half.
The Bulldogs began the second half scoring with a layup. The ‘Cats responded with a Green three-pointer to narrow the deficit to 23-19 Georgia. The third quarter continued to feature deficient offenses from both teams, with Georgia beginning the quarter shooting 2-9 (22%) FGs and the ‘Cats just 2-6 (33%) on FGs. The score was 26-21 Georgia with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter and the ‘Cats on a 2-minute scoring drought. Georgia stretched their lead to 35-21 as they logged an 11-0 run over a 3-minute stretch. The ‘Cats endured yet another scoring drought that lasted over 5-minutes throughout the middle of the third quarter. That drought finally ended on 2 free-throws from Adeyeye that brought the score to 35-23 with 1:30-minutes to play in the quarter. The score at the end of the third quarter sat at 38-23 Bulldogs. The ‘Cats finished the quarter with 0 FGs in the final 7-minutes, while shooting just 18% from the field.
The fourth quarter scoring began with the first ‘Cats field goal in over 8-minutes of game action in the form of a Walker layup that brought the Bulldogs lead down to 38-25. After two Adeyeye free-throws, the ‘Cats found Green for another three that narrowed the deficit to 10 at 40-30 Georgia with 7:37-minutes to play. Adeyeye gathered an offensive board and scored the putback to bring the ‘Cats within 8 with 6:04 to play. The ‘Cats comeback was propelled by a 7-0 run over the course of 2-minutes. Walker drove to the basket and was rewarded with a free-throw opportunity where she made 1-2 to bring the score to 40-33 with 4:48 left in the game. The ‘Cats extended their scoring run to 10-0 in a 4-minute span with a Jenkins mid-range jumper for her first points of the game. Jenkins fought for an offensive rebound and hit 1-2 at the line after a foul. Georgia converted a layup that ended a 5-minute scoring drought of their own and brought the score to 42-36 Bulldogs with 3:16 to play. Walker fouled out on an offensive charge call with 3-minutes left to play, Rowe replaced her for the ‘Cats. Adeyeye converted a layup that brought the score to 42-38 Georgia. An easy driving layup by the Bulldogs pushed Georgia back in front by 6, 44-38, with 54-seconds to play. Green hit a mid-range jumper that brought the ’Cats back within 4, 44-40 with 34-seconds remaining. After two Georgia free-throws, the ‘Cats turned the ball over, resulting in two more Bulldogs free-throws. The final score was 50-40 Georgia, as the Bulldogs overcame a strong late run by the shorthanded ‘Cats.
The offense in this game left a lot to be desired for both teams. Georgia shot 34% from the field and 29% from 3PT (2-7). The ‘Cats mustered just 28% from the field and also shot 29% from 3PT (4-14). Kentucky dominated the boards by a count of 43-30. Turnovers again came back to haunt the ‘Cats as they committed 22 in the game that led to 15 points for the Bulldogs. The Kentucky defense created just 12 Georgia turnovers to combat the lack of ball protection on the offensive side. Green was the best offensive player for the ‘Cats on Thursday night, posting 12-points and 3-assists while shooting 3-8 from 3PT. Adeyeye followed up with a double-double, collecting 11-points and 10-rebounds in 22-minutes of action. Walker led the ‘Cats in plus/minus total with a solid +7 in 32-minutes. A key positive takeaway from this game for the ‘Cats was the collective team effort on the boards, arguably the strongest rebounding performance of the year as a team. Five players recorded 4 or more rebounds for Kentucky. The lack of a scoring presence in the post continues to make things difficult for the ‘Cats on the offensive end with teams hanging around the perimeter throughout each possession. With Scherr and Benton out, the ’Cats recorded their lowest scoring total of the season, highlighting the importance of each player and their respective roles within the team this season. Still, the ‘Cats had their chances to win this game, but the lack of personnel and scoring ability proved to be too much to overcome Thursday night versus the Bulldogs.
The ‘Cats (10-15, 2-11 SEC) will make a trip to Nashville for their next matchup versus the Vanderbilt Commadores (11-16, 2-11 SEC) on Sunday, February 19. The game is scheduled to tip off at 3:00 p.m. The game will be televised on SECN+.