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Lexington, KY 2-26-23
The ‘Cats (10-18, 2-14 SEC) fell to Tennessee (21-10, 13-3 SEC) in their final home game of the season by a score of 83-63. The game also served as the final home women’s basketball game at Memorial Coliseum before it is remodeled, with construction planning to begin this spring. It was also Senior Day at Memorial on Sunday afternoon, as Robyn Benton, Adebola Adeyeye, and Blair Green were honored along with team managers, dance team, and band members. With all of those festivities occurring on the same afternoon, it was the best home crowd of the season at Memorial. Big Blue Nation rarely got a chance to get rowdy, however, as Tennessee jumped out to a quick 17-2 lead before some fans even made it to their seats. The Volunteers never relinquished their early lead as they led from tipoff to the final buzzer. Entering Sunday’s game, Tennessee had won 3 of their last 4 games with their sole loss coming versus No. 1 South Carolina (73-60). The Volunteers would finish their season 3rd in the SEC with a record of 13-3 after their win over the ‘Cats. Rickea Jackson (18.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG), Jordan Horston (15.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG,3.2 APG), and Tess Darby (7.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 41% 3PT) have led the Volunteers offensive charge this season. As for the ‘Cats, they had lost 6 consecutive games prior to Sunday’s loss, with their last win coming against Missouri (77-54) on January 29. The ‘Cats finish their season ranked 14th in the SEC with a record of 2-14 in conference play after entering the season as defending SEC tournament champions. Robyn Benton (16.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.2 APG), Jada Walker (12.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.4 SPG), and Maddie Scherr (10.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.4 APG, 2.2 SPG) led the ‘Cats three-guard offensive attack this season, with Senior Blair Green (8.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 28% 3PT) mixing in as well. Nyah Leveretter was out for the game with a torn ACL that she suffered in a loss to Vanderbilt last Sunday. Some keys to the game for the ‘Cats included getting off to a fast start (began the game down 17-2), limiting turnovers (17.4 per game this season), 3PT shooting (29% 3PT this season), crashing the boards (UT avg. 43RPG, UK avg. 34 RPG), and avoiding a “cold” quarter on offense.
The Senior Day starting lineup for the ‘Cats featured Benton, Walker, Scherr, Green, and Adeyeye.
The first score of the game came in the form of a Tennessee layup that rolled in to give the Volunteers an early 2-0 lead. Striplin and the Volunteers started the game on a 7-0 run, with Striplin scoring all 7 of Tennessee’s points. Coming out of a Kentucky timeout, Tennessee implemented a full-court press which turned Kentucky over on consecutive possessions, leading to two more layups. Kentucky finally scored via a Scherr layup to end a 13-0 Tennessee run to begin the game. After that score, Tennessee again forced a Kentucky turnover with the help of the press, leading to another Coach Elzy timeout with the score sitting at 17-2 Tennessee with 4:38 to play in the first quarter. Benton nailed the first ‘Cats three that brought the score to 17-5. After three more Tennessee scores, Adeyeye hit a mini hook shot that was followed by a Walker steal off the inbounds and another layup for the ‘Cats that brought the score to 23-9 Tennessee. Another Kentucky score sparked a 6-0 Kentucky run that was extended with two Scherr free-throws, narrowing the deficit to 23-13. Tennessee finally ended a 10-0 ‘Cats run with a mid-range jumper to end the quarter with a score of 25-15 Tennessee. Both teams committed 6 turnovers in the first quarter. Tennessee shot an efficient 63% from the field in the quarter, while the ‘Cats shot 35%. With the lack of interior defense for the ‘Cats with Leveretter out, Tennessee scored 20 of their 25 first quarter points in the paint in the quarter.
The second quarter began with a Benton mid-range pull-up jumper that brought the score to 25-17 but Tennessee responded with a three-pointer. Scherr corralled a strong rebound and threw an accurate outlet pass that found Walker for a transition layup, setting the score at 28-19 Volunteers. A Petty pump-fake and easy score kept the Tennessee lead at 9 by a score of 30-21 with 6:45 to play in the half. Benton created her own scoring opportunities by beating defenders off the dribble for a couple of Kentucky possessions. Tennessee led 35-25 at the media timeout. A Scherr driving layup through contact ended a 7-0 Tennessee run and brought he score to 40-27 Volunteers. Kentucky finished the half hitting just 1 of their last 8 FG attempts. The halftime score saw Tennessee take a 45-28 lead into the locker room. Tennessee shot 59% from the field in the first half, while the ‘Cats shot just 34%. Tennessee displayed a good ability to find the open player in the first half, collecting 15 first half assists as a team. Benton led the ‘Cats in first half scoring with 12-points while Scherr and Walker each added 6 first half points. For Tennessee, Jackson led all scorers with 13-points, followed by Striplin with 10-points after scoring the first 7-points of the game.
The second half scoring started with a Walker layup for the ‘Cats that brought the score to 45-30. After that first score of the quarter, Tennessee rattled off 6 straight points and stretched their lead to 51-30 with 7:21 to play in the quarter. Jenkins drove down the lane for an easy score and brought the score to 55-34 Tennessee at the media timeout. Scherr drove to the pain and converted an and-one opportunity for the ‘Cats and brought the score to 59-37 Tennessee. Benton converted two free-throws at the line, setting the score at 63-39 Tennessee. Tennessee converted their final 4 FGs in the quarter while the ‘Cats did not convert an FG for the final 3:19 of the quarter. The score at the end of the third quarter was 68-41 Tennessee.
Tennessee scored the first points of the final quarter off a transition layup. The ‘Cats responded with a takeaway and found Scherr for an open three that brought the score to 70-44 Tennessee. Scherr scored 7 straight points for the ‘Cats to start the fourth quarter. Adeyeye gathered an offensive rebound and scored a putback and-one that brought the score to 73-51 with 6-minutes to play. The score at the media timeout saw Tennessee take a 74-51 lead. The ‘Cats rattled off 7 straight points that was capped by a deep Scherr three and brought the score to 74-58 Tennessee. Benton fouled out with 1:29 to play in the game in her final game in Memorial Coliseum. Tennessee took an 81-61 lead after a made free-throw. The final score saw the Volunteers take the win by a score of 83-63.
Tennessee finished the game shooting an efficient 58% from the field and 33% (4-12 3PT) from three-point range. The ‘Cats shot just 37% from the field and 33% (3-9 3PT) from beyond the arc. The Volunteers took advantage of their size and outrebounded the ‘Cats 43-27. Kentucky did protect the ball in the game, committing just 14 turnovers to Tennessee’s 21 in the game. With the lack of a post presence on both the offensive and defensive end for the ‘Cats, Tennessee scored 50 points in the paint. Scherr led all game scorers with 27-points and added 4-rebounds. Benton, on her Senior day, posted 17-points. Adeyeye recorded 5-points and led the ‘Cats with 8-rebounds and 3-blocks in her final home game. Green did not score but posted 1-rebound and 1-assist on her Senior Day. Walker added 10-points and led the ‘Cats with 4-assists and 4-steals. Walker also posted the best plus/minus total for the ‘Cats with a -6 in 31-minutes of action. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for the Kentucky Women’s Basketball team. Just a season after winning the SEC tournament, they enter next weeks tournament as the 14th seed. The ‘Cats will look to string together a few wins next week to get the momentum rolling into next season.
The ’Cats will make their way to Greenville, South Carolina this week as they prepare for the 2022-23 edition of the SEC tournament. The No. 14 ‘Cats (10-18, 2-14 SEC) will take on the No. 11 Florida Gators (16-13, 5-11 SEC) on Wednesday, March 1. The game will tip off approximately 25-minutes after the completion of the first game between No. 12 Vanderbilt Commadores and the No. 13 Texas A&M Aggies, which tips off at 11:00 a.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.