UK women's basketball: No. 10 Gamecocks hand No. 9 Cats their second straight loss

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJanuary 9, 2014 

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    When: 5 p.m. Sunday

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The brutally cold weather that hit Lexington earlier this week had nothing on Kentucky Thursday night.

Against one of the nation's best defenses, the Cats went icy, falling 68-59 to No. 10 South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena.

The 59 points were the fewest of the season for ninth-ranked Kentucky and the 31.5 percent shooting was the worst of the year.

"We just really could not find a way to get the ball in the basket tonight," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said of his team, which lost two in a row for the first time in two seasons.

"Our players played hard under really difficult circumstances and battled," he continued. "I don't think we lost tonight because of effort. We just had a real tough time getting the ball in the basket."

South Carolina (15-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) played a big part in that, blocking 14 shots, and holding three of the Cats' top five scorers — Jennifer O'Neill, Bria Goss and Kastine Evans — to just 4-for-30 shooting.

When the freeze was at its deepest, Kentucky went seven full minutes without a bucket in the second half.

"There for a while, it just got ridiculous," Mitchell said. "We were in the lane all night long trying to make shots and they just didn't fall."

The Gamecocks noticed the frustration grab hold of Kentucky, whose 92.4 points a game average was best in the league before this loss.

"You could actually see it," guard Tina Roy said of the frustration factor. "So Coach (Dawn) Staley just said, 'Keep going at 'em. Keep going at 'em' and it worked. So we just kept going at them."

Behind 11 first-half points from reserve Roy, the Gamecocks grabbed a 10-point lead late in the first half and carried it into the break, 34-24. Tiffany Mitchell, who led all scorers with 17 points and seven rebounds, had nine points in the first half.

Kentucky (13-3, 1-2) wasn't ice-cold from the start.

With DeNesha Stallworth back in the starting lineup, UK made four of its first six attempts to grab an early 10-4 lead.

Then came an arctic blast fit for playing in mittens.

For the next 16 minutes, Kentucky made just four of its next 24 shots — missing eight layups in that span — rushing shots against a big, physical frontline for South Carolina. UK made just one field goal in the final five minutes of the half.

The Cats shot 26.7 percent for the half and the 24 points matched their season low for first-half points, which they also managed in the loss to Duke.

It got worse in the second half when UK went seven minutes without a basket. At one point midway through the last half, UK had just 10 made shots to 12 Gamecocks blocks.

Four blocks came from freshman beast Alaina Coates, who finished with 10 points and 17 rebounds. Fellow post player Aleighsa Welch added 16 points and 14 rebounds.

"They have really big post players and I guess it affected us a little bit, but that's just another mental thing that wasn't really there for us at times in the game," said UK guard Janee Thompson, one of three UK players to finish with 12 points.

The others were Azia Bishop, who also added 11 rebounds, and Samarie Walker, who had seven boards.

The Cats were able to cut the Gamecocks lead to eight points with 1:29 to play on a Stallworth layup, but by then it was too late. The senior played 20 minutes before fouling out and finished with 11 points and four rebounds.

When things started to crumble for Carolina, Staley was happy to have a loud crowd of 5,689 behind them.

They "gave us an extra push when we ran out of gas and let Kentucky get into our lead in a big way," she said.

Mitchell was just pleased his team continued to fight even when they got behind by 22. Its previous largest deficit of the season was 14 points in the December loss to Duke.

"We certainly could have folded down 22 or 24 or whatever it got to," he said. "I was real happy we didn't. I was real happy with the fight of the team. I was really happy we were there and gave ourselves a chance to win."

A few times in the waning minutes, UK had an opportunity to get within serious striking distance, but couldn't.

"When you get that far down, you just have to be so sharp mentally and at the end of the game we had a couple of mental breakdowns and those things happen," he said. "It was a tough, tough game."

But a loss at South Carolina doesn't spell the end of the season, he argued.

"We've lost over here before and had a real successful season," he said. "It's one game and we'll have to learn from it — and I certainly think we can learn from it — but I thought the team did fight hard there really all night."

Mitchell would like to avoid a three-game losing streak on Sunday at Memorial Coliseum when the Cats take on Missouri, which knocked off No. 25 Georgia on Thursday night.

Florida (83)

NAME mi fg-a 3-pt ft-a rb a pf tp

Svete 11 1-2 1-2 0-0 1 0 0 3

Miller 25 2-6 0-1 6-7 5 1 1 10

Bonds 40 6-14 1-210-126 1 3 23

Peoples 37 1-7 0-2 6-8 3 4 3 8

Lewis 28 3-5 0-1 2-4 8 2 3 8

Williams 23 9-13 1-1 0-0 10 0 3 19

Needles 17 1-3 0-2 0-0 2 1 2 2

Mercer 19 5-7 0-0 0-0 3 3 5 10

Team 4

Totals 200 28-57 3-11 24-31 42 12 20 83

Kentucky (73)

NAME mi fg-a 3-pt ft-a rb a pf tp

Walker 34 4-11 0-0 2-2 12 2 2 10

Bishop 24 1-6 0-1 3-6 11 0 4 5

Thompson 17 0-5 0-2 1-2 2 2 4 1

Goss 24 3-9 1-3 1-2 3 1 2 8

Evans 29 3-10 1-5 2-2 0 3 2 9

O'Neill 24 4-13 1-4 6-10 2 3 3 15

Pinkett 17 3-5 3-5 0-0 2 1 4 9

Stallworth 7 2-5 0-0 0-2 3 0 0 4

Sidney 4 2-2 0-0 1-2 2 0 3 5

Harper 14 3-5 0-2 1-2 1 0 1 7

Epps 6 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0

Team 2

Totals 200 25-71 6-22 17-30 40 12 26 73

Florida 45 38—83

Kentucky 44 29—73

Field-goal shooting: Florida 49.1, Kentucky 35.2. Free-throw shooting: Florida 77.4, Kentucky 56.7. Technicals: None. Turnovers: Florida 18 (Bonds 6, Peoples 3, Williams 3, Lewis 2, Svete 1, Miller 1, Needles 1, Mercer 1), Kentucky 15 (O'Neill 6, Thompson 2, Harper 2, Walker 1, Bishop 1, Goss 1, Evans 1, Sidney 1). Blocked shots: Florida 3 (Williams 2, Svete 1), Kentucky 2 (Walker 1, Sidney 1). Steals: Florida 2 (Peoples 1, Mercer 1), Kentucky 5 (Walker 1, Bishop 1, Thompson 1, Pinkett 1, Sidney 1). Officials: Bob Trammell, Wesley Dean, Eric Koch. Attendance: 7,039.

Records: Florida 12-3 (2-0 SEC), UK 13-2 (1-1).

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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