UK Women's Basketball

Cats' heart in the right place

Amani Franklin has had her share of basketball heartache.

In her three seasons at Kentucky, the senior forward has suffered through dozens of close losses.

But a one-point overtime loss at Georgia in January really stuck with her.

"That was heartbreaking right there," Franklin said. "We really thought we should have won that game. We should have won basically."

Franklin, who played high school ball in Georgia, had a little revenge in mind Thursday night and she got it with No. 17 UK's 64-48 win over No. 19 Bulldogs.

In Franklin's three seasons, the Cats have been to three straight WNITs.

Franklin, who had 15 points and nine rebounds to lead UK in front of 6,521 at Memorial Coliseum, said this team has a different post-season destination in mind.

"This year we weren't settling for that," she said. "It's great that we're on this roll right now."

This "roll" has been unprecedented in UK women's basketball history. The Cats have won eight straight games against SEC opponents and 16 in a row at home.

With the win, which Coach Matthew Mitchell called "crucial," Kentucky remains the second-place team in the SEC and is firmly in line for a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

"To be able to come out on top is just huge because clearly we didn't play our best," Mitchell said. "This was a huge win just because of where we are right now ... we're in the thick of this race."

On a day when UK's stars' shots weren't necessarily aligning with the basket, players like Franklin and freshman A'dia Mathies were difference makers.

The reigning Kentucky Miss Basketball from Louisville had 15 points to go with her five assists, four rebounds and three steals.

Mitchell said he was especially pleased for Franklin, who struggled in the game at Georgia.

"Her play tonight on the boards and toughness on defense ... that's what we need from her," Mitchell said. "I'm really happy for Amani Franklin. ... She worked hard for this one."

UK struggled offensively in the first half, shooting just 25 percent from the field and 17.6 percent from three-point range, but defense kept the Cats in it.

Mathies scored nine (her four made baskets were half of UK's total in the first half) of her 15 points early.

"Coach keeps asking me to be more aggressive," she said. "He's not going to take me being passive anymore. He just wants me to attack."

Late in the first half, Kentucky (21-3, 9-2 SEC) went on a 12-0 run by forcing the Bulldogs to turn it over 11 times in 10 minutes.

"Offensively we sputtered," Coach Andy Landers said. "We got off to a good start and then sputtered."

When Georgia cut it to a point, 33-32, early in the second half, Franklin scored seven points of a 9-2 run to extend the Cats' lead.

The senior would score 11 points in the second half. She led UK on the offensive boards with five.

"She made a key bucket when we were really struggling and she went and got an offensive rebound and put in an easy shot," Mitchell said.

Landers, whose team has lost five of its last six games after starting the season with 17 straight wins, said he thought rebounding gave UK the edge in this defensive battle.

In the teams' first game in January, Georgia (19-6, 6-6) demolished Kentucky on the boards 49-36.

This time a smaller UK team won that battle 40-37.

"Defensively we played pretty well, but I would have liked to have rebounded better," Landers said. "We gave up too many offensive boards."

For UK, Victoria Dunlap had 13 points and eight rebounds. Rebecca Gray added nine points, all on three-pointers, and four boards.

The Bulldogs did not have a player in double figures. Ashley Houts, who lit up the Cats for a career-high 27 points in Athens, finished with seven points this time.

A win for the First Lady

For her 30th birthday, Kentucky gave Jenna Mitchell a victory.

"She wanted this one tonight," Coach Mitchell said of his wife.

Jenna blushed and smiled when she was shown on the big video board and wished a happy birthday.

Her husband joked about it in post-game interviews.

"I was going to call her the old lady, but I won't." he said. "My wife turned 30 tonight and I think she's holding up well."

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