UK Women's Basketball

Women: Rowe helps Middle Tennessee handle Kentucky

Middle Tennessee guard Kortni Jones (24) fouled Kentucky guard Bria Goss (13) as she pulled down a rebound in the first half. Goss was the only Wildcat in double figures, scoring 12 points. A'dia Mathies, Samarie Walker and Azia Bishop each scored eight.
Middle Tennessee guard Kortni Jones (24) fouled Kentucky guard Bria Goss (13) as she pulled down a rebound in the first half. Goss was the only Wildcat in double figures, scoring 12 points. A'dia Mathies, Samarie Walker and Azia Bishop each scored eight. AP

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Maybe it was too much egg nog.

Or too much time off.

Whatever it was, sixth-ranked Kentucky didn't look like itself and fell 70-58 in Middle Tennessee's Murphy Center on Wednesday night.

"There could be a million reasons," UK freshman Bria Goss said. "I don't know the exact ones. But give credit to Middle Tennessee. They came out with a lot of heart."

Kentucky came out flat, falling behind by as many as 17 points midway through and getting back within five points with less than five minutes to play before the Raiders used a 15-3 run to keep their advantage.

"Nice is an understatement," forward Ebony Rowe said when asked about the Raiders' victory. "I wanted this not just for me because it's my hometown, but for my team. ... We can only build on this win. I'm excited to see what we do next."

What they did on Wednesday night was impressive enough.

"This is a good learning lesson for us," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "There's a lot of basketball left and we'll see if we can make some corrections from this game."

It was the second straight road loss for the Cats (11-2), who fell at No. 3 Notre Dame just before the holiday break.

UK had achieved its highest ranking in nearly 20 years this week, but that probably won't last long. The Cats' No. 6 ranking tied the highest for an MTSU victim in its history. The Raiders beat No. 6 Tennessee Tech in 1977.

"I'm awful proud of this basketball team and I'm awful happy for this program," Coach Rick Insell said. "This win could help us at the end of the season."

The Cats (11-2) pulled within five points with 5:42 to play, and it looked like things were going to go their way before the Raiders spurted away.

The true dagger in that spree was Kortni Jones' three-pointer off a missed MTSU free throw.

"She has a tendency to do that," Insell said of Jones' three-pointer. "She hides and then it's like, 'Where did that come from?' "

Jones had 15 points and six assists.

Icelyn Elie had a game-best 23 points and Rowe, a former Paul Laurence Dunbar star, added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Middle Tennessee (9-5).

Down the stretch, the Raiders made their free throws to keep UK at bay.

Goss was the only UK player in double figures with 12 points.

A'dia Mathies, Samarie Walker and Azia Bishop each had eight points for the Cats, who start Southeastern Conference play at Florida on New Year's Day.

UK shot 32.3 percent from the field and made just one of its first 17 three-pointers. The Cats also turned the ball over 21 times, 18 of them in the first half.

Both teams seemed to be struggling from a post-holiday hangover to start the game, with neither scoring until a full four minutes had gone by.

Keyla Snowden's free throws gave Kentucky its only lead and it lasted less than a minute before Jones' open three-pointer from the left wing.

"In the press, we were just a step slow early on," Mitchell said. "We started two bigs for the first time and didn't get off to a very good start."

UK stayed within firing distance early in the first half before Middle used a 12-3 run to take control.

The Raiders had another late scoring flurry and led by as many as 17 points, on Jones' drive and subsequent made free throw with seconds remaining in the first half. The Cats trailed 37-22, their largest halftime deficit of the season.

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