UK Women's Basketball

Vanderbilt women end 9-game slide against UK, 71-69

jsmith3@herald-leader.com

Kentucky women fall to Vandy: Keys to the game

Commodores' sharp shooting, foul trouble contribute to 71-69 loss
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Commodores' sharp shooting, foul trouble contribute to 71-69 loss

Give Christa Reed space and she’ll end a streak.

The Vanderbilt sophomore hit back-to-back three-pointers, the first to give the Commodores the lead and the second to give them the win, 70-69 over No. 12 Kentucky in Memorial Coliseum on Thursday night.

With a bloody lip and a dislodged tooth, the guard came back in the game and helped Vanderbilt end a nine-game losing streak to Kentucky that dated to 2010.

“That’s who we want shooting the three,” Commodores Coach Melanie Balcomb said. “Her toughness to go back in there and shoot and be unfazed.”

Reed scored all of her team-high 19 points in the second half, including five three-pointers. Vanderbilt’s 10 makes from long range were its most all season.

Rebekah Dahlman added 18 points and Rachel Bell 15 points for Vanderbilt (15-5, 4-3 Southeastern Conference).

Reed put the Commodores up by two points with 1:26 to play and then she hit another with 23 seconds to go that gave Vanderbilt a five-point lead.

“The shot clock was going down, so I just knew that I had to get a shot up and she backed up and gave me space, so I shot it,” said Reed, who came into the game as the league’s most accurate three-point shooter, hitting 44.8 percent.

It was the second straight Thursday night game that the Cats (15-4, 4-4) were brought down by a clutch three-point shooter and a bad quarter. In this case, it was the second quarter, when UK was outscored 23-14 after grabbing a nine-point lead in the first quarter.

“We let our offensive struggles affect our defense and didn’t hustle hard enough in the second quarter,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “The second quarter decided the game.”

Defections early this season left Kentucky with just four guards and the Cats have struggled with smaller, quicker teams in SEC play, especially teams like Vandy that play a four-guard lineup.

Couple that with a short turnaround time with the Monday game versus Tennessee and UK did not have its best game defensively, Mitchell said.

“Our defense needs a lot of work and we are trying to find an identity on defense and I think the players are working very hard on that,” said Mitchell, whose team gave up 71 points, its second most this season.

Even after Reed’s big shots, Kentucky still had a chance to force overtime or get a second straight victory. The Cats had the ball with 10.8 seconds to play. Makayla Epps found an open Janee Thompson in the corner, but Thompson’s shot was grabbed by Marqu’es Webb.

The junior forward had eight points, 11 rebounds, including some clutch ones in the fourth quarter, and three blocked shots in the Vanderbilt victory, its first in Lexington since 2009.

The play was for Epps to come off two screens and drive. She regretted passing up a good look from three-point range.

“I didn’t really look for my shot, which I’m kicking myself in the butt for now that I think about it,” said the junior guard, who led all scorers with 25 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Both Evelyn Akhator and Alexis Jennings added 12 points in the loss. Thompson added 14 points and six assists for Kentucky, which raced out to a nine-point lead in the first quarter.

Then the Commodores found their three-point shot, hitting three in a row and four in the first five minutes of the second quarter to grab their first lead at 25-24 on a Dahlman three from Avenue of Champions.

As good as Kentucky was in the third quarter against Tennessee on Monday, the Cats were bad to open this third quarter.

Vandy scored six unanswered to open the quarter and went up by as many as seven points, 47-40, on a Bell three-pointer.

Kentucky answered with a 13-2 run that gave it a 53-49 lead in the quarter. In the final 5:38 of the third quarter, the Commodores were held to one field goal.

A set of foul shots with 41.7 seconds to go broke a three-minute scoring drought for the Commodores. A dead-ball personal foul on the rebound gave Vanderbilt another two free throws and it pulled within a point, 53-52, after three quarters.

“Tonight is disappointing, but give Vanderbilt a lot of credit,” Mitchell said. “They really were tough tonight.”

Despite losing three of its last five games, Mitchell said there are “brighter days ahead” for Kentucky, which goes on the road for four of its next five games, first at Florida on Sunday and then at No. 2 South Carolina. UK also will face Vandy again on Feb. 14 in Nashville.

“We still aren’t where we need to be to win this game but it is not an effort issue, it’s an experience issue,” Mitchell said. “The only way to get experience is more practice and more games. I believe in this team and believe in the young women in that locker room.”

VANDERBILT 71, No. 12 KENTUCKY 69

VANDERBILT

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Webb

33

3-5

2-3

11

1

3

8

Dahlman

26

5-9

6-6

3

2

4

18

Bell

31

6-17

0-0

1

2

0

15

Spears

38

1-2

1-2

3

5

2

3

Reed

28

6-15

2-2

6

0

3

19

Jenkins

2

0-1

0-0

0

0

0

0

Batey

31

2-4

0-2

3

8

2

4

Shaw

11

2-4

0-0

2

0

3

4

Totals

200

25-57

11-15

32

18

17

71

Percentages: FG .439, FT .733. 3-Point Goals: 10-24, .417 (Reed 5-9, Bell 3-10, Dahlman 2-4, Spears 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 4 (Webb 3, Shaw). Turnovers: 16 (Spears 3, Bell 3, Batey 3, Reed 2, Dahlman 2, Jenkins). Steals: 8 (Batey 4, Reed, Bell, Spears, Webb). Technical Fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Rice

7

0-0

0-0

1

0

1

0

Akhator

18

6-12

0-0

6

0

4

12

Thompson

39

5-11

2-2

3

6

3

14

Morris

30

1-6

2-2

1

3

4

4

Epps

38

10-15

4-7

5

3

1

25

Camara

21

0-3

0-0

4

0

1

0

Jakubcova

1

0-0

0-0

0

0

1

0

Murray

23

1-5

0-0

3

1

1

2

Jennings

23

5-9

2-2

5

1

3

12

Totals

200

28-61

10-13

32

14

19

69

Percentages: FG .459, FT .769. 3-Point Goals: 3-14, .214 (Thompson 2-5, Epps 1-3, Murray 0-2, Morris 0-4). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 1 (Akhator). Turnovers: 12 (Morris 4, Thompson 3, Murray, Camara, Rice, Jakubcova, Akhator). Steals: 8 (Morris 2, Jennings 2, Thompson 2, Murray, Camara). Technical Fouls: None.

Vanderbilt

11

23

18

19

71

Kentucky

20

14

19

16

69

A—5,193. Officials—Maj Forsberg, Michael McConnell, Ed Sidlasky.

Next game

Kentucky at Florida

Sunday, 1 p.m. (SEC Network)

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