I watched the game on streaming from the free wifi at the Tuscon Airport while waiting for a flight back to Texas. By the time I got back to College Station, it was late for reviewing the replay, and watching the first time was painful enough.
Blair went back to the lineup of Khaalia, Anriel, CWill, CWalk, and JJ. Walker started off on fire, scoring 6 before the media timeout.The Ags led 10-1 at that point, and UK had not made a FG. UK got going after the timeout, while the Ags cooled off. A 3 pointer by Epps made it 13-12 with 1:-5 left. A Jones miss gave the Cats a chance to take the lead, but JJ drew a charge on Epps to get the ball back (JJ kind of got away with a flop on the play). Chelsea Jennings got the lead back to 3, but Alexis Jennings countered at the end.
15-14 Ags after 1.
The Ags scored first but Maci Morris hit a 3 to tie the score at 19. After Kamara blocked Rachel, Morris gave UK their first lead on a running layup. The Cats kept it going while the Ags were not converting, forcing Blair to call a timeout with 4:45 remaining in the half. Kentucky was on a 9-0 run and led 25-19.
Out of the timeout, CWill scored inside and CWalk forced a turnover inside. A CWill steal and fast break cut the lead to 25-23. The teams traded baskets and then both D's clamped down. With under a minute left, the Ags took advantage of a foul on Morris to run an inbounds catch and shoot in the lane to Walker to tie it up. But then Janee Thompson hit a 3 pointer to make it 30-27. Anriel cut it to 30-28 with 20 seconds left. Timeout Kentucky with 18 seconds remaining. Epps couldn't get a good look on a penetration into the lane and Anriel grabbed the rebound as the half ran out.
30-28 at half. The two big problems were Kentucky dominating on the boards 31-16 and the Ags missing open looks. A&M shot 12-33. Fortunately, A&M held UK to 13-35.
UK scored quickly. Maci Morris got her third foul early, but then Anriel picked up two quick fouls to go to the bench with 4. Walker continued to struggle from the field and the Ags were having trouble defending Akhator and Alexis Jennings inside. And yet the score stayed fairly close. CWill scored at the end of a sequence where both teams failed to convert fast breaks. It was 38-34 when Kentucky called a timeout with 5:06 remaining. At that point Walker was 3-14. After 1 play where UK missed, the media timeout stopped play again.
I kept thinking that while we were lucky to be as close as we were, the team had shown the ability to dig deep and come from behind. But instead, out of the media timeout, Epps went on a tear and gave UK their largest lead at 45-36. A foul on Khaalia with 1:46 left put UK in the bonus. Rachel came in and committed a foul on a block attempt. Walker got a steal and drew a foul on Epps with under a minute remaining. Walker was only able to hit 1 of 2 to make it a 10 point deficit. Epps made it 12. A late inbounds play to Rachel cut the lead to 10. Epps barely missed a buzzer beating runner.
49-39 UK after 3
Maci Morris made it 12 again to start the quarter. A few minutes later she made it a 15 point lead with a 3 pointer. The Ags were able to get the score down to 9-11 at various times in the quarter, but UK continued to dominate inside when needed and got open jumpers at other times.
Coach Blair talked about how this may have been the worst game he can recall in terms of the other team playing tougher in than the Ags in Reed Arena... and he specifically included the 81-50 loss to UConn in 2012. Two things stood out from this game: rebounding and the futility of the Aggie offense. These were related, insofar as the Wildcats' dominance on the glass meant that the Ags rarely got second chance opportunities.
- Rebounding: Akhator and their Jennings combined for 34 rebounds. The Ags as a team had 32. Overall, UK had 54 rebounds, and a 19-5 advantage on the offensive glass. This translated into a 19-2 domination of second chance points.
- Akhator and Jennings each had 15 points, meaning that they both had easy double-doubles. Maci Morris and Janee Thompson were also in double figures in scoring.
- Ordinarily, one would think that a game where Walker, Williams, and Chelsea were all in double figures in scoring, and JJ had 10 assists to no turnovers would be a win. But when you give your opponent a 71-62 edge in shots taken, they shoot a higher percentage than you do, and they hit 5 threes to zero... well, you can just look at the final score.
- After the first part of the first quarter, Kentucky made defensive adjustments on Walker. She was getting looks that she usually hits, but they were contested just enough to take her out of her usual game. She ended up shooting 5-19 from the field.
- SEC Tournament Quarterfinals vs Tennessee or Arkansas
- Friday March 4, time 5PM
- Jacksonville FL
- TV: ESPNU Radio KZNE 1150AM/102.7FM.
To the extent that three is any good news from this loss, it's that the game made no difference in the seeding for the SEC tourney. The Ags had clinched the 2 seed on Thursday night, and during the first half, Florida knocked off Auburn to take the 4 seed on the head to head tiebreaker with UK.
The Ags get a double bye, which means that we get until Friday to stew over the loss, recover physically, and work on fixing the problems. Getting the #2 seed in an SEC women's basketball tournament is not usually supposed to mean getting Tennessee in your first game, but there's a good chance of that happening. The Lady Vols win over Georgia, combined with losses ahead of them, put Tennessee in the 7 seed playing Arkansas on Thursday.
Complete bracket here.