By CHANDLER WILCOX, Contributing Writer
Kentucky lost 67-66 in a barn-burner of a game against rival Louisville in an electric Rupp Arena this Sunday afternoon.
Kentucky had a 40-31 halftime lead, and even stretched the lead out to 45-35 in the third quarter, but the Cats were not able to stay ahead, as the Cards went on a 13-0 run in the third quarter, giving the Cards the lead, which they were able to hang on to in the end.
One of the biggest differences in the second half that was a big part of Louisville going on a run to get back into the game, and ultimately what hindered Kentucky’s chance at a victory, was the rebounding margin. Kentucky held their own in the first half in that department, as the margin was just 15-10 in favor of Louisville, but in the second half the Cats were outrebounded 22-7, as the size of the Cards started to take over.
“That’s been an achilles heel for us,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of rebounding. “That was a big factor, UofL did a really good job on the boards.”
“A couple of possessions when we got into a scramble, we kind of got lost finding some (Louisville) players,” Kentucky forward Tatyana Wyatt said. “So, we’ve just got to work better in doing that and trying to find somebody to box out so we can get our defensive rebounds and transition.”
The margin in second-chance points for the game might not look as daunting just looking at the numbers, finishing at 11-6 in favor of Louisville, but a lot of those points were at crucial moments that Kentucky needed a stop and a rebound to help take back the momentum Louisville had gained in the second half.
“I thought we did a more than adequate job on first shot defense today, it was the second shot that really got us,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said.
Sophomore guard Rhyne Howard was really efficient in the first half, scoring 20 points on 8-15 shooting as she was able to score off screens and get to the bucket, but in the second half only had six points on 4-8 shooting, as Louisville started making it harder for her to get many shots.
“They did a good job of blocking my shot when I drove it,” Howard said. “That’s pretty much it.”
UK coach Matthew Mitchell gave a lot of credit to Louisville redshirt senior Yacine Diop for her excellent defending against Rhyne Howard.
“You have to give Yacine Diop a ton of credit in the second half, she was extremely physical and hustled and was a tough defender on Rhyne,” Mitchell said.
Even though Howard was not able to get as many shots in the second half, after the Cats were able to get a stop with eight seconds left, she still had a three at the end of the game that if she made, would have given the final edge to Kentucky, but the shot just fell short. Howard, even though the shot had to be a little rushed as time was winding down, still felt like she got a good look.
“I think it was a pretty good look,” Howard said. “It looked good coming off my hand and I thought it was going in. I’d probably take that shot every other time.”
Despite the loss, UK Head Coach Matthew Mitchelll is still confident in his team, knowing how close they were to winning the game and the effort they put in.
“We’re disappointed to lose today and you hate that outcome there, but real proud of our players,” Mitchell said. “We just have to stick with it and keep at it, and just like I told them, I wouldn’t trade locker rooms for anything. I really love our team.”
Kentucky now drops to 10-1 on the season, and will have almost a full week to refocus and practice before their next game which will not be until Saturday, when they travel to the Golden State to go up against the California Golden Bears.