Cat Scratches
Interactive Twitter Facebook

Blue Blueprint: UK Hoops gets gut-check win at Texas A&M

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
The Big Blueprint is back. A rapid recap of the game, the Big Blueprint looks at the nuts and bolts of the latest UK game when Cat Scratches is not in attendance. Tonight, we talk about UK Hoops' 70-66 win at Texas A&M.

The skinny: For most of the season, Matthew Mitchell's Kentucky Wildcats have been the ones making the comebacks. Four times this season, the Cats have rallied from second-half deficits of seven points or more and won.

On Monday night, No. 10 Texas A&M tried to flip the script. Trailing 60-46 after A'dia Mathies hit a jumper with 8:31 left, the home-standing Aggies mounted a furious rally looking to avenge a January loss in which the Cats came back from seven points down in the second half to win. They mounted a 10-0 run and closed to within 68-66 when Courtney Walker (20 points) scored inside while being fouled with less than five seconds left.

After an A&M timeout, Walker missed the ensuing free throw intentionally, but Bria Goss grabbed the loose ball and calmly drained a pair of free throws to ice a 70-66 victory and allow the eighth-ranked Cats to move to 23-3, 11-2 in Southeastern Conference play.

The difference:
Taking care of the basketball. For the second time in as many games against Texas A&M, UK was outrebounded. In spite of the best efforts of DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker - who combined for 23 rebounds - the Aggies held a 41-38 advantage on the glass. Additionally, Texas A&M outshot UK from the field - 47.4 percent to 40.6 percent.

The reason the Cats were able to survive all that was the way they took care of the ball. A&M committed just 18 turnovers - nearly seven fewer than the average for a UK opponent coming into Monday - but the Cats picked up an extra eight possessions by committing just 10 turnovers all night. For just the second time in conference play, UK had more assists (14) than turnovers.

Player of the game:
Stallworth. Days ago, the California transfer had her worst game as a Wildcat. After a lackluster first half against South Carolina, Mitchell opted to play the talented junior just one minute in the second half of the comeback win. Her coach said afterward he wasn't trying to send a message and was just trying to win a basketball game, but Stallworth still responded in a big way.

She was one of three players to score in double figures for UK with 12 points, but that's not what made her performance so special. She had 12 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, and set a school record with seven blocks. Her defense was a big reason why Kelsey Bone - the SEC's leading scorer - managed just nine points on eight shots while committing seven turnovers.

Turning point: With the clock ticking under six minutes and the Aggie crowd very much into it, Texas A&M had the ball down just 60-56. With her team's confidence being put to the test, Mathies (13 points) came away with a steal and raced to the other end of the floor for a fast-break layup. Texas A&M wouldn't quit from there, but the play steadied UK's ship enough to propel the Cats to victory.

Key stat:
Points off turnovers. The Cats may not have forced as many turnovers as they are used to, but they made the most of the ones they did. UK scored 29 points off 18 Aggie miscues for an average of 1.61 points per possession.

Unsung hero:
Kastine Evans. The all-around performance by Stallworth and Mathies' late-game heroics will grab headlines, but Evans played a huge role in the Cats building a big lead, especially with Mathies limited to five first-half minutes by two early fouls. The junior guard played a team-high 35 minutes and scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting.

Since moving to the starting lineup at Arkansas, the always-steady Evans has taken her game to another level. Over her four games as starter, she's averaging 8.5 points on 56.5-percent shooting. Before then, she was averaging 3.7 points on 31.2-percent shooting.

They said what? "I thought that was a great basketball game. Two really good teams going at it, played well tonight. We were fortunate to win. We have a lot of respect for Texas A&M and their program. They are a very talented team."- Mitchell

"When you lose your best player and your senior leader, you're certainly concerned, but we had a lot of confidence in our team. And I think that goes to show you that we aren't really a one-player team. We have some really tough-minded players, and I just thought it was a beautiful first half of basketball by our team." - Mitchell on losing Mathies to first-half foul trouble

"Players have to make plays in this kind of game. This kind of game to me is more about players than it is about any coaching you can do. I'm just really impressed with our players tonight." - Mitchell

"We just tried to swarm her and tried to get as many defenders. She's big, and she had a good day against us in Lexington, so we wanted to push off the block as much as we can and tried to get some little guards for when she dribbled to try to swipe the ball out of her hands." - Mathies on UK's approach to guarding Bone

"I thought it was really important for me to step up, and I thought I did a good job. Without my teammates, I wouldn't have been able to do it because they never gave up and always believed in me." - Stallworth

What this one means:
In short, a lot. Coming into Monday, UK trailed A&M by a half-game for second place in the SEC. The victory not only vaults the Cats into sole possession of second place behind Tennessee, but it also gives them a season sweep of the Aggies and therefore the tiebreaker for SEC Tournament seeding.

With just three games left in the season, UK needs only win its next two to set up a showdown with Tennessee on Senior Day to clinch a share of the SEC regular-season title, at minimum. Oh yeah, the victory is also UK's second over a top-10 team on the road, an achievement the Selection Committee surely won't overlook when seeding the NCAA Tournament.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment

Recent Comments