Wildcats Suffer First Loss of Season at MTSU

Dec. 28, 2009

Box Score | Notes

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Despite a game-high 20 points and 16 rebounds from junior Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.), the Kentucky women's basketball team suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of Middle Tennessee, 57-51, on Monday night at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

UK, which trailed most of the game, battled back from a 13-point first half deficit to even the score at 51 with 1:02 remaining after freshman guard A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) nailed two free throws. However, Middle Tennessee (6-4) scored the final six points, including a crushing three-pointer by Jackie Pickel with 32 seconds left to give the Blue Raiders a 54-51 lead. MTSU added three free throws in the closing seconds to end UK's 11-game win streak.

“I have to compliment Middle Tennessee as they competed hard all night and played with tremendous energy and effort,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It was obvious this game meant a lot to them. I thought they played with more effort and energy in the first half than us. Although we played with some tenacity to get back in game, I'm disappointed that we turned the ball over so many times and it resulted in a loss for us.”

Kentucky (11-1) hit just 19-of-32 attempts at the free-throw line and a squad that came into the game leading the nation in turnover margin (+11.1), committed a season-high 29 miscues (16 in the first half) while forcing 23.

“We made very bad decisions tonight,” Mitchell said. “They had a great game plan to make us make good decisions. Defensively, we wanted to hold them under 60 points and we did that but our unwillingness to rebound hurt us. Victoria did a great job on (Alysha) Clark and she battled defensively but we were so bad offensively. We just turned the ball over too much.”

MTSU's leading scorer and rebounder Alysha Clark entered the game leading the nation in scoring, averaging 24.8 points per game. She was held to 13 points, including six in the first half. Senior Brandi Brown led her squad with 16 points while Pickel added 13.

Dunlap was the only Wildcat in double figures, charting her 18th career and fifth double-double of the season. She also recorded a game-high five steals. Mathies followed with eight points while senior Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) added seven.

UK outshot the Blue Raiders from the field 38.5 percent (15-of-39) compared to 35.6 percent (21-of-59) but MTSU attempted 20 more field goals than the Cats. The Blue Raiders also held a 10-rebound advantage over Kentucky most of the night but ended up grabbing just one more board, 39-38.

The Wildcats' only lead of the game was at 4-3 in the opening minutes. MTSU built its largest lead of 13 (27-14) with 5:45 to go in the first half and held a 10-point (32-22) advantage at the break.

Kentucky opened the second half with six consecutive points and tied the score three different times in the second stanza but could never take another lead.

“We had a lack focus at the free-throw line but we shot free throws terrible all week (in practice),” Mitchell said. “When you miss 13 (free throws) in a six-point ball game and don't rebound, that's a bad recipe for a victory.”

The Wildcats' 11-game win streak tied the program's longest win streak of 11 games set in 1983 from Jan. 6 to Feb. 9. It's 11-0 win streak to start the season was a school record.

UK still leads the all-time series 9-3, including a 3-2 mark in on the road. This marked the teams' first matchup in Murfreesboro since 1989.

The Wildcats will open 2010 with a home matchup against Mississippi Valley State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Tip time on Friday, Jan. 1 is 7 p.m. EST. It will mark UK's final non-conference regular season game before the Wildcats open conference play on Jan. 7 at Georgia.