The Kentucky women’s basketball team used a 39-to-23 second half performance to pull away from a four-point halftime advantage and defeat Alabama 64-44 in Memorial Coliseum Sunday.
The 20-point victory was the Cats’ largest margin of victory over a Southeastern Conference foe this season. Senior center Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) led UK with 16 points and six rebounds while junior point guard Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.), returning to action after missing 14 straight games due to injury, added eight points.
“That was a significant win for us today,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Our seventh win in the conference is something really special for our team. I was extremely happy that we were able to get the lead by the end of the first half because I thought Alabama was playing pretty good in the first half. Our start in the second half was something that I was very pleased with. We were able to get some separation and that is the first time we have been able to do that all year in a conference game. It was a very good game for us and I am very pleased with the outcome of the game.”
The Wildcats (13-12, 7-4 SEC) looked sluggish at the start of the game and fell behind early to the Crimson Tide (8-18, 1-10 SEC) 16-8 mid-way through the first half. With 6:49 to go in the opening stanza, UK finally came alive, reeling off 11 consecutive points to take a slight 25-21 lead at the break.
“We were turning the ball over way too much in the early part of the game,” Mitchell said. “I think a lot of times that is a mental focus problem. You have to give Alabama credit because they work very hard to put pressure on. They force you into making some difficult plays. Alabama didn’t do a whole lot of different things in the second half, but we were able to do what we needed to do to get the win.”
Elliott was the Cats’ lone offensive bright spot as she posted 12 of her game-high 16 points in the first half, hitting 4-of-5 from the field and all four free-throw attempts. Ormerod also gave the Cats a boost when she entered the game at the 15:01 mark. The crowd of 4,879, clad in pink for UK’s “Think Pink” game, erupted when she checked in for the first time since Dec. 20 vs. Louisville. Ormerod had missed 16 games, including the last 14 in a row due to sesamoiditis and turf toe in her left foot. Despite playing just nine minutes in the first half, Ormerod was running the point when the Cats went on their 11-0 run to take the lead.
“I am extremely pleased she was able to play,” Mitchell said. “I would not say I am surprised at how well she played but more pleased that she was able to come out and play so well. I was thinking that she might be a bit more rusty and I thought she probably played as well as she could with that long of a lay off. She really had only two days of practice and it was amazing to see what she did on the court. She is going to give us an added dimension and a person who wants to run the point and feel comfortable there. It helps us to have her there. It was great to see her on the court and I know her teammates were happy to see her out there.”
“It was awesome to be back out there,” Ormerod said. “I was out for two months and it was terrible because the entire time I just wanted to be on the court. I really thought my team needed me and it is great to be out there to help them out and get the win.”
UK opened the second half with the same intensity as it ended the first, jumping out on an 11-3 run to pull away 38-24 with 15:02 remaining. The Wildcats would grab their largest lead of 23 (62-39) with 6:18 left as all 14 players saw action and 10 of the 14 scored at least two points. UK forced 29 Tide turnovers and held Alabama to just 44 points in the game which tied the season-low for points scored by an SEC opponent. UK also held Georgia to 44 points. Ormerod finished with eight points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 17 minutes while freshman Carly Morrow (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and senior Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) added seven points apiece. Elliott’s 16 points increased her career total to 1,435 which cracked UK’s all-time scoring list at No. 10. She needs just 10 more to move up to No. 9. Mahoney now has 1,480 points and ranks eighth on the career list. She is just two points shy of moving up to No. 7.
Tierney Jenkins led Alabama with 13 points and eight rebounds.
UK now leads the overall series with Alabama 18-15, including a 10-5 mark in Lexington.