BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Kentucky women’s basketball team advances to the championship game of the Courtyard LaGuardia Turkey Classic after a hard-fought 87-82 win over Yale in the opening round on Friday afternoon. Point guards Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.) and Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) led four Wildcats in double-digit scoring with 17 points apiece. Junior forward Lydia Watkins (Hopkinsville, Ky.) added 16 points and nine rebounds while junior guard Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) scored 15.
The Wildcats (3-1) will face host-team Long Island (3-2) Saturday, Nov. 29 at 4 p.m. ET in LIU’s Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Dick Gabriel. Long Island defeated New Hampshire 74-60 to advance.
“It was a hard-fought win and a win we really had to earn,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Winning this game gives us a chance to play for a championship and we’re excited to have this opportunity.”
Kentucky shot a season-high 55.6 percent from the field (35-of-63), including 60 percent in the second half (18-30), and won the battle of the boards for the fourth consecutive game with a 46-33 advantage. However, the Cats were hampered by 25 turnovers and 14 second-chance points by Yale.
The first half was a back and forth battle as neither team led by more than four points. After 10 ties and eight lead changes, Yale took a four-point lead after one of Jamie Van Horne’s game-high five three-pointers with no time left on the clock. UK, which hit 51.5 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Bulldogs 26-17 in the first half, went into the break, trailing 43-39.
“At halftime we talked about our need to play better in transition defense,” Mitchell said. “Offensively, we tried to address the turnovers. They were putting a lot of pressure on us and we needed to attack the rim because they were taking away the passing lanes.”
The second half continued to be highly contested as both teams battled for the lead. Yale led by eight points (52-44) at the 15:27 mark before Kentucky clawed back to tie the game at 62 apiece with 10:15 to go. Four different players (Eleia Roddy, Ormerod, Franklin, and Watkins) scored in a 10-0 Kentucky run that pushed the Cats’ lead to 72-62 with seven minutes to go. UK managed to maintain a nine-point advantage (80-71) with 3:05 on the clock but Yale refused to fold. The Bulldogs, led by Melissa Colborne’s game-high 24 points, scored 11 points in a two-minute span to tie the game at 82 with :28 seconds left in the game. After a Kentucky turnover, Ormerod stole a Yale pass and hit a key layup to give the Cats an 84-82 lead with :15 seconds to go. Smith then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and was fouled. She and Ormerod hit 3-of-4 free throws in the final 11 seconds to seal the victory.
“Yale played terrific both offensively and defensively,” Mitchell said. “They had a good game plan for us. One thing that got us back into the game was our zone. We changed the complexion of the game and I was happy that it was effective.”
Yale shot 43.7 percent from the field, including hitting 7-of-17 three-pointers but was outscored 60-40 in points in the paint. UK shot over 50 percent for the first time since a 51.7 percent clip vs. William & Mary on Dec. 4, 2007.
This was UK’s first meeting against a team from the Ivy League. UK is now 82-36 all-time in regular-season tournaments with 26 tournament titles. UK’s last tournament title was in 2006-07 at the Wells Fargo New Year’s Classic in San Antonio, Texas.
For ticket information contact the Long Island ticket office at 718-488-1018 or visit the website at liusports.com.