LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky women’s basketball team hit 29-of-32 free-throw attempts, including 13-of-14 in the final four minutes to lead the Wildcats to their fourth consecutive win with a 72-63 win over North Carolina A&T on Thursday night in Memorial Coliseum.
Five Wildcats scored in double-figures for the second-straight game as senior center Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) grabbed her sixth-straight double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The senior hit 9-of-10 from the free-throw line and joins former UK All-American Valerie Still as the only players in school history to chart six or more double-doubles in a career. Sophomore point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) scored all 13 of her points in the second half while hitting a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. Sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) also did not miss an opportunity at the line by hitting all five of her attempts. She went on to record her sixth career and second double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds while adding a career high-tying five steals. Sophomore guard Carly Morrow (Chattanooga, Tenn.) dropped in three of UK’s season high-tying seven three-pointers, giving her 11 points. Junior guard Brittany Edelen (Springfield, Ky.) round out the double-digit scorers with 10 points off the bench. It marked her second-straight game in double digits.
“Since I have been here, that is the best we have shot from the free-throw line,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “For me, that is a sign of our team not getting rattled. At one point, our lead was down to seven and it wasn’t looking good, but they still had to foul and we knew that if we made our foul shots we would win. That is what we did and I was really impressed with our free-throw performance tonight.”
It was a sloppy game from the start as both teams seemed out of rhythm and sluggish. The teams committed a combined 24 turnovers in the opening half, 13 from the Blue and White. With the game knotted at 22 apiece with 1:43 left in the half, the Wildcats finally kicked it into gear thanks in large part to the heady play of Dunlap. The sophomore All-Southeastern Conference performer grabbed two defensive rebounds and scored the next seven consecutive points, including an old-fashioned three-point play, to give the Cats a seven-point 28-22 lead with 40 seconds to go. UK went on to lead 29-25 at the break after a three-pointer by Brittanie Taylor-James of N.C. A&T.
In the second half, the Wildcats seemed to be pulling away from the Aggies after Morrow and Edelen combined to hit two three-pointers a piece in the first eight minutes of action. Their hot shooting sparked a 16-2 run, giving the Cats a 46-30 lead en route to an eventual game-high 19-point advantage with 4:34 remaining. However, turnovers continued to plague the Cats and North Carolina A&T (6-5) took full advantage of UK’s season high-tying 26 miscues. The Aggies, led by 25 points from Taylor-James, held the Cats without a field goal for the final four minutes and pulled within seven (66-59) with 1:05 left. The Cats remained poised down the stretch, hitting 13-of-14 free-throw attempts in the final 3:36 to take the 72-63 win.
“We were very happy to get this win because North Carolina A&T has a very good team,” Mitchell said. “While we didn’t play our best tonight, I was pleased that we went on a big run in the second half to get control of the game. We didn’t finish off the game particularly well, but still a good win for us and we are happy with the win.”
The Wildcats also were happy to see the return of senior Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.). The point guard, who missed 16 games last year and the last seven games in 2008 with sesamoiditis and turf toe in her left foot, returned to action for the first time since Dec. 2, 2008 vs. Xavier. Ormerod finished with four points, two rebounds and two assists in just 16 minutes.
“It is remarkable for her to play that well with no practice time recently,” I thought she came in and gave us a spark and the crowd gave her a warm reception, too. It was good to see her back and for us to be full strength, we need her playing.”
The Cats once again won the battle on the boards, outrebounding the Aggies 43-32. UK has either tied or won the rebounding in all but one game (Long Island) this season and nine in a row. Kentucky also held the Aggies to 34.9 percent (22-63) shooting in the game. The Cats have held all 14 of their opponents to 50.0 percent shooting or less this season.
The Wildcats return to action Saturday, Jan. 3 when they travel to Oxford, Ohio to take on Miami University in their final non-conference matchup of the season. Game time is 2 p.m. EST in MU’s Millett Hall.