Despite a resurgent performance from Amani Franklin, the Kentucky women’s basketball team lost a back-and-forth battle to Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon.
Franklin, a junior guard from Stone Mountain, Ga., tied a season high with 20 points, but the Wildcats were unable to overcome their turnover problems. UK (12-10, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) turned the ball over 21 times, losing 69-60 to the Rebels (14-8, 3-4 SEC) on Sunday at Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, Miss.
The seesaw battle featured five ties and eight lead changes, but the Rebels’ clutch shooting down the stretch ultimately doomed the Wildcats.
“It was so disappointing because there were times during the game where we did some very good things,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We just got out-toughed at crucial times. … It was just a day of really up and downs and no consistency. It’s just terribly disappointing. Ole Miss just made plays and looked like they wanted to win more and that makes you sick as a coach.”
But Mitchell and his team had its work cut out for them Sunday afternoon. With senior center Eleia Roddy saddled in foul trouble and the Wildcats struggling with turnovers, UK was forced to go away from its usually dominant inside game.
They found a spark in Franklin.
The 5-foot-11 guard, who played only five minutes last game against Florida because she wasn’t mentally focused to play, according to Mitchell, hit four of UK’s season high-tying eight 3-pointers, including a pair of treys early in the second half to get UK back in the game.
After Ole Miss opened the second half with a 37-31 lead, Franklin drilled a pair of 3-pointers on back-to-back UK possesions to get the Wildcats within one. The Rebels went back in front on a jumper from Alliesha Easley, but Franklin picked up a pivotal steal and drove the length of the floor for a 41-40 UK lead.
The Wildcats opened the lead up to three on a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap, but Ole Miss finally took over.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Rebel guard Elizabeth Robertson put Ole Miss in front 46-45, a lead it would never relinquish. UK got it to within one with 5:27 left in the game, but a dagger from Bianca Thomas, who finished with a game-high 24 points, sealed the decision.
“We just have to work harder down the strectch finishing out games,” Franklin said. “I think that was our probem today.”
Ole Miss forward Shawn Goff scored 15 points and Robertson added 13, but the Wildcats’ turnover problems ultimately cost them their fourth straight game. Twenty one turnovers led to 15 Rebel points, and UK has now turned the ball over 44 times in its last two games.
“We probably shot the ball well enough if we hadn’t turned the ball over so many times,” Mitchell said. “We turned it over 16 times in the first half and that’s really the killer because we probably have a chance to get some type of lead going into the first half, but we just threw the ball all over the gym. We have to get better that and we have to work harder to help our players understand that it’s important to take care of the ball.”
UK got nine points and 11 rebounds from Dunlap, marking the ninth time this season and fifth straight game she’s pulled down double-digit boards. Roddy, who only played two minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Guards Amber Smith and Carly Ormerod tallied seven points each.