LEXINGTON, Ky. – Georgia let Kentucky shoot it Thursday night.
The problem was it wasn't a Senior Night goodwill gesture. The Lady Bulldogs wanted them to shoot.
The Kentucky women's basketball team (14-14, 4-9 Southeastern Conference) was unable to overcome a stingy Georgia defense on Thursday night, falling 61-57 in front of 5,112 fans at Memorial Coliseum. Behind an effective zone defense, the Lady Bulldogs (16-12, 6-7 SEC) held UK to a season low-tying 20 points in the first half, spoiling UK's Senior Night.
“Coach (Andy) Landers had a fantastic game plan for us,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It just altered our game and made it tough for us because a lot of wide open shots were available, and that's not good for our team because when our team has wide open shots and they start to miss them, we have not had the ability to bounce back from that.”
Reminiscent of some of the shooting woes UK battled earlier in the season, the Wildcats shot just 24.1 percent in the first half, allowing Georgia to open up a 30-20 halftime lead.
After taking to an early 8-6 lead, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 14-2 run midway through the first half to pull in front 22-8. Packed in a zone defense, Georgia let UK hoist three-pointers from the outside while it was busy burying three-pointers of its own.
Unlike its counterpart, UK couldn't find the bottom of the net. The Wildcats were 0-of-7 in the first half from behind the arc and finished the half making just 7-of-29 field goals.
“In the first half we were just doing a terrible job,” senior guard Carly Ormerod said. “We were just standing around, not cutting and not hitting our shots. We lost the game in the first half.”
But things changed in the second.
UK never found its mark from outside after halftime - the Wildcats finished the game 2-of-17 from behind the arc – but did find a solution to the zone defense by taking it to the basket.
With a combination of Ormerod's drives to the basket and sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap's interior play, UK rallied in the second half. The Wildcats inched their way back in the game and cut what was a 10-point halftime lead down to one when Dunlap swished a four-foot jumper in the paint.
If there was one thing UK couldn't figure out all game long it was how to shut down junior guard Ashley Houts and sophomore Porsha Phillips.
Phillips halted the UK rally with an offensive board and layup on the ensuing possession and Houts all but sealed it for good with a 3-point dagger from the top of the key.
Houts was lethal from just about everywhere on the floor Thursday night, scoring a game-high 26 points on 7-of-13 shooting and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. Phillips added 11 points for the Lady Bulldogs.
“My hat's off to Ashley Houts,” Mitchell said. “She was fantastic tonight and was really the difference in the ballgame. She was not going to be denied and she was not going to lose. She was a tough competitor tonight and she's as tough as there is in the conference.”
After UK missed its first 14 three-point attempts, sophomore Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) nailed two treys in the final minute, but it was too little too late. Smith's three-pointer with 25 seconds remaining came up just short, and although Georgia struggled to make its free throws down the stretch, the Lady Bulldogs hit just enough to break their five-game losing streak.
Ormerod, a Louisville, Ky., native closed out her final regular-season game at Memorial Coliseum in style by notching her second career double-double. She finished the game with 11 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
“She really, really competed tonight,” Mitchell said. “She’s a person you just can never question how badly she wanted to win. She gave it all and she left it on the floor. We asked them to do that before the game. Carly responded and she left it all out there.”
Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) paced UK scoring wise with 16 points and added 11 rebounds for her 13th career and 10th double-double of the season.
UK honored its three departing seniors – Ormerod, Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) and Jenn'e Jackson (Radcliff, Ky.) – before the game for Senior Night. Roddy finished with eight points and nine rebounds while Jackson had two points.
“I’ve been a UK fan my whole life,” Ormerod said. “I knew this is where I was supposed to be and where I belong. I gave it my everything and I’ll always bleed blue. I had a lot of fun these past four years and I’m going to miss it.”
The Wildcats will finish the regular season with a road game at South Carolina on Sunday at 3 p.m. EST. The game will be carried live on FSN South and on the Big Blue Radio Sports Network with Neil Price.