Five players scored in double-figures Sunday to lead the Kentucky women’s basketball team to a resounding 88-63 win over Alabama in front 6,040 fan in Memorial Coliseum, the second-largest crowd to see the Wildcats this season. The 25-point win marked UK’s largest margin of victory against a Southeastern Conference team since defeating Arkansas by 27 points (87-60) on Feb. 18, 2007.
Senior guard Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) charted her seventh career and third double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Senior forward Lydia Watkins (Hopkinsville, Ky.) came off the bench for 15 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two seals while junior forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) and freshman guard A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) added 14 points apiece. Sophomore guard Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.) also came off the bench and blistered the nets, hitting 4-of-6 attempts from three-point range, scoring all 12 of her points in the first. Junior point guard Amber Smith dished out a career-high nine assists to go along with eight points and three steals.
“That was a great win for our team,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I am just really proud of our players to bounce back from a tough road loss and defend the home court playing really hard. There were really a lot of people that got involved today. I am extremely happy that our defensive intensity really picked up in the second half. That is what I am most proud of in this game. Any SEC win is a good one and this is certainly one that we are proud to have. We will keep working and try to get better as a team.”
Snowden was one of the key contributors in UK’s 12th-straight home win. Her hot shooting provided a spark early in the game for the Wildcats (14-3, 2-2 SEC). Kentucky climbed to a nine-point lead (20-11) before Alabama (8-10, 0-5 SEC) battled back to knot the score a 22 apiece with 5:56 to go in the half. Snowden broke the tie with one of her four three-pointers in the game, sparking a 12-3 run over the next four minutes. Also giving the Cats an offensive boost during that run was Watkins who scored two baskets in the paint, Smith who added a three-pointer of her own and Franklin who made a pair of free throws. UK grabbed a 41-32 advantage at intermission and never led by fewer than 10 points the rest of the way.
“The seniors were huge in this game,” Mitchell said. “I am really proud of Lydia Watkins, because she was the only person on Thursday night (against South Carolina) that played with any type of consistent effort. She practiced so hard for two days that I was afraid that she may not be able to go today. She was just fantastic and I thought that she gave us a really steadying influence on the boards. She made layups a lot better today then she had, as well.
“Amani, who I was very disappointed in Thursday, whenever you see her hit double-digit rebounding then you know that she is going to have a good day. It doesn’t matter what the scoring is, if she rebounds it seems that the scoring follows. The two seniors were big today.”
Kentucky led by 12 points at 51-39 with 15:25 remaining when the Cats sprinted out on a 19-6 run over the next six minutes to grab a 72-47 advantage. Dunlap, sidelined with foul trouble most of the first half, scored 12 of her 14 points in the second stanza, extending her double-figure scoring streak to 22 consecutive games.
Ten of the 11 players that saw action scored at least one point and all 11 players grabbed at least one rebound. The Cats’ pressure defense forced Alabama into 25 turnovers and held the Tide to 37.3 percent shooting (22-of-59). UK shot an SEC-high 46.0 percent (29-63), including 50.0 percent (14-of-28) in the second half.
“We started finally getting Alabama to turn the ball over and that was the blue print for success today,” Mitchell said.
“Kentucky is very tough,” Alabama Coach Wendell Hudson said. “I thought Kentucky did a very good job of causing us to have problems. It was probably our worst night as far as taking care of the basketball that we have had in a long time. We had 25 turnovers and that is way too many. Kentucky did a really good job.”
Alabama was led by Ericka Russell with 17 points, including five three-pointers. Tierney Jenkins and Courtney Strauthers followed with 12 points each.
UK leads the all-time series against the Tide 20-15, including a 12-5 advantage in Lexington. The Cats have now won the last five meetings against Alabama.