LEXINGTON, Ky. – Despite leading by as many as 13 points in the first half, the Kentucky women’s basketball team turned as cold as the Lexington temperatures in the second half, shooting just 11.1 percent (3-of-27) before falling to Xavier, 51-46, in front of 4,448 fans in Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Kentucky (5-8) led by 12 points, 38-26, with 14:57 minutes remaining in the second half before the scoring drought began. Xavier (9-4) went on a 12-0 run to tie the game at 38 with 6:13 to go, holding the Wildcats scoreless for nine minutes and 16 seconds. Sophomore Lydia Watkins (Hopkinsville, Ky.), who has now connected on 19 consecutive free throws in the last three games, ended the drought by sinking two foul shots.
The Musketeers’ run increased to 19-3, however, as they took a 46-41 advantage with 2:28 left in the game to pull away for the win. UK did not hit a field goal in the last 15 minutes of the game but went 8-of-14 from the charity stripe.
“It was bad, real bad,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the scoring drought. “It is really embarrassing to be at this level and go that long without scoring. We will just have to continue to plug at it and see if we can get something going. Defensively, I thought we did some really good things tonight, but I don’t want to harp on the defense because you should be able to score more than 14 points in the second half. I thought we gave good energy and good effort and I thought our players tried real hard defensively.”
The Wildcats shot 25.4 percent (16-of-63) from the floor for the game and scored a season-low 46 points. They held Xavier to just 30.5 percent shooting (18-of-59), including 31.0 percent in the second half (9-of-29).
No Wildcat scored in double figures for the first time this season as senior Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) led the effort with nine points. It marked just the second time this season the All-SEC guard has not scored in double-digits. Freshman center Catina Bett (Gadsden, Ala.) tied her career high with seven points and five rebounds in a personal-best 18 minutes of action. Freshman forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) also added seven points while sophomore guard/forward Amani Franklin (Decatur, Ga.) led the defensive effort with nine rebounds.
One of the brightest spots in the game happened at the 12:28 mark of the first half when red-shirt junior Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) checked in for the Wildcats. Roddy, who missed the entire 2006-07 season with a torn ACL and has not played in a game this season because of reoccurring knee problems, saw her first regular-season game action since facing Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 20, 2006. The 6-3 forward/center charted five rebounds and two points in seven minutes of action.
“I think she looked good and I think she played well,” Mitchell said. “I am telling you, she has had limited practice. She practiced yesterday and today and that was it. She looked good and I think she will help our team improve.”
Xavier broke to an early 6-2 advantage to start the game before freshman point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) recorded back-to-back baskets, the last of which went in while she was falling down. Smith completed the three-point play to give UK a 7-6 lead at the 13:42 mark of the opening half. A hoop by Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) and a three-pointer by senior guard Chelsea Chowning (Berea, Ky.) on the left wing extended the Wildcats’ advantage to 12-6 with 12:30 left in the first period.
The Musketeers responded with an 11-2 run to go up 17-14 before Kentucky rattled off 15 consecutive points to go up 29-17 on a put-back by Dunlap at the 2:41 mark of the first half. The Wildcats took a 32-24 lead in the locker room at halftime.
They were led by Ta’Shia Phillips with 16 points. Amber Harris and Tudy Reed followed with 10 apiece.
Kentucky returns to action Monday, Jan. 7, when it plays host to first-time opponent and final regular-season foe Wofford of the Southern Conference. Tip-off in Memorial Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. EST and the game will be carried live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.