CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Aime Mabika’s 32nd-minute goal on a penalty kick leveled proceedings at 1-1 and the score line finished there as Kentucky earned a point at a quality Charlotte side on Saturday.
With the result, Kentucky finished the regular season 8-5-4 (4-2-2 Conference USA - 14 points). The Wildcats will be the No. 3 seed in the C-USA Tournament, which starts next Wednesday in Norfolk, Virginia. Kentucky will play Marshall in the quarterfinal round.
The hosts took a deserved lead in the 14th minute via a quality strike from Daniel Bruce. He scored his sixth goal of the season across goal and into the roof of the net after Zhuvonte Wilson hit the ball over the UK defense and Callum Montgomery headed it on.
Then just after the hour mark, Connor Probert was brought down inside the box and Aime Mabika – who scored his first career goal by converting a game-winning penalty kick at New Mexico in September – stepped up to the spot.
The redshirt freshman midfielder, who was moved into the back line after Landon Souder went off early, sent the goalkeeper diving the wrong way to his right to smash the ball in the back of the net and pull Kentucky back level.
“We knew in training leading up that it was going to be a tough game on the road,” Kentucky captain defender Alex Bumpus said. “Obviously, it’s Charlotte. It’s a tough place to play at. They’re a tough team to play against.
“Could have been a little better from both ends, but at the same time getting a result on the road is always a plus. Now all we can do is look forward to the Conference Tournament, move on from here and only get better.”
Mabika scored his third goal of the season, and his second from the penalty spot.
Kentucky had good chances to find a second after halftime, notably when JJ Williams pressured the Charlotte back line into a clearance error and Noah Hutchins found himself on the edge of the box with the goalkeeper out of position. He elected to take a touch, however, and the ball seemed to get caught under his feet so he could only lay it off for Connor Probert whose shot was blocked.
Shortly thereafter, Mikkel Pedersen hit a pinpoint cross to Kalil ElMedkhar, but Charlotte goalkeeper Elliott Pannico did well to save.
Kentucky goalkeeper Enrique Facusse was also forced into some solid saves to preserve the draw.
Kentucky is 2-4-1 against Charlotte all-time. The draw snapped Kentucky’s two-match winning streak in the series.
The last three meetings between the sides have gone to double overtime.
Following a three-match losing streak, Kentucky is now unbeaten in its last three matches, including two straight C-USA draws.
Kentucky has allowed 16 goals this season. UK allowed 16 goals in the whole of 2016, and 13 all of 2015.
Kentucky is 3-3-2 in road matches this year.
Facusse finished the regular season with the C-USA best goals-against average overall (0.88) and in league games (0.71).
He also tied for most shutouts in league play with four and overall with seven.
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