On the heels of a hard-fought game at No. 15 Missouri on Thursday where the Wildcats battled back from a 16-point deficit to make it a one-possession game with under a minute to play, the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team stays on the road this weekend as it travels to face second-ranked and undefeated Mississippi State on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET inside Humphrey Coliseum.
The game will be broadcast live on the SEC Network with Brenda VanLengen and Mike Thibault on the call. The action can also be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. Darren Headrick, in his first year with the program, will be calling the game on the UK Sports Radio Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Headrick’s call on 630AM WLAP. Live stats and free audio will be available online at ukathletics.com.
Kentucky (12-13, 4-7 Southeastern Conference) feel just short in its come-from-behind, upset bid at No. 15 Missouri on Thursday. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 16 in the second quarter but after making some adjustments at halftime, UK outscored the Tigers 46-42 in the second half and had the lead cut to one possession with under a minute to go. Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham, who led all scorers with 29 points, going 8-of-10 from the field, 5-of-7 from 3 and 8-of-10 from 3, hit two free throws under 10 seconds to seal the final score, 83-78.
Three Wildcats scored in double figures in the game with junior guard Taylor Murray leading the way with 23 points adding six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Fellow junior guard Maci Morris scored 22 points with two rebounds and went 3-of-5 from long range. Freshman post Dorie Harrison scored 12 points in the game with four rebounds, going 6-of-7 from the field. The Wildcats shot 50.0 percent from the field but allowed Missouri to shoot 55.3 percent from the field, including 10-of-21 from 3. UK won the battle in the paint 26-20, points off turnovers 19-13, fast-break points 6-0 and bench points 20-4. The Tigers had 17 second-chance points to UK’s 12.
UK is in the middle of a difficult stretch against quality opponents. The Wildcats will end the regular season with four of their final six games on the road, of those, four are against top-15 ranked teams. The stretch started at No. 15 Missouri and continues Sunday at No. 2 Mississippi State. Next week, UK plays host to Arkansas on Thursday and at No. 7 South Carolina on Sunday, before ending the final week at Ole Miss and vs Mississippi State in Lexington for the regular-season finale. So far this season, UK is 0-7 against ranked opponents.
Mississippi State enters the weekend with a 25-0 record, including a 11-0 mark in conference play and 13-0 record at home. The Bulldogs are currently ranked second in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today/Coaches Top 25. The Bulldogs are also coming through a difficult stretch that saw them play at highly ranked Missouri last Thursday before a Big Monday showdown with top-10 ranked South Carolina on Monday. State won both games, defeating the Tigers, 57-53, before an impressive 67-53 victory over the Gamecocks. The win at Missouri was the smallest margin of victory for the Bulldogs in conference play.
The Bulldogs are averaging 83.7 points per game this year while limiting teams to just 55.2 points per game. MSU is hitting 47.4 percent from the field, 38.3 percent from 3 and out-rebounding teams by 6.5 rebounds per game. Senior guard Victoria Vivians is leading the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game, adding 5.6 rebounds per game and 46 assists. Junior post Teaira McCowan is averaging 19.0 points per game and 13.2 rebounds per game with 48 blocks. McCowan is hitting 61.8 percent from the field this season and 59.9 percent from the free-throw line.
Kentucky leads the all-time series in games played against Mississippi State, 27-17, including a 10-8 record in games played in Starkville. The Wildcats have won 11 straight games in the series, including 13 of the last 15 meetings. Three of the last five meetings have gone to overtime. UK’s last lost to the Bulldogs was Jan. 18, 2009 in Lexington, 52-45. Kentucky has had great success under Matthew Mitchell, a 1995 graduate of Mississippi State, inside Humphrey Coliseum as the Wildcats have not lost in the building under Mitchell’s guidance sitting 5-0. UK’s last lost to Mississippi State in Starkville was a 72-59 loss on Jan. 20, 2005. Mitchell is 12-1 against his alma mater as UK’s head coach.
Last year, the two teams met in Lexington on Senior Night in one of the more memorable wins in recent program history for the Wildcats, who took down No. 2 Mississippi State, 78-75 in overtime. It was senior guard Makayla Epps who scored on an offensive rebound to put the Wildcats on top 77-75 with seconds remaining. After the Bulldogs turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, UK made one of two free throws to seal the win. Fellow senior Evelyn Akhator had 27 points with 16 rebounds for UK while Epps ended with 22 points and five assists.
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