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Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky women’s basketball’s season brought to an end in 76-62 loss to Tennessee

Sydney Yonker
Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy talk to Kentucky guard Saniah Tyler during the Kentucky vs Georgia women’s basketball game on Wednesday, Mar. 6, 2024, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. Kentucky won 64-50. Photos by Sydney Yonker | Staff

Kentucky women’s basketball (12-20, 4-12) had its season ended by the Tennessee Volunteers on Thursday, falling 76-62 in the second round of the SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.

The loss ended another season with the Cats falling under .500 in both regular season and conference play, but extended the Wildcats’ streak of advancing in the SEC Tournament to five seasons.

With the absence of senior guard Maddie Scherr, head coach Kyra Elzy opted for a starting lineup featuring junior Brooklynn Miles, sophomores Cassidy Rowe and Amiya Jenkins, senior Ajae Petty and graduate student Emma King.

King would net the first bucket of the game by way of an opening 3-pointer, with Rowe adding to Kentucky’s advantage shortly after with a deep two from the corner.

“I’ve had to play a position that was completely new to me,” King said regarding her play this season. “It was kind of fun to be able to embrace a new rule and figure out how I can help the team.”

Rowe and King would go on to combine for the first 10 Kentucky points and a bucket shortly after would give the Wildcats a five-point lead over the Vols halfway through the first.

Tennessee would battle back as the quarter wound down, with a triple from Volunteer junior Sara Puckett giving Tennessee its first lead of the afternoon.

Puckett would kick off the scoring in the second quarter, but the Wildcats would keep pace with Tennessee behind the four second-quarter points from sophomore Saniah Tyler that would see the Wildcats down two heading into the break.

“I just play hard every time,” Tyler said. “This comes from my own self just getting in the gym and having confidence in myself.”

A Jenkins layup would tie the score out of the break, but a series of Volunteer triples would give Tennessee a five-point advantage halfway through the third quarter.

The Volunteers would promptly stretch their lead out to double digits after a triple from senior Tess Darby, but a series of Kentucky buckets topped off by a jumper from senior Eniya Russell would bring the Cats within five.

Kentucky would proceed to take a nine-point deficit into the fourth quarter before a Tyler jumper would shorten Tennessee’s lead to eight right out of the gate.

Tennessee would find its groove shortly after, with standout forward Rickea Jackson returning to the floor after not seeing much action due to three quick fouls in the first half.

Jackson would make her presence known quickly, scoring six of her eight points in the fourth quarter to put the Vols up 13 with three minutes to play.

Puckett would put all hopes of a Wildcat comeback to sleep with yet another basket, leading all scorers with 22 points and leading Tennessee to an eventual 76-62 victory over Kentucky.

The loss brings the 2023-2024 season to a close for the Kentucky Wildcats and begins a period of uncertainty surrounding several seniors with another year of eligibility, along with question marks surrounding the head coaching position.

“Obviously it’s been an up and down season, and we go back to work,” Elzy said. “But I want to let it be known that the future is bright at Kentucky.”

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Colton Johnson, Assistant Broadcast/Podcast Editor

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