Women’s basketball falls in quarterfinals of SEC tournament


Kentucky Wildcats guard Robyn Benton (1) gets tangled up with UGA during the UK vs. Georgia women’s SEC Tournament basketball game on Friday, March 5, 2021, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. UK lost 78-66. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Eric Decker

Two weeks ago, Kentucky went on the road to Athens and put themselves in prime position to have a favorable seeding heading into the conference tournament. What a difference two weeks can make.

Kentucky gained momentum from a win over Georgia on Feb. 25 and was looking to get revenge against a sub-par Ole Miss team that defeated them in Oxford as they cruised into the SEC tournament. But the Rebels came into Memorial Coliseum and trounced the Cats again, which fueled doubt as the regular season concluded.

The loss didn’t help Kentucky’s chances in the conference tournament, either. Because they had fallen to the fifth seed, Kentucky lost their double bye and were forced to play on Thursday, March 5, against a Florida team who went 3-11 against SEC foes in the regular season.

Kentucky pulled out a win against the Gators, but not without concern. The Cats were losing in the game as late as the fourth quarter and they allowed Kiara Smith to go off for 36 points in the process. It took a 10-15 shooting performance from Rhyne Howard to help secure the first round win for Kentucky that internally has high expectations for themselves once the NCAA tourney rolls around.

“Sometimes I’ll just be like ‘give me the ball’… ‘I’m gonna create for us and we’re gonna get back on top and win this game, ‘ Howard said after the 73-64 win over the Gators. That formula wasn’t as successful on March 5 against a top-20 Georgia team.

Howard still found a way to put up 33 points on over 50% shooting against the Bulldogs, but she couldn’t do it on her own. Chasity Patterson was the only other Wildcat in double figures with 11 points

Georgia pulled out of the gate with a 15-2 lead and never really looked back. Kentucky had opportunities to try and close the gap to build some momentum but failures in shooting night any chance of that happening as they lost by 12.

“I thought we clawed back in the third quarter, but at the end of the day we couldn’t get some crucial stops.” Coach Elzy said. “We gave up an offensive rebound at the end of the third quarter, which was a big momentum shift”

Kentucky’s next game date is unknown as they await their seeding in the NCAA tournament and decision on when they play in San Antonio.

“We knew that we were good enough to win this game and should have won this game in my opinion.” Howard said. “We’re going to prove it the next time we step on the court.”

The Cats will need production from the entire starting unit, not just Rhyne, if they want to stand any chance once the NCAA tournament starts. Kentucky is also a team that struggles with rebounding, and that issue will need to be addressed heading into the first round on March 21, whoever they may play.