Poor paint defense dooms Kentucky in Ole Miss defeat


Kentucky Wildcats head coach Kyra Elzy coaches from the sidelines during the UK vs. Missouri women’s basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 61-55. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff.

Barkley Truax

Kentucky suffered its fifth loss of season tonight, falling 72-60 at the hands of the Rebels.

The Cats came into this game looking to build off its gutsy victory over Missouri on Sunday. Instead, they suffered their worst defeat – NCAA Tournament resume-wise – of the year, which snapped Mississippi’s six-game losing streak. 

“Credit to Ole Miss,” head coach Kyra Elzy said after the game. “I thought they came out aggressive… they had a lot of energy and intensity.”

Solid starts for both teams led to some quick, fast-paced play to open the action in Oxford. But Kentucky’s offense would fade fast.

After opening 6-for-11 from the field, the Cats missed seven of their next eight shots to end the first quarter. A couple made baskets from junior guard Blair Green kept UK close, down only 17-16 heading into the second period. 

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their sluggish play carried over. They committed two turnovers in the first minute that gave the Rebels four easy points, and never got comfortable from the field, going just 10-of-30 in the first twenty minutes. Those ensuing empty possessions, and 17 points from Shakira Austin, had Kentucky in a 41-28 halftime hole. 

Five points from Rhyne Howard and junior guard Jazmine Massengill quickly cut the deficit to eight. A made three-pointer from Chasity Patterson suddenly had the Cats within one possession moments later. 

But Ole Miss rallied defensively, holding Kentucky to one make in its final ten attempts and climbing back up by eight after three quarters of play.

Just 3-for-15 at that point, Howard sunk two huge buckets to kick off the last ten minutes. She tried to will the Wildcats over the hump, but it wasn’t enough to overcome 21 points and 11 rebounds from Austin.

Kentucky had no answer for the Rebels inside, allowing 42 points on the interior. Its poor second quarter, where the Rebels outscored them 24-12, also played a big role in the result. Fortunately, the Cats head coach thinks all their deficiencies are curable.

“Our game plan was to keep them out of the paint… we did not get a body on somebody” Elzy said. “[But] everything that happened to us [is] fixable.”

Howard finished with 26 points and ten rebounds to lead Kentucky, giving her a second straight double-double and five total this season.

The Cats shot 32% from the field (21-of-66) overall. The Rebels hit at a 48% (27-for-56) clip and outrebounded Kentucky 48-34.

Both Elzy and Howard implied that the Wildcats have a long week ahead to correct their mistakes. We’ll see if they have done so next Thursday, when they host a Lady Vols team that dealt them a 17-point beatdown in their first meeting. Tip is at 7 p.m. on SEC Network Plus.