UK women win up and down battle at Arkansas


Freshman guard Taylor Murray (24) drives past a defender during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday, February 21, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 77-63. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Chris Leach

The UK women’s basketball team got another step closer to locking up a top four seed in the SEC tournament, as the Cats defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks 69-62 for their ninth conference win of the season on Thursday evening.

The Cats led for all but 1:36 of the game, but at no point did anyone think UK would walk out of the arena with an easy victory. There were many momentum swings throughout the second half that gave Arkansas their fair chances of pulling off the upset.

Both teams struggled to knock down shots in the opening half, but the Cats would take a 31-20 lead into halftime after hitting five threes in the first quarter. Arkansas only shot 17 percent in the second quarter, which allowed the Cats to open up the double-digit lead.

Coming out of the break, it seemed like UK would cruise to an easy victory after they stretched their lead to 13. However, Arkansas would play much better offensively in the second half, making the game much more competitive than UK had expected.

The Razorbacks went on a 7-0 run in the middle of the third to cut UK’s lead to six at the six-minute mark. Just 3:30 later, UK’s lead was down to one after Jessica Jackson hit her third three of the game.

If it were not for Jackson, it is possible Arkansas would have never been in the game to begin with. Jackson led the Razorbacks in points, rebounds and assists, scoring 24 points off 50 percent shooting.

By the 7:41 mark of the fourth quarter, the Cats had built their lead back up to 11 after closing out the third strong, and hitting two of their first three shots in the fourth.

Arkansas would respond with another run, this time scoring nine unanswered points to trim UK’s lead back down to two with under five minutes remaining. The Cats would then go on a 9-0 run of their own, building the lead back up to 11 with under two minutes to go, putting away Arkansas’ hopes of an upset for good.

The Razorbacks were single-handedly led by Jackson, but the Cats had four players score in double-figures, led by Taylor Murray who scored 16 points and also led the team in assists with five dimes.

The win gave the Cats’ hopes of finishing in the top four in the SEC standings a big boost, as the Cats are now tied for third in the standings, after Texas A&M was upset by LSU on the road.

The Cats also got some breathing room outside of the top four, as Tennessee, who was challenging UK for the fourth spot, lost on the road at Alabama, pushing them two games behind the Cats.

The Cats will have a chance to cushion their spot in the top four of the SEC even more on Feb. 19, as UK will host Florida, who is 4-9 in conference play. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum.