Kentucky rolls Mississippi State 83-67 in SEC Tournament


Kentucky guard Jada Walker (11) dribbles up the court during the UK vs. Vanderbilt womens basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 69-65. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff

Cole Parke

No. 7 seeded Kentucky defeated No. 10 Mississippi State 83-67 in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday, further solidifying itself as an NCAA Tournament team.

With the win, Kentucky earns a rematch against No. 2 LSU, hoping to get revenge on the Tigers after losing in Baton Rouge on Jan. 30 as part of its 1-8 losing period to start the year.

In its victory over the Bulldogs, Kentucky extended its win streak up to seven games.

Freshman guard Jada Walker led the charge in Kentucky’s win, tying her career-high 21 points, all with a face-mask due to a broken nose she suffered in UK’s home finale against Auburn on Sunday.

“I felt real good,” Walker said. “Especially coming back with the mask, I wasn’t sure how I was going to play, but I played well. I don’t think [the mask] affected my game but it was an adjustment for me because I’m not used to wearing something on my face.”

Along with Walker, four other Wildcats scored double-figures in the win, with junior forward Dre’una Edwards scoring 18 points.

“Dre can put the ball in the basket,” Kentucky guard Rhyne Howard said. “We’re going to get it to her every time she’s down there. She can score on all three levels and we trust her to make the right decisions like she does. If she is scoring, we’re giving her the ball, if she’s not scoring we’re giving her the ball. She believes in us so we believe in her.”

Kentucky trailed Mississippi State at the end of the first quarter, with UK as a team looking slower than usual, but the Cats outscored the Bulldogs 22-9 in the second quarter and never looked back.

Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy noted prior to the game that she was not looking for the team to have another comeback after recording its largest fourth quarter comeback in program history to defeat the Bulldogs on Feb. 15, and comeback it did not as the Cats found themselves up by double-digits entering the final period of play.

Though simply holding out for the win would have sufficed, Kentucky was not satisfied, again outscoring the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter to extend its winning margin.

Kentucky dominated the paint in the win, out-scoring the Bulldogs in the paint as well as out-rebounding them 47-25.

“We went into the game saying we needed to own the boards,” Elzy said. “We had to make sure that we rebounded by committee, and I really challenged our guards. I told them, ‘You can’t stand, you have to go and help us rebound’. Offensively we wanted four people on the boards, defensively five. I’m so proud of our heart, [rebounding] has been a big emphasis so I am smiling because we did rebound well.” 

Though the Bulldogs are unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament, being projected prior to the loss as one of the first four out, the strong win for Kentucky further validates UK’s case as a team that deserves a trip to the Big Dance.

Recent bracket projections already had the Cats in the field, currently a No. 11 seed, thanks in big part to the winning streak Kentucky ended its regular season on.

With another good win in the books, it’s looking all but certain Elzy’s Cats will be putting on their dancing shoes regardless of the result against LSU.

That said, the matchup against the Tigers is not one Kentucky is planning to blow off as it continues to fight for revenge and a higher seed in the tournament.

“[LSU] is well coached,” Elzy said. “They’re tough, we were in a dogfight with them at LSU and we were in the game until the last three minutes. They’re physical, they’re extremely athletic, and we’re going to have to battle on the boards. One thing I don’t think we did well at LSU was finish in the paint, we’re going to have to push in transition.”

A win over a projected No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament would be a big plus for Kentucky’s resume and is very likely a seed-altering game if the Wildcats come out on top.

No. 10 Kentucky against No. 2 LSU is currently scheduled for Friday, March. 4, again from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Tip-off is currently scheduled for 7 p.m. EST and will air live on the SEC Network.