UK, Franklin find redemption against Lady Bulldogs with win


Junior Victoria Dunlap takes a shot in the first half of UK’s game against Georgia at Memorial Coliseum on Thursday evening. Photo by William Baldon

Payback was on the minds of the UK women’s basketball team.

The No. 17 Cats (21-3, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) exacted their revenge on the No. 19 Georgia Lady Bulldogs (19-6, 6-6 SEC) winning 64-48 on Thursday en route to their eighth straight SEC win and 16th consecutive win at Memorial Coliseum.

The win might have been the sweetest for UK senior guard, and Georgia native, Amani Franklin, whose 15 points and nine rebounds provided her redemption, after managing just six points and four rebounds in UK’s one-point loss to the Lady Bulldogs in January.

“We lost to (UGA) by one, and that was heartbreaking right there,” Franklin said. “We were able to come back and put it on them tonight.”

Franklin’s solid night didn’t begin from tipoff, however. Shortly into the first half, Franklin was leading a three-on-one break for UK, but lost her dribble causing the ball to go out of play. When UK head coach Matthew Mitchell called a timeout shortly after, he met Franklin on the court.

“I just basically said you can make that play, so I tried to be a little light-hearted with Amani right there,” Mitchell said.

After that moment, Franklin’s play and what Mitchell called her “toughness on the boards” helped UK to victory.

Unlike the first meeting between the teams, UK held the rebounding advantage 40-37, and like many games this season, UK’s relentless defense helped them win the turnover margin as Georgia committed 24 miscues compared to UK’s 16.

Georgia head coach Andy Landers said his team matched UK’s defensive intensity, save for maybe the last five minutes of the game when UK padded their lead, but both teams struggled on offense.

Georgia finished with 19 field goals, and UK with 21. The major difference was the Cats outscored their opponent by a combined 22 points from the charity stripe and beyond the arc.

Reigning two-time SEC Player of the Week Victoria Dunlap couldn’t find a groove offensively. In the first half, she said she was “rushing her shots,” but after the break the shots weren’t falling.

“We had a lot of people step up, like Amani and A’dia here (controlling) the boards,” said Dunlap on her team’s ability to grind out a win.

Freshman guard A’dia Mathies mustered another stellar defensive performance.

Last Thursday, Mathies was charged with the responsibility of guarding Ole Miss senior and the SEC’s leading scorer Bianca Thomas. Against Georgia, the rookie, Mathies, got the better of another veteran guard, limiting senior Ashley Houts, who poured in a career-high 27 points against UK in the team’s first game, to seven points.

With the score at 46-37 with over nine minutes to play, Mitchell threw his suit jacket to the sideline after he thought the referees had missed an elbowing call.

Mitchell’s passion, which he later claimed to be unwarranted and, he hoped his mom didn’t see, energized the 6,521 fans in attendance. UK went on to finish the game on an 18-11 run.

“(The win streak) feels awesome, me and (senior) Lydia (Watkins) we know we’re the old ladies on the team, but we’ve been through it all,” said the three-time NIT participant Franklin, who has never enjoyed this kind of team success until this season.

Thanks to the win streak UK remains within striking distance of SEC leader Tennessee.

“Hey, this was a huge win just because of where we are right now,” Mitchell said.”… We are in the thick of this (SEC) race.”