Kentucky womens basketball hopes to repeat history at No. 1 South Carolina


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Maddie Scherr (22) dribbles the ball up the court during the Kentucky vs. Auburn womens basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Auburn won 71-68. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Ali Cetinok, Assistant Sports Editor

Kentucky womens basketball looks to build on its second SEC win of the season as the Wildcats travel to face No. 1 South Carolina, who stands at 21-0 this season, in Columbia on Thursday. 

The matchup will be the second time the two teams have played each other this season, with South Carolina defeating Kentucky 95-66 inside Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 12.

The earlier meeting between the Gamecocks and Cats remained close through three quarters of play, with the score at 59-51 going into the fourth. Unfortunately for head coach Kyra Elzy’s team, USC would go on to outscore UK 36-15 in the final quarter to pull away for a lopsided victory.

Something worth noting for Kentucky is that the 66 points scored on South Carolina is the second-highest total any team has scored against the No. 1 team in the nation this season with only No. 2 Stanford scoring more with 71 in an overtime loss.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Robyn Benton (1) dribbles the ball towards the basket during the Kentucky vs. No. 1 South Carolina womens basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. South Carolina won 95-66. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Since the loss in Lexington earlier this season, Kentucky is 2-2 in its last four games with losses by one point at Mississippi State and three points to Auburn at home.

The Wildcats also recorded a win at Florida and a 23-point win over Missouri in their last time out, meaning the Wildcats should have plenty of confidence heading into Columbia as opposed to the eight-game losing streak they were on prior.

Jada Walker, Blair Green, Maddie Scherr and Robyn Benton all scored in double figures against Missouri as Kentucky went for 29-56 from the field and hit eight 3-pointers. The Wildcats also forced Missouri into 22 turnovers.

Regardless of the offensive burst from the team, the Wildcats will be leaning heavily on Scherr on Thursday, with the former Oregon Duck having recorded two 20-plus point games in a row, bringing her season average up to 10.9 points per game.

Scherr also leads the conference in assists per game with five and is the only player in the conference averaging at least five in three statistical categories with 5.7 boards per game and five assists per game as well.

Regardless of Scherr’s impressive feats, Benton is currently leading the team in scoring with 18.4 points per game in conference action, having scored double-digits in every game she has played in this season. 

Walker is also coming off an 18-point performance that helped lead Kentucky to victory on Sunday, averaging 13.7 points per game so far this season. The sophomore point guard also leads the league in steals with 51 and steals per game at 2.4.

Walker also has the second highest free-throw percentage in the SEC, hitting from the stripe 82.7% of the time.

Kentucky Wildcats guard Jada Walker (11) stands on the court during the Kentucky vs. Missouri womens basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 77-54 Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff (Travis Fannon)

With the Wildcats standing at 10-11 on the season and 2-7 in conference play, the situation is still dire, but not impossible as last season proved. 

Just one year ago the Cats went on a nine-game run during February and March to make the NCAA Tournament and even claim an SEC Championship, last defeating eventual National Champions South Carolina, with the win over the Gamecocks standing as the Wildcats’ last ranked victory.

With memories of last season still fresh in the minds of many on Elzy’s squad, the Wildcats will be hoping that history repeats itself this season.

Two wins in the SEC now mean the Cats can start having the confidence to go on a run once again, but it will be no easy feat, with the undefeated reigning champions standing in their way.

Tipoff inside Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, is set for Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. EST and can be watched live on the SEC Network.