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Kentucky women’s basketball takes down Arkansas in SEC opener

Travis Fannon
Kentucky forward Ajae Petty dribbles the ball up the court during the Kentucky womens basketball open practice on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, at the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Kentucky women’s basketball (8-7) opened its conference schedule with a win on Thursday, defeating the Arkansas Razorbacks 73-63 inside Rupp Arena.

The win extends what is now a four-game win streak for the Cats, the longest such streak of the season with Kentucky boasting a winning record for the first time since November.

The Razorbacks would jump out to a four-point lead halfway through the first quarter after a 6-2 Arkansas run out of the gate, with four of the Razorbacks’ points coming from sophomore Maryam Dauda.

Kentucky would draw within two to conclude the first after a basket from senior Eniya Russell, which would prove to be the final points of a low scoring first quarter.

The second quarter would prove to be back-and-forth, with the Wildcats drawing even and proceeding to take a 14-10 lead after three straight buckets from senior Ajae Petty that saw her enter the scoring column.

“It’s just our intensity,” Kentucky junior Brooklynn Miles said regarding the Cats’ second quarter performance. “We feed off each other, when one of us gets going we’re all ready to jump.”

A 12-0 Wildcat run would follow the Petty points, with Petty becoming the first scorer to enter double figures to find herself two rebounds shy of her eighth double-double of the season at halftime.

The Wildcats would end the half on a 12-4 run to command a 12-point lead heading into the break, with the SEC three-point-leading Razorbacks going 0-13 from beyond the arc in the first half.

“It was helpful that we play a lot of teams that we’ve had to chase around the three-point line,” Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy said. “We just really focused on switching and running them off the three-point line.”

Arkansas would come out of the break hot, scoring the first six points of the half to cut the Wildcat lead back to single digits early in the third.

The Razorbacks would follow with three straight three-point field goals after missing every shot from deep in the first half, giving the Hogs their first lead since halfway through the second quarter.

Senior Maddie Scherr would exit the game after earning her fourth foul, with the rest of the third proving to be a back-and-forth battle that saw the Wildcats end with a one-point lead heading into the fourth.

Both teams would continue to exchange buckets early in the fourth quarter, with neither team being able to command a lead above four until Kentucky’s five-point advantage over halfway through the fourth quarter.

Another Razorback 3-pointer would bring Arkansas within two, but the Wildcats would begin to pull away with Kentucky sinking all eight of its final shots from the charity stripe.

The solid free throw shooting would finalize what would be a 73-63 win for the Wildcats, with Petty finishing with 22 points and tearing down 19 rebounds in the process to earn her eighth double-double of the season.

“I’ve been saying I think Petty is the most improved player in the SEC,” Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors said. “I watch individual play and I’ve just been wowed by what she’s done.”

With the Razorbacks in the rearview, the Wildcats will shift their focus to their matchup with their rivals to the South in the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Sunday, Jan. 7, at noon ET with the contest being aired on the SEC Network.

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