WOMEN: Potts Leads Wildcats to Comeback Win

St.Thomas, Virgin Islands — The Kentucky women's basketball team clawed back from a 17-point first half deficit to defeat Oregon State 73-70 in the Wildcats' opening game Thursday at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Sara Potts led the Cats with 27 points while Jennifer Humphrey notched her second season and fifth career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman Sarah Elliott followed with a career-high 14 points and two blocks.

"It was a close one tonight," UK Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "I am proud of how our team competed in the second half. We came out in the game playing jittery on offense. We were able to get the jitters out and were fortunate enough to come back and win this game."

Kentucky (3-0) was plagued with 11 turnovers and a dominating Oregon State offense in the first half. The Cats trailed by as many as 17 points (38-21) and went in the locker room down 44-30. OSU, led by Shannon Howell's 17 points, shot 53.3 percent from the floor in the opening stanza and scored 13 points off UK's miscues. OSU hit 6-of-11 from beyond the arc in the first half and out-rebounded the Cats 16-15.

"We just turned the ball over too much and gave up too many three-pointers," DeMoss said. "We were able to come back and shut them down. I think we were too worried about [Oregon State guard Shannon] Howell and they were able to kick it out to other three-point shooters. We didn't make too many adjustments, except for getting more comfortable on offense."

Kentucky came out a different team in the second half. Trailing 48-32 with 18:48 to go, Potts sparked the comeback with a three-point play, marking the beginning of a 17-3 run over the next seven minutes. Humphrey capped off the run with a basket to tie the score at 51 with 10:31 remaining. Back-to-back baskets by Elliott and Potts pushed the lead to five, 60-55, but Howell refused to back down for the Beavers. She led Oregon State on a 6-0 run and the Beavers pulled back in front 63-62 with 5:40 left. The Cats continued to apply defensive pressure, forcing 14 second-half turnovers by OSU.

"We always say that we start our offense with our defense," point guard Angela Phillips said. "We got in the passing lanes and put pressure on them and they couldn't handle it."

More defensive stops helped the Cats pull back ahead by six, 69-63, with 3:32 to go. Two free-throws by Oregon State's Mandy Close trimmed the Kentucky advantage to one, 71-70, with 1:18 left in the game. Elliott provided a block in the paint with 31 seconds left and Keiko Tate rebounded the block. Potts was fouled with 12 seconds on the clock and the game on the line. The senior made both free-throws for a three-point lead and the Beavers were unable to convert on the following possession. Both Potts and Humphrey nailed crucial free throws down the stretch. Humphrey went 4-of-4 from the line all in the second half while Potts went 10-of-14, hitting 4-of-4 in the final two minutes.

"I thought we did a good job of putting Sara in a position to take it to the basket. She got to the free-throw line 14 times tonight and they really just weren't giving her any open looks," DeMoss said. "Sarah Elliott stepped up big for us on the offensive end as well. We needed offensive help and she really came through for us. ‘Lanky' really did a good job on the boards tonight, especially in the second half. We challenged our post players to compete on the boards. I think our veterans really stepped up and played like veterans."

The Cats did not allow an OSU three-pointer in the second half and won the battle of the boards 39-31. UK outscored OSU 43-26 in the second half and went 19-of-27 for 70.4 percent from the free throw line.

OSU was led by Howell with 27 points. Close followed with 22. OSU shot 46.4 percent from the floor while Kentucky hit 44.6 percent. UK's bench outscored OSU 34-14.

UK returns to action tomorrow vs. first-year Division I member South Dakota State at 3:30 p.m. EST. It will mark the first meeting between the Cats and the Jackrabbits.

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