Being or occurring in a tense or critical situation
Tending to be successful in tense or critical situations
Clutch. Sara Potts, 31 pts., 9 rebs., 3 assists
Sara Potts is determined for her senior season not to end. After turning in a career high 32 points last Sunday against UT-Chattanooga, Potts turned in a 31-point effort tonight against Xavier, scoring 29 in the second half. The senior from Rochester Hills, MI, proved tonight that she has some very broad shoulders.
Tonight's game had all of the elements of a tournament atmosphere. It had smack talk leading up to the game with Xavier forward Tara Boothe talking about the previous match-up this season where Xavier defeated UK. Boothe stated, "At times, they would just stand there and wait for the ball and I just had to go around them and go get the rebound." This found its way to the bulletin board in the UK locker room. It had a rowdy crowd of 3531 fans, with Xavier bringing a large following with them. And for UK fans, it had a great, literally last-minute comeback.
In tonight's meeting, Xavier jumped out on UK very quickly and built a 10-point lead at the 11:23 mark in the first half, leading 18-8. But a pesky UK squad would not go away. With her all-SEC freshman 6' 6"center, Sarah Elliott, struggling and XU playing suffocating defense on leading scorer and senior leader Sara Potts, DeMoss turned to her bench and inserted senior guard Danyelle Payne. Payne came off the bench to provide energy, defensive intensity, and much needed scoring. Payne contributed 6 points quickly. The first half saw Xavier go a series of runs and stretch the lead to 14 points before UK cut it to 10 at the half. During the first half, XU dominated the paint with 18 points in the paint and 6 offensive rebounds. In addition, XU's stingy defense lead to 11 points off turnovers during the first half. Junior star Tara Boothe lit up UK for 15 points and dominated the boards. UK sharp shooter Sara Potts ended the first half with only 2 points.
The second half started out much like the first. Xavier extended its lead back to 14 in just a little over a minute into the second half. UK would not go away though. They chipped away the XU lead. At the 17:31 mark in the second half, Potts hit her first trey to bring the XU lead down to 9. From there, Potts put the team on her back and began the slow climb out of the hole. Slowly and steadily, UK chipped away at XU. During the next 8 minutes, the lead would expand and contract, with UK finally getting within 4 points at the 9:36 mark, 49-53. This same time period would see Potts pour in 11 points. It would also see Coach Mickie DeMoss switch up her defenses going between a 2-3 match-up zone and man-to-man with a trapping press thrown in for good measure. It served to disrupt XU's offense and limit Boothe. UK would cut the XU lead to 2 at the 7:08 at mark only to see it balloon back to 9 at the 5:26 mark with Xavier leading 53-62.
This would be the last time Xavier would score. Coach DeMoss called a 30-second time out and demanded her team step up and rise to the challenge. That they did. UK chipped away at the lead with each possession. They shut down Xavier on the offensive end of the floor and went to work on the boards and Potts continued her magnificent second half performance. During the last 5:26 of the game, Potts added another 11 points. With 35 seconds remaining, Potts drained a jumper to give UK the 63-62 lead, its first since leading 6-5 at 16:20 mark in the first half. Payne followed Potts basket with a big steal with 15 seconds remaining and got the ball to Potts. Xavier had no choice but to foul. Potts went to the line and sank both free throws. UK would get the rebound on the following Xavier possession and Potts found her way back to the line to score the final 2 points of the game.
After the game, Coach DeMoss commented on her team's determination. "The thing I liked about what I saw tonight was the fact that we never quit. We kept believing that we could win the game. Our seniors, I could see it in their eyes. They weren't ready for the season to be over." DeMoss challenged her team at halftime to rise up and not let their season end this way. She demanded that they be more aggressive, "That's been our philosophy in the WNIT -- they're coming to our house and we're the aggressors." In regards to Potts' performance tonight, DeMoss stated, "I think she has this unbelievable will right now. She's a senior. This is her last walk through these doors. She's trying to savor every moment and take advantage of every second."
UK will host West Virginia on Monday @ 7:00 PM for the right to play in the WNIT championship game.