CHILDRESS: UK Women's Season in Review, part one

A couple of unexpected stars came to the front in Sara Potts and Angela Phillips. The program also unexpectedly drew a great deal of interest and support from the community, finishing in the top 20 in the nation in attendance. Would DeMoss be able to build on this in season two? 

Last season when Mickie DeMoss arrived at UK, her program was watched with curiosity.  What style would she bring?  Would this Pat Summitt protégé bring the same style?  What could she do with a program that had lost 24 players to transfer over an 8-year period and hadn’t had a winning season since 2000?  DeMoss’ first season ended with an overall record of 11-17 (3-11), the same as Bernadette Mattox’s final season and lost 5 seniors, including 2 starters in the post.  While the overall record didn’t reflect a difference, those who followed the program saw a difference.   No longer were there blowout losses to conference powers Georgia, Tennessee, and LSU.  There was a new intensity and attitude within the program and newly found toughness.   A couple of unexpected stars came to the front in Sara Potts and Angela Phillips.  The program also unexpectedly drew a great deal of interest and support from the community, finishing in the top 20 in the nation in attendance.  Would DeMoss be able to build on this in season two? 

Off-season. 

During the spring, Coach DeMoss and her staff put together one of the top recruiting classes in nation.  Overshadowed by the hype around Tubby Smith’s late season finds, DeMoss signed Sarah Elliott, Sade Buley, Eleia Roddy, Samantha Mohoney, and Chante Bowman which was ranked #5 or #6 in the nation depending on which analyst rankings you read.  In addition, Nastassia Alcius, the A-10 Freshman of the Year, joined UK after sitting out her transfer season.  This class was a nice combination of size and speed, which DeMoss needed greatly to add to her existing roster.  More importantly, it helped build depth, which UK did not have in DeMoss’ first season.  In addition, senior Danyelle Payne returned for a fifth year after graduating in four years and receiving an additional year of eligibility after being a partial qualifier her freshman year.  Could DeMoss blend the old with the new? 

During the summer, Jenny Pfeiffer, a sharp shooting 2-guard and starter, who had battled back from mono which had ended her season, decided to leave the team.  Following the loss of Pfeiffer, sophomore power forward and potential starter Afton Perry tore her ACL in an exhibition game versus the West Coast All-Stars.   Would this be a sign of things to come?   Hardly. 

Pre-conference. 

UK hit the ground running.  Season ticket sales set a record with over 4000+ sold before the season started and the ‘Cats started the season 3-0, quickly dispatching of Butler and Florida A&M, and overcoming a 14-point deficit against Oregon State.  Senior Sara Potts picked up where she left off from her all-SEC junior season, by averaging over 20 ppg during the first 3 contests.  Nastassia Alcius found herself in the starting line up at the 2 and the freshmen made their presence felt quickly from the bench.  Sarah Elliott and Eleia Roddy both went to work inside and turned in solid performances.  Sade Buley quickly made it known why she was touted as one of the best recruits in the nation with her smooth shooting stroke.    

The ‘Cats would then hit skids, going 1-3 in their next 4 games.  It began with a loss to Division I newcomer South Dakota State at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.  In what would become a disturbing habit at times during the season, UK jumped out on SDSU and take a 13-point lead only to relinquish it and lose the game.  In the next game, senior leader Sara Potts ran into the flu and UK ran into national power Rutgers and their HOF coach, Vivian Stringer.  After garnering a W against Northwestern, the ‘Cats would encounter in-state rival, Louisville.  UK would take an 8-point lead early in the second half, only to have UofL take control of the game.  The Lady Cards would take a 23-point lead in the second half and hand UK a 17-point loss.  The five game road stretch had taken its toll on this young team.  Not only would Coach DeMoss need to deal with getting her team to move past this loss, she would also have to deal with an off-court distraction.  DeMoss dismissed frosh Sade Buley after she admitted to taking money from the UK ticket office in Memorial Coliseum. 

It was time to return to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum and Rupp Arena.  The ‘Cats would go on a 7-1 run from here.  Frosh Samantha Mahoney and Chante Bowman would enter the starting lineup and not leave it for the rest of the season.  Along the way, UK would defeat Charleston Southern, Marshall, UAB, and Nicholls State.  The one defeat UK would suffer would be to Xavier.  As they had done previously, UK jumped out to an 11-point first half lead on Xavier only to relinquish it despite a 21-point effort by Sara Potts.   

UK would bounce back from the loss to meet Wake Forest in Rupp Arena.  Coming into the game, Wake Forest had just defeated #15 Houston and was flirting with the Top 25.  Coach DeMoss and her Wildcats would not be intimidated.  In a game that Coach DeMoss said her team needed to win, UK would jump out to a 21-7 lead.   Wake Forest would attempt to come back, but UK would hold steady and take an 8-point lead into the locker room.  During the second half, Wake would cut the lead to 1 but UK never gave in.  Behind a strong performance by freshman center Sarah Elliott, who contributed 20 points and 8 boards, the ‘Cats would hold off Wake Forest and go on to victory.  UK would finish pre-conference play by defeating St. Francis and Longwood and enter conference play with a record of 11-4. 

Stay tuned for part two, which reviews the women's conference and post season play.


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