The Wildcats improve to 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the SEC. UK's eight league victories are the most in school history and its 19 regular-season wins are their most since the 1990-91 squad won 20 games in the regular season. Kentucky's five league road victories are a school best and the Cats' four straight conference wins marks a school record for consecutive SEC wins. The Cats overcame their largest second-half deficit of the season for the win.
"I am proud of our team for finding a way to win," UK Coach Mickie DeMoss said. "That is the mark of a good team that we were able to go on the road and not play all that well and still be able to come away with a win."
Kentucky, which trailed 36-33 at halftime, found itself down 41-30 with 12:36 to go in the game. The Cats then used a 9-0 run over the next 2:18 to come within two, 41-39, with 9:18 remaining. After the Lady Bulldogs (6-19, 1-11 SEC) extended their lead back out to five, 45-40, the Cats used another 9-0 run over the next 4:15 to go in front 49-45 with 3:15 left in the game. Sophomore forward/center Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) had six points during that stretch. Junior guard Nastassia Alcius (Lexington, Ky.) provided a key defensive spark that allowed the Wildcats to take their first lead (47-45) since the 7:32 mark of the first half.
"We put Nastassia in and I really felt like that turned the game around for us," DeMoss said. "We put her on the ball and her defensive pressure really bothered their point guard. She came up with a couple of key steals that lead to important transition baskets for us."
A free-throw by Mississippi State's Blessing Chekwa brought the Lady Bulldogs within three, 49-46, with 1:42 to go and gave them a chance to tie the game on the next possession. Alcius, however, came up with a critical steal with 50 seconds remaining. The Wildcats ran time off the clock and senior forward/center Jennifer Humphrey (Memphis) was fouled as the shot clock expired. Humphrey knocked down one of her two free-throw attempts and sophomore guard Samantha Mahoney (Detroit) also nailed 1-of-2 charity shots in the waning seconds to hold on for the victory.
Mahoney scored a game-high 18 points for the Wildcats and Roddy scored eight of her 12 points in the second half to pace the Cats offensively. Sophomore center Sarah Elliott (McKee, Ky.) added eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds. The Wildcats, who have won the rebound battle in five consecutive games, out-rebounded the Lady Bulldogs 44-31.
The Wildcats shot 34.6 percent (18-of-52) from the floor in the game and made 13-of-19 free-throws. Mississippi State connected on just 32.7 percent (16-of-49) of its shots from the field.
Both teams struggled to find their shooting touches early in the game, but the Wildcats broke to an 8-4 advantage at the 11:56 mark of the first half on a jumper by Roddy. Mississippi State missed 13 of its first 15 shots. Trailing 10-4 at the 11:15 mark of the first half, the Lady Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run over the next 3:21 to move in front 12-10 with 7:54 left in the opening stanza.
Mississippi State continued to hold the lead for the rest of the half. A pair of free-throws by Mahoney and a lay-up by freshman Jenn'e Jackson (Radcliff, Ky.) cut MSU's lead down to three, and the Cats entered the locker room trailing 26-23 at halftime.
The Wildcats shot just 32 percent (8-of-25) from the floor in the opening period. UK had 12 turnovers in the first half, resulting in eight MSU points.
Kentucky used a 5-2 run out of intermission to tie the score at 28 on a jumper by Chante' Bowman (Detroit) with 18:05 left in the game. The Lady Bulldogs, however, answered with a 13-2 run to move ahead by 11, 41-30 with 12:36 remaining, before the Cats began engineering their comeback.
Kentucky returns to action Thursday, Feb. 23, when it travels to Nashville to take on No. 22/21 Vanderbilt. Tip-off between the Wildcats and Commodores is set for 8 p.m. EST in Memorial Gymnasium and the game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.
UK returns home for its final regular season game vs. Alabama on Sunday, Feb. 26 in Rupp Arena. The game time is set for 1 p.m. EST. It will be televised live on FSN South and the Big Blue Sports Network.
Single-game general admission tickets are available for $5 adults/$2 senior citizens and children ages 18 and under. UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification based on availability. For ticket information, log on to ukathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287).
KSR, the magazine, has two great articles on women's hoops in its next issue. The articles are from Larry Vaught, a profile of Jenny Pfeiffer, and from Steve John, an interview with rebounding sensation Eleia Roddy. Click here to learn more about subscribing to KSR, tha magazine.
Also in the next issue, KSR expands to a 48-page format from its traditional 32-page format. That's 33% more articles, pictures and news about your Kentucky Wildcats.