January 23, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell is searching for answers six games into conference play.
The ninth-ranked Wildcats (15-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) have split their first six league games, including a stunning 57-55 loss at home to Alabama on Thursday night.
“We are 3-3 (in the SEC) and that is not where anybody wanted to be after six games, but it is not 0-6 and it is certainly not time to start folding the tent up and saying the season is over,” Mitchell said. “We just have to go back and win a game on Sunday and see if we can get that done.
“There is nowhere to go or nowhere to hide or no magic pill that we can take. We just need to come in and practice really hard tomorrow and practice really hard on Saturday.”
Daisha Simmons scored 17 of her 22 points in the second half, including a layup with 2.3 seconds remaining that sent Kentucky to its third conference setback.
“I just drove (to the basket) and it went in,” Simmons said. “It was a great win.”
Kentucky tied the score at 55-all on two free throws by Jennifer O’Neill with 14.9 seconds to go. However, the Crimson Tide (9-10, 2-4) had plenty of time to set up for the last shot by Simmons.
A desperation attempt by Kastine Evans bounced off the back of the rim as time expired, giving Alabama its first win in Lexington since 2002.
In the first meeting between the two teams, Kentucky defeated Alabama in the conference opener on Jan. 2 in Tuscaloosa.
Brianna Hutchen added 10 points to help the Tide end a two game skid. Alabama was without leading scorer Shafontaye Myers but Simmons picked up the slack in her absence. Myers missed the game because of disciplinary reasons.
Samarie Walker scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half for Kentucky before she fouled out with 1:46 left. Bria Gross added 14 points.
Walker scored Kentucky’s first 10 points of the second half as the Wildcats led 39-31 with 14 minutes left. Because of foul trouble, Walker played just 6 minutes in the first half.
After Walker’s scoring burst, the Crimson Tide went on a 16-2 run to take a 47-41 lead with 8:41 remaining. Simmons had two 3-pointers and scored eight points during the spurt.
Kentucky pulled to 52-51 with 3:59 remaining on a bucket by Walker, but a clutch 3 by Alabama’s Sharin Rivers pushed the margin to four and kept Alabama in the lead.
“Alabama came out and wanted it a lot more,” Walker said. “That showed more so down the stretch when we needed to get buckets and we needed to get stops.”
The Wildcats shot just 38 percent from the line and made just 2-of-15 attempts on 3s. Kentucky missed all seven attempts in the second half.
Mitchell said his team’s inability to create spacing when they got the lead was the difference in the outcome.
“I thought that in Tuscaloosa we really hustled hard and we were able to score 82 points and able to put some pressure on them and sort of get some separation and get them down,” he said. “We just couldn’t do that tonight. Defensively, we are just really struggling to set a tone with tempo and we played much faster and more energetic down there.
“They scored less points tonight, we were much more sharp and in-tune and hustled together a lot more. But our psyche was totally different at that point in time and pour psyche has taken a hit and you can’t stay down in that and keep talking about it.”
Alabama wasn’t much better at 39 percent from the field but made the shot that counted the most.
“We talk about the process a lot at Alabama right now, as we build (the program back) about winning today,” Alabama first-year coach Kristy Curry said. “We were just really fortunate to make a few plays down the stretch.”
Both teams wore “We Back Pat” T-shirts in support of the Pat Summitt Foundation to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. Retired Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was diagnosed with the disease in 2011.