Ajae Petty Wills Kentucky Past Arkansas on Thursday
The Kentucky women’s basketball team faced what seemed to be a tough task on Thursday night. The Cats entered the game at 7-7 and were facing the 12-3 Arkansas Razorbacks at Rupp Arena.
The Hogs came to Lexington with leading scorer in the Southeastern Conference, Taliah Scott, who was scoring 23.0 points per game. All in all, it seemed like the Cats had a steep hill to climb.
But in Thursday’s game, it was Kentucky who had the best player on the floor. Senior Ajae Petty scored 22 points and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds as Kentucky upset Arkansas 73-63 inside Rupp Arena.
Petty made 11 of 19 from the floor for her 22 points, and she added a career-high-tying three assists. Petty has impressed Arkansas head coach Mike Neighbors.
“I’ve been saying I think Petty is the most improved player in the SEC,” Neighbors said. “I’ve just been wowed by what she’s done in the offseason and how their staff has gotten her focused, how they use her, how they play through her and she just dominated.”
UK head coach Kyra Elzy knows that Petty was very good on Thursday but she also knew it took a team effort to get the victory.
“Petty’s an absolute great player for sure and she’s grown up – 22 and 19 today. Very proud of her and the work that she put in,” Elzy said. “But we do it together. Everyone has to make plays. This is a team and we’re going to have to do it together night in and night out.”
Kentucky (8-7, 1-0 SEC) got 12 points from Brooklynn Miles and 10 from Emma King.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the first quarter. Kentucky made just three of 15 from the floor in the game’s first 10 minutes, while Arkansas made just two of 15. Neither team hit a three pointer. The difference was the Razorbacks’ four free throws made, which allowed them to lead 8-6 after one period of play.
Early in the second period, Kentucky tied the game at 8-8 on a Cassidy Rowe jumper. After Arkansas took a 10-8 lead, UK got six points in a row from Petty to lead 14-10 and force an Arkansas timeout. The run continued with consecutive baskets by King and a Saniya Tyler layup, giving UK a 20-10 lead with 3:19 left in the half.
Arkansas would go nearly six minutes without a point before getting a Scott layup, but UK scored the next six to lead 26-12 late in the first half. The Cats would lead 26-14 at the break.
The Razorbacks scored the first six points of the third period to get within six, 26-20, before a Petty basket snapped the streak. UK would go up by nine, 30-21, on two Maddie Scherr free throws before Arkansas went on a 13-6 run to get within two, 36-34. The Razorbacks would take the lead, 37-36, on a Carly Keats three but UK answered with a Miles layup and an Eniya Russell jumper to lead 40-37. Kentucky would lead 44-43 with 10 minutes remaining.
Arkansas took the lead early in the fourth quarter but the Cats would slowly build a lead, which grew to as many as six, 61-55, with 3:09 to play. Arkansas would get back within four but could get no closer as the Cats built a double-digit lead late.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, visiting Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. Tipoff is set for noon ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.