Gritty Kentucky Holds Off Missouri on Sunday
The Kentucky women’s basketball team built a big lead on Sunday against Missouri only to see the Tigers eventually tie the game. But the Cats hung tough, made plays down the stretch and beat the Tigers 76-71 at Rupp Arena.
Eniya Russell came off the bench to lead Kentucky with 20 points. Russell added seven rebounds in the game. Maddie Scherr had 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists before fouling out late in the game. Ajae Petty had another double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. And Saniah Tyler had 10 points, making her the fourth Cat in double figures in the game.
UK head coach Kyra Elzy was pleased with Russell’s play on Sunday.
“I thought she practiced well, she was steady all week, she was focused, she was playing under control,” Elzy said. “I love that she went to the offensive boards. That’s the Eniya Russell that we need and hope to see consistency. Big day for her and I want her to enjoy it.”
Kentucky (9-10, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) got on the board first when Emma King hit a three. Missouri would score the next seven points before King hit a baseline jumper to cut the Missouri lead to 7-5. The Tigers answered with a 9-2 run to take a 16-7 advantage. The Cats would cut into the deficit, including a pair of Eniya Russell baskets, but Missouri held a 20-16 lead after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Missouri scored first to lead 22-16 before UK got five straight points from Scherr and a driving layup from Amiya Jenkins to take the lead, 23-22, and force a Missouri timeout. The run would continue after the stoppage, with assembling a 14-1 run and taking a 30-23 lead with 4:20 left in the half.
Missouri (11-8, 2-4) would fight its way back, cutting the UK lead to 35-32 with under a minute to go in the half. But a Cassidy Rowe three-pointer just before the half gave Kentucky a 38-32 advantage at the break.
Kentucky got the first basket of the third quarter on a Brooklynn Miles layup. Missouri would spend the rest of the period chipping away at the UK lead, getting within a single point twice but Kentucky would lead 55-50 after three periods of play.
The Cats opened the fourth quarter in strong fashion, using an 8-2 run to take a 63-52 lead. Missouri would answer with a 10-4 stretch to make it 67-62 with 3:49 to play.
UK would lead 71-62 with 2:48 to play before Missouri went on a 9-0 run to tie the game at 71-71 with 1:15 remaining. Kentucky would take the lead back on a Russell jumper with 53 seconds to play.
After Missouri’s abbey Schreacke missed a jumper with 33 seconds left, Russell was fouled and made the first of two free throws. The second was missed, but Petty got the offensive rebound and was fouled. She made both free throws to provide the final margin of victory.
Kentucky returns to action on Thursday, visiting Fayetteville to take on Arkansas. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network Plus.