WBB: Kentucky Shocks the Nation in SEC Championship Victory Over #1 South Carolina
For the first time in 40 years, your Kentucky Wildcats SEC champions!
Put your mind back on February 10th. Kentucky had just fallen in a valiant effort over top-ranked South Carolina. The loss put the Wildcats at 9-11 on the season and the excitement within the program was at its lowest since the pre Matthew Mitchell years. I’ll be honest in saying I had Coach Kyra Elzy firmly on the hot seat.
Fortunately, my name is not Mitch Barnhart and I do not make the decisions at Kentucky. Patience has been the biggest quality of Barnhart throughout his tenure. That has shown with Mark Stoops and it’s now showing with Kyra Elzy.
Fast forward your mind back to current day, Kentucky was facing an uphill battle in a SEC championship matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Dawn Staley’s club is the consensus number-one overall seed in the NCAA tournament and Aliyah Boston is en route to winning the national player of the year award. With that said, Kentucky had been on a tear over the past month and was coming off of back-to-back upsets over ranked opponents.
Both teams showed out offensively in the first quarter, with South Carolina taking a 21-18 lead at the end of the first 10 minute period.
The second quarter was the complete opposite. It took Kentucky over half of the second quarter to score their first points and the Wildcats just scored three points the whole way. Thankfully for Kyra Elzy’s group, her defense stepped up to the plate and only allowed nine points to the Gamecocks. As the halftime buzzer sounded, Kentucky was fortunate to be in a single-digit game.
The Wildcats struggled to defend Aliyah Boston as her size and length was crushing Kentucky the whole way. The third quarter was a huge example of this. For every punch Kentucky threw, Boston and the Gamecocks came back with another. Even after a hard fought quarter, Kentucky was in a 13-point deficit heading into the final 10 minutes.
When Kyra Elzy needed them most, Dre’Una Edwards and Rhyne Howard steeped up for Kentucky in the fourth quarter. The aggressiveness of the Wildcats’ star duo is what propelled Kentucky on both ends of the floor to get back in the game. It was their show on the offensive end and it sparked the defensive intensity of the entire team.
Speaking of Edwards, the fearlessness to take the final shot needs to be celebrated. Everyone figured the final shot would be in the hands of Rhyne Howard, but according to Edwards, Coach Elzy made it clear she wanted anyone who was open to shoot. On this day, that open player was Dre’Una Edwards. With four seconds to go, her three put Kentucky up 64-62 and put the nail in the coffin on the Wildcats’ second SEC tournament championship in school history.
The emotions following the victory were heartwarming to say the least. Coach Elzy and Dre’Una Edwards were both visibly in tears and men’s coach John Calipari was going nuts in the stands as he cheered on the ladies. The resiliency of this team is hard to match, and seeing them being able to come together in Nashville and pull off this feat is one of the more impressive things I’ve seen in Kentucky athletics in many years. With a bid to the NCAA tournament secured, I’d expect Kentucky to somewhere between the 6-8 seed line.
Can Kentucky do this again in a bigger bracket? That is yet to be seen, but the turnaround that the ladies have been on leaves no doubt in the BBN’s mind that Kentucky is ready to make a deep run into March. Selection Monday will be on March 14th. It’s time to go win another title!