With a NCAA tournament berth out of reach for the 2021-22 Kentucky women's basketball team, they can play pressure free down the final stretch. That stretch begins tonight at Memorial Coliseum against top-ranked South Carolina.
Tonight's matchup will be the second meeting between the Gamecocks and Wildcats this season. South Carolina controlled the first game from the second quarter on, ultimately winning by a score of 74-54. Dawn Staley's Gamecocks were able to shut down Kentucky's offense which is something that has been way too common for the Wildcats this season. What has not been common for Kentucky this season is a lackluster offensive performance from Rhyne Howard, which is exactly what happened back in the early January matchup. Howard ended the game with just nine points.
Kentucky has not been at full strength in what feels like an eternity. The Wildcats have had some sort of injury or disciplinary problems for over the past month. Dre'Una Edwards returned to the team almost two weeks ago and Jazmine Massengill came back on Sunday against Texas A&M. Even without Robyn Benton, Kyra Elzy had nearly a full roster for the first time in a while until Jada Walker went down on Sunday. At the moment of writing this preview, there is no update on the status of Benton or Walker for tonight's game.
Even if Kentucky does have a full roster tonight, the Wildcats need to play nearly perfect basketball to stay within reach against the best team in the country. The Gamecocks are 21-1 on the season and are riding a nine-game winning streak into Lexington. Aliyah Boston leads South Carolina, averaging 17.2 PPG and 11.8 RPG. Boston put up an impressive 18-point, 15 rebound performance in her first game against Kentucky. Kentucky did have top rebounder Dre'Una Edwards in that game.
With nothing to lose and the potential of a full roster, Kentucky may have a decent shot of keeping things close as long as they play with effort and execution, which have lacked at points in the season. Tipoff is at 7 PM ET and will be broadcasted on ESPN.