This Kentucky women’s basketball season continues to careen toward an unfortunate end.
The Wildcats have now lost seven of their last eight games after Texas A&M came into Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon and left 73-64 winners in overtime.
Kentucky scored 26 first-quarter points and led by 12 at halftime, but the offense dried up as the game continued and Texas A&M caught fire from behind the three-point line to spark the come-from-behind win.
Texas A&M, the Southeastern Conference’s second-best three-point shooting team, made seven three-pointers in the second half and overtime.
UK’s NCAA Tournament hopes were faint entering Sunday’s game. Now, they’ve been reduced to rubble.
Kentucky will need some big upset wins in the coming weeks to re-enter the postseason picture.
Texas A&M 73, Kentucky 64 (OT)
The star: Rhyne Howard led UK in scoring with 19 points.
The stats: Also joining her in double-figures scoring was Dre’una Edwards with 10 points. Both Howard and Edwards had a double-double, as both players grabbed 10 rebounds. Jazmine Massengill had 11 points.
Freshman guard Jada Walker had nine points, all in the first quarter.
The status: Texas A&M is now 13-9 overall and 3-7 in the SEC. Kentucky is 9-10 overall and 2-7 in the SEC.
1. UK LOSES ANOTHER GAME THAT CAME DOWN TO THE WIRE.
Kentucky has played its fair share of close games this season, and most of them have resulted in losses for the Wildcats.
UK played the likes of Louisville, DePaul, Ole Miss, LSU and now Texas A&M down to the wire this season, and all of those games resulted in single-digit losses for Kentucky.
Sunday’s game was the first overtime game this season for Kentucky, although it never should have come to that.
UK scored 26 points in the first quarter and led by 12 at halftime. The Cats would go on to score just 38 points in the final 35 minutes of the game.
“I feel like we let defense affect our offense,” said Howard. “We were giving up easy points on the other end and we weren’t scoring.”
“We were too stagnant,” added UK’s Edwards.
“We had to make some adjustments on ball screen coverage. That was the biggest thing we did,” Texas A&M assistant coach Greg Brown, who oversees the A&M defense, said.
The Wildcats scored in single digits in both the second and third quarters, as well as in the five-minute overtime period.
UK also had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Texas A&M concentrated defensive pressure on Howard and forced her to take a difficult shot that missed at the buzzer.
Texas A&M’s hot shooting from behind the three-point line in the later stages of the game was thanks to guard Destiny Pitts, formerly of Minnesota, who made five three-pointers in the final 25 minutes. Pitts led A&M in scoring with 20 points.
In overtime, the Aggies never trailed and led by as many as 10 points.
Also paramount to Texas A&M’s success down the stretch was preventing Howard from dominating the UK offense.
Howard took just one shot in overtime after scoring 12 fourth-quarter points and missing a potential winning shot at the buzzer.
“She’s a really skilled scorer, and she has a lot of height, it’s really hard to guard especially coming off screens,” Texas A&M guard Kayla Wells said of Howard. “We just wanted to slow her down. We wanted anybody else but her to beat us. So I think we did a really good job, especially in overtime, of getting the ball out of her hands and keeping it out of her hands.”
Howard said that UK took quick shots in overtime before she was able to get the ball.
2. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A WHILE, UK WAS CLOSE TO FULL HEALTH.
It’s been some time since Kentucky has been at full strength, and while the Wildcats still aren’t there, they were closer Sunday.
UK had eight scholarship players available to face Texas A&M, with Robyn Benton (ankle) as the only one who couldn’t go.
All eight scholarship players appeared within the first six minutes of Sunday’s game. It was the most scholarship players to appear in a game for UK since the last time the team played inside Memorial Coliseum, a Jan. 20 loss to Florida.
After last week’s loss at LSU, head coach Kyra Elzy said she told her team “We’re going to be a dangerous team when we have all of our pieces in place.”
But even on Sunday the Wildcats couldn’t stay healthy. Freshman guard Jada Walker took a hard screen while playing defense near midcourt in the third quarter and left the game shortly afterward.
Walker did not return after leaving the game.
3. KENTUCKY BEGINS IMPORTANT STRETCH OF GAMES WITH CRUCIAL LOSS.
Sunday’s loss to Texas A&M was UK’s seventh loss in nine games dating back to the start of January. UK has lost seven of its last eight games.
“I think at times we’ve just got to be more aggressive,” said Edwards. “We’ve just got to lock in and stay focused at all times, because when we aren’t locked in it hurts us.”
Only seven games remain in the regular season for Kentucky. Four of them will be against teams currently in contention to make the NCAA Tournament, as projected by ESPN’s Charlie Creme.
UK’s NCAA Tournament hopes have faded, and the Wildcats will need to pull off some upsets if they are to re-enter the postseason picture. A prime opportunity comes Thursday night when No. 1 South Carolina visits Lexington, but even that alone may not be enough to lift the Wildcats back into the NCAA Tournament.
After Sunday’s game, legendary Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair, who is in his final season as A&M head coach, said both his team and Kentucky are deserving of bids to the NCAA Tournament.
Despite his praise, Kentucky will have to do significant work in the SEC Tournament, held in Nashville during the first week of March, to prolong its season.
After having a week off before the Texas A&M game, Kentucky is about to embark on a final congested stretch of games to close the season. Thursday at home against No. 1 South Carolina will mark the start of a period of four games in eight days for the Wildcats. The Gamecocks beat the Cats, 74-54, on Jan. 9 in South Carolina.
No. 1 South Carolina at Kentucky
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
This story was originally published February 6, 2022 2:36 PM.