Kentucky Women Beat South Carolina to Win SEC Championship
For the first time in 40 seasons, the Kentucky Wildcats became the champions of the SEC conference tournament. The Wildcats have been a regular for the NCAA Tournament, but Sunday’s final only marks the league championship or the regular season of their third conference. The Wildcats’ congress championship wouldn’t have been possible without Great Britain playing as every game was their last in more than a month.
Entering the tournament as 7th seed, Kentucky defeated Mississippi State, the AP’s 6th-place team at LSU, the AP’s 18th-place team, Tennessee, and South Carolina’s #1 in the SEC title match. The most amazing aspect of running through the SEC wasn’t the teams they trampled to get there.
Less than a month ago, Great Britain won 9-11 and 2-8 in a head-to-head matchup after losing to the Gamecocks 59-50 at home. That loss marked their eighth loss in nine games. Ironically, that downward spiral began with a loss en route to South Carolina on January 9, and the Wildcats have not lost since.
Kentucky basically took a big spot after their win over Tennessee in the second round. In the semifinals, they overcame an LSU team that had won eight in a row and were competing for a No. 1 seed in Kim Mulkey’s. First season as head coach. In that competition, Rhyne Howard, the UK’s two-time SEC Player of the Year and career record holder in just 3 seconds, took the lead with 32 points and six three points.
In Sunday’s conference championship game, they were teetering on the brink of defeat.
While Howard struggled to get off the pitch, junior striker Dre’una Edwards stepped onto the bench for the second time this week to push Great Britain into the winning milestone.
Showing the kind of determination that has become the norm for them last month, Kentucky recovered from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter before sending the clamps into South Carolina in the final minutes of regulation.
Of course, the UK’s defense played poorly, leaving the country’s No. 1 team unable to score in the 3:58 final. South Carolina’s final bucket of the competition came with 5:02 left in regulation when Aliyah Boston’s diver put Kentucky into a nine-point hole.
Edwards scored the final seven points for Kentucky in the final two minutes, including the winning treble set up by head coach Kyra Elzy in the timeout.
Few teams in the League are as hot as the UK right now. Elzy’s roster will now blend into the tense atmosphere of the NCAA Tournament with renewed confidence in their ability to compete and even outlast some of the top teams in the country. While the league raises the stakes for select teams, the big pressure of knockout basketball has been the UK’s circadian rhythm. Eventually, they emerge as diamonds in the rough.