For the primary time in 40 seasons, the Kentucky Wildcats emerged as champions of the SEC convention match. The Wildcats have been NCAA Event regulars, however Sunday’s ultimate marks solely their third convention common season or match championship. The Wildcats’ convention championship wouldn’t have been attainable with out UK taking part in like each recreation was their final for over a month.
Coming into the match as a No. 7 seed, Kentucky defeated Mississippi State, the AP’s sixth-ranked crew in LSU, the AP’s 18th ranked crew, Tennessee, and No. 1 South Carolina within the SEC title recreation. Essentially the most gorgeous facet of their run by way of the SEC isn’t the groups they trampled to get there.
Lower than one month in the past, UK was Sep 11 and 2-8 in convention play following a 59-50 house loss to the Gamecocks. That loss marked their eighth loss in 9 video games. Satirically that downward spiral started with a street loss to South Carolina on Jan. 9, and the Wildcats haven’t misplaced since.
Kentucky basically secured an at-large bid after their win over Tennessee within the second spherical. Within the semifinals, they clobbered an LSU crew that has gained eight in a row and was vying for a No. 1 seed in Kim Mulkey’s first season as head coach. In that contest, Rhyne Howard, UK’s 2-time SEC Participant of the Yr and profession document holder in 3s made, led the best way with 32 factors and 6 3-pointers.
In Sunday’s Convention Championship Recreation, they teetered on the sting of defeat.
Whereas Howard struggled from the sector, junior ahead Dre’una Edwards stepped up off the bench for the second time this week to propel UK into the winner’s column.
Exhibiting the kind of resolve that’s turn into customary for them within the final month, Kentucky rallied from a 14-point deficit within the fourth quarter earlier than placing the clamps on South Carolina within the ultimate minutes of regulation.
After all, UK’s protection performed lights out down the stretch, holding the No. 1 crew within the nation scoreless within the ultimate 3:58. South Carolina’s ultimate bucket of the competition got here with 5:02 remaining in regulation when Aliyah Boston’s jumper positioned Kentucky in a nine-point gap.
Edwards scored Kentucky’s ultimate seven factors within the ultimate two minutes, together with the game-winning triple that was arrange by head coach Kyra Elzy out of a timeout.
Few groups within the Event are as sizzling as UK is correct now. Elzy’s squad will now drop into the tense NCAA Event ambiance with a newfound confidence of their skill to play with and even outlast a number of the prime groups within the nation. Whereas the match raises the stakes for the groups chosen, the immense strain of single-elimination basketball has been UK’s circadian rhythm. In the end, they emerged as diamonds within the tough.