Notes from Kentucky’s crazy win

Every sports writer’s nightmare is a 9:45 p.m. start time and a game that comes down to a final shot. That perfect storm happened for me on Monday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. So what you read in this morning’s paper couldn’t possibly capture just how interesting and emotional that game was for both teams.

There were several big things from Kentucky’s 65-62 win over Green Bay that barely got mentioned in the main game story, so here’s a run down of some key points before UK heads to Rhode Island to play No. 11 seed Gonzaga in the field of 16.

QUITE THE CHARGE: Kentucky took three charges in the final 3:30 of the game last night, including a key one by freshman Bria Goss that helped set up the go-ahead basket by Keyla Snowden. Before Monday night’s game, UK had drawn 60 charges this season, including a team-best 19 for Goss.

Those charges were key, both coaches said.

  • “Our defense carried us with some charges and some stops,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said afterward. “Those were some tough charges we took where it almost looked like a glimmer of hope was about to be extinguished. We were able to just stand in there and take charges and make some plays.”
  • Green Bay Coach Matt Bollant said he was glad to see his team being aggressive in the final minutes, even if it meant calls not going its way. “If you lose, you want to lose being aggressive and attacking the other team and going after them.”

WALKER’S PLAY: Connecticut transfer Samarie Walker is going to get a lot of attention this week being in the same Kingston Region with the top-seeded Huskies. She drew a lot of praise after he game against Green Bay, in which she had her second double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. This is the same Walker who struggled in the SEC Tournament, going a combined 2-for-9 from the field in two games. On Monday, the sophomore forward went 7 of 10 from the field and also had three steals.

  • “Walker was the difference maker,” Green Bay’s Bollant said. “Her offensive rebounds and put backs. She was amazing and was a big key for us, not being able to keep her off the offensive glass.”
  • Mitchell was pleased to see Walker play so well: “I’m happy for her. A lot of her struggles weren’t for a lack of effort; it was a fundamental thing and to see her rewarded with a really tremendous game makes me very happy for her. She was outstanding.”
  • Teammate A’dia Mathies agreed that UK couldn’t have won it without her and said she was proud of the sophomore’s effort: “She had an extraordinary game. She was on the boards and she was putting in layups. … She had a good all-around game. I was proud of her.”

OTHER THINGS OF NOTE: The Cats are now 11-3 in games decided by 10 points or less this season. Snowden is 7 of 8 from the free throw line in clutch situations (final three minutes of the game, in a game that is decided by six points or fewer.) Kentucky has now Kentucky is now 22-0 this season when winning at the half.

With the win over 10th-ranked Green Bay, UK has now won a school-record six games against teams ranked in the Top 10 this season. Overall, UK is 6-2 against ranked foes. Bollant lamented the fact that the No. 10 Phoenix and No. 12 Kentucky had to meet in the second round of the tournament: “It’s a shame to have to play Kentucky – two top 12 teams in the nation having to play in this round. But give Kentucky all the credit. They made it happen down the stretch.”

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at jsmith3@herald-leader.com.
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