Well there certainly were expectations of a close, tough game coming into Lexington, KY, but I don’t believe anyone saw this coming. A double overtime thriller ensued in Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of Kentucky as two Top-15 squads fought it out. #13 Mississippi State came into this game 23-3 and currently holding the #4 slot in the SEC standings with a 8-3 mark. #10 Kentucky was right behind the Bulldogs in the standings with a 18-5 (7-3 SEC) record.
Kentucky controlled the game from the very beginning, not allowing the Bulldogs to grab the lead for almost the entire game. With under three minutes to go in the second half, the Bulldogs got their first tie of the game, then proceeded to take the lead from the Wildcats for the first time. What happened next was almost pure insanity.
Head Coach Vic Schaefer decided to rely on his talented freshmen yet again, and once again it payed off. Does anyone else remember the huge three-pointer that Victoria Vivians hit during the Texas A&M game? Good…because it happened again. Vivians went through two screens, had a defender coming right at her, and hit one of the most stunning three pointers I’ve seen in a long time to tie the game. Kentucky drove down the court and got fouled by Dominique Dillingham, somehow, and hit both of their free throws. With less than 5 seconds left in the game, Schaefer called on freshman guard Morgan William. William got the ball, ran down the court, contorted her body around a defender, and put in a shot with 1.4 to go in the game to send us to Overtime.
The first Overtime started out heavily in Kentucky’s favor, mainly because of Martha Alwal having to sit on the bench with foul trouble. Kentucky came out to a 5-point lead before Vic Schaefer called a timeout and put Alwal back on the court. She made an immediate impact with a beautiful layup down low, and a strong defensive presence in the paint. Did I mention this game was physical? I saw a Kentucky player having to stuff her nose with cotton because of a bloody nose, and she kept playing. True to form, the first Overtime was close as the clock was running down. So what did Vic Schaefer do? Put it in the hands of his freshmen of course. He called a motion play to set Vivians up for another three, swinging door screens set up, Vivians got the ball and made the long three. But what’s this? A foul on Kentucky for trying to run through a Morgan William screen. William, the team’s leading free throw shooter, missed the first free throw, but hit the second. Kentucky went down the court and put it into the hands of Mykayla Epps, who scored 42 on the night. She drove past Morgan William and hit the game tying shot for Kentucky. The game headed into Double Overtime
This time, Martha Alwal started the Overtime as she had 4 fouls. The second overtime went back and forth all the way to the bitter end. With the game tied at 90, Kentucky had the ball with 22 seconds left. They had one timeout left, but decided not to use it. They let the Sophomore Epps control this one. She stood by her coach for most of the time, then sprung into action. She drove across the top of the key, down the right side of the lane and put it up. It hit the back of the iron and fell out. Martha Alwal tried to rebound the ball but just bounced it off the court. Epps found the ball, took one dribble and a step in and fired it up. The ball kissed the glass and went through the net with 0.4 seconds left on the clock. Memorial Gymnasium was loud as the Wildcat fans knew that the game had been sealed.
This is a tough loss for the Bulldogs, and it certainly makes their lives harder for the SEC Tournament as they lose the #4 slot to Kentucky. The Top-4 seeds get to rest until the Quarterfinals of the tournament, if it started today the Bulldogs would have to play earlier. The season is not lost though as Florida comes to the Hump on Sunday. This game will be a tough one for the Bulldogs, as Florida is coming off of a huge upset of #24 Georgia on the road. The Gators currently hold a 12-12 (4-7 SEC) record, but as we know personally, the SEC is a lot tougher than the record indicates. Tip is set for 3:00 PM CST at the Hump, and can be seen on SEC Network.