‘It’s a new season.’ UK women’s basketball looks to turn the page after loss at No. 9 LSU.

Kentucky Falls at No. 9 LSU on Sunday – UK Athletics
The Kentucky women’s basketball team trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter of Sunday’s 77-56 loss at No. 9 LSU on the Tigers’ Senior Day, but the Wildcats strung together a 13-2 run to pull within six at the half. The defending national champions would retake their commanding lead in the third quarter and never look back, but UK head coach Kyra Elzy liked the fight she saw. “That’s what we came into this game saying,”

Elzy said. “We had to have fight, focus. Our two words that we used to prepare for this game: purpose and passion. And I thought we came in and did that. We had a lot of fight in us and we needed it.” The Wildcats closed their regular season 11-19 overall and 4-12 in Southeastern Conference play, cementing their place as No. 12 in the conference standings.

They finished 10-7 at home, 1-9 on the road and 0-3 on neutral ground. LSU (26-4, 13-3 SEC), which sat star freshman Mikaylah Williams “as a precaution” because of a minor foot injury, ended the regular season second in the standings, behind only unbeaten South Carolina. Head coach Kim Mulkey said during her postgame appearance on SEC Network that she didn’t think her team played to the best of its ability.

“Well, we’re not champions, and that’s what you want,” Mulkey said. “South Carolina won it, so I guess the next best place to be is second place. And we’ve done that again, three years in a row. I think you see we’re better defensively than we were a month ago, or two months ago.

I thought we were sloppy today. Honestly, we played like we didn’t think Kentucky could beat us. And I don’t like that. I think that we just, we just slopped around and gave up, instead of taking layups we’re throwing it out for threes. Do that in a closer game and see what happens.”

LSU's Angel Reese Returns to the Court After Two-Week Absence: 'I'm Not Just an Athlete, I'm a Human'

Senior forward Angel Reese finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and three steals. Junior guard Aneesah Morrow also posted a double-double, adding 15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and three steals.

Sophomore guard Flau’jae Johnson scored 21 points and senior Hailey Van Lith scored 15. Kentucky outrebounded LSU — which Elzy described as “long,” “athletic” and having “played really hard” — 23-20 in the first half. The Tigers hold the best rebounding margin in the conference (averaging +14.00 over 30 games played), but, on Sunday, only won the battle of the boards 43-37. The Tigers outrebounded the Wildcats 14-13 on the offensive glass. “Proud of my team,”

Elzy said. “We talked about rebounding. Obviously we’re undersized, but we wanted to be within five in overall rebounds. And it was a six, but we had 13 offensive boards.” Though playing spoiler to LSU’s Senior Day wasn’t in the cards, the Wildcats put three players in double figures. Sophomore guards Amiya Jenkins and Saniah Tyler each contributed 14 points, which, according to Elzy, shows “you can see some of the future coming alive.”

Ajae Petty, who transferred from LSU to Kentucky ahead of the 2022-23 season, finished with 13 points. She grabbed 10 of her 15 total rebounds in the first half. LSU aimed to eliminate Petty’s threat on the glass through foul trouble, but, after earning two fouls in the first half, Petty picked up just one more for the remainder of the game. Elzy said Petty’s composure and leadership set the tone for the rest of the team.

Kentucky-LSU Women's Basketball Photo Gallery – UK Athletics

“One of the things we challenged her with is ‘be level-headed and do your job,’” Elzy said. “And I thought she stayed steady. 15 boards, 13 points, didn’t get caught up whether it was a foul or if they were playing physical. She stayed solid, did her job, but I was proud of her leadership on the floor. Making sure we’re touching everybody, talking in the huddles. Thought this team was really connected and that’s where you want to be heading into the SEC Tournament.”

Kentucky’s Ajae Petty (13) squares off against LSU’s Angel Reese (10) during Sunday’s game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Petty, who transferred from LSU to UK, finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds. Reese, one of the stars of the Tigers’ national championship run last season, put up 22 points and 14 boards against the Wildcats on Sunday.

UK Athletics SEC TOURNAMENT DRAW Corresponding with their finish in the SEC standings, the Wildcats are the No. 12 seed in the five-day SEC Tournament, which starts Wednesday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. UK will face Georgia (12-17, 3-13 SEC), the No. 13 seed, in the 11 a.m. slot to open the tournament. Georgia defeated Kentucky 72-65 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens on Feb. 4. “It’s a new season,” Elzy said.

“The SEC season is the new season. We ended, you know, we’re locked in at number 12, far from where we want to be, but that is what it is. We know we’ll play the winner of 13, and it’s a new season and you let the SEC season go. And now you get ready for a new season. And we’ll be ready when we get to South Carolina.” The Wildcats will look to create some magic reminiscent of the past two seasons’ runs. In 2022, No. 7 seed Kentucky upset No. 2 seed LSU, No. 3 seed Tennessee and eventual national champion and No. 1 seed South Carolina to hoist the program’s first SEC Tournament trophy since 1982.

Last season, the No. 14-seeded Wildcats tied their regular season SEC win total with early-round victories over No. 11 seed Florida and No. 6 Alabama before falling 80-71 to No. 3 Tennessee in the quarterfinals. SCHERR INJURY STATUS UNKNOWN The Wildcats played the entire fourth quarter against LSU without second-leading scorer Maddie Scherr. Scherr fell to the floor after appearing to take an elbow to the head while going for an offensive rebound. She exited the court with 3:01 remaining in the third quarter and did not return. When asked during her postgame radio appearance how Scherr was doing, Elzy didn’t have any specifics. “She’s with our trainer and we’ll continue to look after her,” Elzy said. “And we’ll have an update for you all soon.”


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