Lexington, KY —
Kentucky is undefeated no more.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats had tied a record with 11 straight victories to open the season, but their streak ended with a 69-61 loss to No. 2 Duke on Sunday.
Kentucky made history and broke a school attendance record with 23,706 in its lone game of the season at Rupp Arena. But its nonconference winning streak was halted at 44 games.
Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell was pleased with the crowd, but obviously disappointed with the outcome.
“It was remarkable,” he said about the crowd that got loud as the Wildcats mounted a second-half rally that got them to 59-55 with 6:07 remaining and 67-61 with 54 seconds left.
“If you’ve been around here as long as I have and been in the league as long as I have, you’ve got some good perspective on what today meant. I don’t want to beat ourselves up too much, because we lost to a good team. They’re an excellent basketball team, but gosh, I sure wanted to reward that great crowd with a victory.”
Tricia Liston scored a season-high 28 points for the Blue Devils (12-1), who frequently flexed their size advantage against the Wildcats. The 6-foot-1 Liston thrived on mismatches to shoot 10 of 19 from the field, including two 3-pointers, falling a point short of her career best.
Duke’s 6-3 center, Elizabeth Williams, was 6 of 10 to chip in 17 points and had eight rebounds.
The Blue Devils stifled Kentucky around the basket, limiting the Wildcats to 25-of-75 shooting (33 percent) and 3 of 15 from long range. Poor free throw shooting also doomed Kentucky, which made just 8 of 19 from the line.
“They outworked us today and I think that’s what happens in games with two really good teams going at it,” Mitchell said. “They were just a team that worked harder. Not that our team didn’t work hard, I just think Duke worked harder. You give them credit. They did a nice job.”
Janee Thompson’s 12 points led Kentucky, which played its third game without injured 6-3 forward DeNesha Stallworth, out three to four weeks after having knee surgery.
The Wildcats started 0 for 5 from the field and fell behind 7-1 in the first 3 minutes before a 12-2 run turned it into a 13-9 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the first half. Duke answered with a 20-6 run to regain the lead at 29-19 with 4 minutes left in the first half as the Wildcats went more than 4 minutes without a field goal.
Kentucky’s 10-of-35 shooting in the first half set the tone for a frustrating offensive day — not that getting beat to the basket on the other end was any better.
Samarie Walker said Kentucky’s slow start was the difference in the outcome.
“We definitely need to come out with more energy from the start and just let it fuel us throughout the game,” she said. “I think we started to wear down after we got down (early). We didn’t get back up (on defense) and nobody was there to pick us up. One person was trying and everybody else was in a lull.”
The Wildcats used four overtimes to defeat No. 9 Baylor 133-130 on Dec. 6 at Cowboys Stadium and had defeated its first two ranked opponents. Kentucky trailed 36-27 at halftime against No. 7 Louisville on Dec. 1, but rallied for a 69-64 win.
Lexington, KY —
Kentucky is undefeated no more.
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