Kentucky stuns No. 1 South Carolina to win SEC women’s title

Mar 5, 2022, 11:14 PM | Updated: Mar 6, 2022, 3:16 pm

South Carolina's Aliyah Boston (4) tries to shoot against Kentucky's Olivia Owens (00) and Dre'una ...

South Carolina's Aliyah Boston (4) tries to shoot against Kentucky's Olivia Owens (00) and Dre'una Edwards (44) in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


              South Carolina's Aliyah Boston (4) tries to shoot against Kentucky's Olivia Owens (00) and Dre'una Edwards (44) in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky's Dre'una Edwards (44) drives against South Carolina's Bree Hall (23) in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky's Dre'una Edwards cuts the net after Kentucky beat South Carolina in the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Edwards hit the winning shot in Kentucky's 64-62 win. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky players celebrate after beating South Carolina in the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Kentucky won 64-62. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky players and coaches celebrate after beating South Carolina to win the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky's Dre'una Edwards (44) makes the winning shot to beat South Carolina in the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Kentucky won 64-62. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky's Dre'una Edwards (44) celebrates after making the winning shot to beat South Carolina in the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. Kentucky won 64-62. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              South Carolina's Aliyah Boston (4) passes the ball away from Kentucky's Dre'una Edwards, left, and Jada Walker (11) in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              South Carolina's Zia Cooke (1) collides with Kentucky's Jada Walker (11) in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy watches the action in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game against South Carolina Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              South Carolina's Laeticia Amihere (15) protects the ball from Kentucky's Robyn Benton (1) in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley watches the action in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game against Kentucky Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              South Carolina's Brea Beal (12) battles for the ball with Kentucky's Dre'una Edwards (44) in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky's Dre'una Edwards, center, shoots against South Carolina's Brea Beal, right, in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
            
              Kentucky's Rhyne Howard, right, drives against South Carolina's Kamilla Cardoso, center, and Aliyah Boston (4) in the first half of the NCAA women's college basketball Southeastern Conference tournament championship game Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Kentucky Wildcats came to the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament needing a great run to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Thanks to four wins in as many days, their berth is secure as SEC tournament champs.

“Nope! We are not on the bubble,” second-year Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy said. “We have our ticket punched! We are going!”

Dre’una Edwards hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left, and the Wildcats rallied from 15 points down to upset top-ranked South Carolina 64-62 on Sunday to win their first SEC tournament championship since 1982.

Kentucky set up the shot out of a timeout with 11 seconds left. Pass the ball to whoever was open, then catch and shoot. South Carolina tried, but couldn’t foul in time.

“I had to let it fly,” Edwards said.

Elzy started running up the sideline as soon Edwards’ shot went up, knowing it was good. Kentucky senior Rhyne Howard watched as the ball went through the air and compared it to a moment in the movies.

“We knew it was game,” Howard said. “We knew we just won.”

Kentucky hadn’t even reached this game since 2014. These seventh-seeded Wildcats (19-11) won their 10th straight game with this the biggest yet after knocking off sixth-ranked LSU and No. 18 Tennessee to get to this championship.

It marks a dramatic turnaround for a program that started SEC play 2-8 with Elzy suspending Edwards for four games only to become the first to knock off this tournament’s top three seeds to win the title. Kentucky is the first No. 7 seed to win with ninth-seeded Auburn in 1997 the only lower seed to ever win this event.

The Wildcats not only snapped South Carolina’s 18-game winning streak this season, they also ended the Gamecocks’ search for a third straight SEC tournament title for the regular season champs.

“Hats off to Kentucky,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “They’re hot. They’re streaking. We’ve been on both sides, this side and the other side, and super happy for Kyra and her program and their ability to weather some storms early on and find themselves as our SEC Tournament champions.”

South Carolina (29-2) led 45-30 with 4:45 left in the third quarter seemingly minutes away from cutting down the nets again. But the Gamecocks didn’t score after Aliyah Boston’s jumper with 5:04 remained that put them up 62-53.

“I didn’t really feel like we took our foot off the gas in the fourth quarter,” Boston said. “I think we were playing, and they just found different ways to score.”

The Wildcats closed the game on an 11-0 run. Howard lost the ball with no foul called when she went down in the lane with 18.3 seconds left, giving the ball back to South Carolina. Zia Cooke missed both free throws with 16.4 seconds left to set up the final sequence.

After Kentucky took the lead, Destanni Henderson threw up the ball from just past mid-court and hit just right of the rim, setting off a wild celebration by Kentucky.

Edwards finished with 27 points, 12 in the fourth quarter with three 3s including the game-winner. Howard finished with 18 points.

South Carolina should still go into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.

Boston posted her 24th straight double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Cooke finished with 15 points.

South Carolina led 21-18 after the first and 30-21 at halftime after holding Kentucky to three points in the second. The Gamecocks were up 55-43 at the end of the third.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: Kentucky set a program record making 12 3-pointers in its semifinal upset of 18th-ranked Tennessee, shooting 50% from beyond the arc. Against the nation’s fourth-stingiest scoring defense, the Wildcats finished 6 of 14 (42.9%) after knocking down 5 of 8 in the second half.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks had only a 32-26 edge in scoring in the paint even though they outrebounded Kentucky 44-32. … They missed their final seven shots of the game. Staley was more concerned with their defense: “We gave up 21 points in the fourth quarter.”

MORE SEC HISTORY

A year ago, Staley joined Georgia coach Joni Taylor as the first Black women to coach in a Power Five tournament championship. This time, Kyra Elzy in her second season at Kentucky joined Staley to make it two straight for the SEC and Elzy took home the title this time.

___

Follow Teresa M. Walker at https://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker

___

More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

3 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

3 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

3 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

3 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

3 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

3 months ago

Kentucky stuns No. 1 South Carolina to win SEC women’s title