The Cats saved their best performance of the year for when it mattered most, recording a score of 197.125 to take first place in their session of the Salt Lake City regional in the NCAA Tournament's second round.
Kentucky's previous season high - 197.100 - came on Feb. 26 versus then-No. 2 LSU. Ironically enough, tonight's performance also came against those Tigers, along with Arizona and Utah State.
The Cats opened strong out of the gate, putting up a 49.475 on their first rotation (uneven parallel bars). Only the top five scorers for an event go toward the apparatus total, but all six Kentucky gymnasts earned a 9.825 at minimum on the bars. Raena Worley paced the squad with a spectacular 9.950, and the Cats led the second-place Aggies by .350 through one event.
Beam came next for Kentucky. Bailey Bunn and Josie Angeny tied for the team lead in the apparatus with 9.900's, helping the Cats post a 49.225. This effort extended UK's lead halfway through the night, sitting an entire half points (0.500) ahead of the Tigers for first.
Floor routines followed. After a poor showing on the beam, Raina Albores rebounded in a very strong way, snagging a career-high 9.900 in the apparatus. This event proved to be the weakest of the round for Kentucky, but the team still managed to crack the 49-point mark (49.050) and stay ahead of the other three schools.
The Cats ended on the vault, and sprung their way to their second-best score of the night (49.375). Worley again set the UK bar, this time with a 9.900. Isabella Magnelli and Arianna Patterson tied for second on the squad with 9.875's.
LSU managed to close the gap between them and Kentucky over the second half, but didn't do enough to pass the Cats, finishing 0.100 behind with a 197.025 total. The Tigers were playing catch-up from the jump due to a 48.850 start on the beam, but demonstrated why they are the No. 3 team in the nation through their comeback, usurping Arizona and Utah State for the two spot.
Both Kentucky and LSU move on to the Regional Final by virtue of their first and second place session finishes; the Wildcats of Arizona (196.025) and Aggies (195.025) head home after valiant efforts.
The Wildcats of Lexington and Tigers now pair with the Utah Utes and Arizona State Sun Devils for Regional Final competition. Each team finds itself amongst the country's top-15 (LSU at No. 3, Utah at No. 6, ASU at No. 11 and UK at No. 14).
The top two teams from the Regional Final will advance to the NCAA Championships, held at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, TX. on Apr. 16. The Cats begin competition with the Tigers, Utes and Sun Devils on Saturday night at 9:00 p.m. E.T. on ESPN3 (available online and through the ESPN app).