The first time Jazmine Massengill took the floor versus her former school, the Cats played possibly their worst game of the season and left Knoxville with a 17-point loss. She and her teammates turned things around in a big way Thursday evening, answering the bell in resounding fashion during a 71-56 victory against their arch-rival.
Making her first start as a Wildcat, the Volunteer transfer knocked down some integral shots in the contest’s biggest moments. She cut off a 19-2 third quarter Tennessee run that had the burnt orange squad up by six with a deep ball from the right wing, promptly slicing the Kentucky deficit in half.
“One of the things that she and I talked about yesterday is that she had to be a threat offensively,” Wildcat head coach Kyra Elzy said postgame. “She had to see herself scoring.”
Massengill’s scoring total (11 points) may not be eye-popping, but that doesn’t mean her buckets weren’t important. As the teams traded blows through the middle part of the final period, she hit another three-pointer to stretch Kentucky’s lead out to seven. Then she provided the dagger, driving a stake through UT’s win probability with her third three of the half. Each of her four scores – and all of her points – came after intermission.
“It was momentum to the team,” the junior out of Chattanooga said about the third-quarter trey. “Making shots is contagious.”
If her words don’t ring true to you, let the actions of the Cats do the talking. A 14-2 spurt to end the third quarter and begin the fourth ensued from her first behind-the-arc make, while her second and third baskets from distance contributed to a 16-3 feather in the cap of their win.
“Basketball is a game of runs. Tennessee is a great team, so they're going to go on their run,” Massengill said. “It's just how we respond and how we bounce back.”
Her insertion into the opening five caught her off guard; more notably though, it allowed Chasity Patterson to slide into the role of off-guard. The chess move worked to perfection, as the reigning SEC Sixth Woman of the Year tallied a team-high 21 points; her most since the Wildcats faced DePaul back in December.
“[I] decided to start Jaz to get us settled in offensively,” Elzy told reporters. “A big key to that [was] trying to get Chasity to play more free.”
“I definitely loved coming off the two and having Jazmine at the one,” Patterson said. “It was just a different look… and I feel like it was a great look for us.”
The impressive effort wasn’t only redemption for Massengill, but Kentucky as a whole. Saying they were embarrassed when they last met Tennessee would be putting things kindly; nobody on the team played particularly well. It’s safe to say they didn’t forget.
“[We had] a chip on our shoulder,” Massengill laughed. “That was a disappointing loss… we had to get a little payback.”
The Cats jump to 14-5 (7-4 SEC) with the result, while the Lady Vols fall to 12-4 (6-2) in its first battle of a daunting stretch that sees them travel to Texas A&M and Mississippi State before hosting South Carolina in an eight-day span.
Kentucky moves on to Florida, who it will face in Gainesville on a Monday Night showcase. Tip time is set for 7:00 p.m. E.T. on SEC Network.