LEXINGTON, KY (11/8/12) - After battling through 75 minutes of scoreless action, Kentucky senior defender Jacob Kemper netted his first career goal on a gorgeous strike from 30 yards out, leading the Wildcats to a 1-0 win over Memphis in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament, hosted by UAB at Regions Park on a chilly Wednesday evening.
Kentucky (10-8-1) needed a win in the first-round C-USA Tournament game to boost its postseason resume and advance to face C-USA regular-season champion No. 19 SMU on Friday. UK, which owned the No. 26 NCAA RPI and the No. 13 strength of schedule in the nation entering the game, will face the Mustangs in the semifinals of the tournament on Friday at Regions Park.
“Our team played really, really well,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “You have to give a lot of credit to Memphis and their staff. They had two great wins to get into the tournament. You could tell the first 15-20 minutes that they were a very confident team. Our last two results didn’t go the way we wanted and we slowly but surely worked our way into the game and we tried to pass the ball around, maybe a bit more direct then we wanted too. I am really happy with the guys and how they responded.”
UK keeper Jack Van Arsdale was dominant in goal for the Wildcats, securing his fifth shutout of the year with a career-high six save performance. The Richmond, Va., native made two critical saves in the first half and with the Tigers rallying late, helped seal the UK clean sheet with three second-half saves.
Memphis (8-7-3) had its three-game winning streak snapped with the loss, as the Tigers had posted consecutive wins over FIU, UAB and No. 14 SMU to enter the league tournament. Memphis keeper Cody Uzcategui – the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week – finished with three saves in the game, just allowing the magnificent goal from Kemper. C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, Mark Sherrod fired five shots in the game to lead the Tigers.
Kemper led UK with three shots taken in the game, with Matt Lodge firing two shots and Tyler Riggs, Cameron Wilder and Isak Krogstad each mustering an effort.
UK took a 1-0 lead in the 75th minute, as Kemper made a run down the far sideline, with his cross into the box deflected out for a corner kick. Matt Lodge lofted the corner into the box and the ball was deflected back to Kemper. The Crestwood, Ky., native took a one-touch strike from about 30 yards out, sailing with pace through the air and across the goal mouth, finding the net at the far post. The goal was the first of Kemper’s career, who played in his 57th career game on Wednesday. Lodge was awarded the assist, his third of the year and the 18th of his career.
“It is a fantastic shot,” Cedergren said. “Kemper is a guy who is a senior and bleeds blue. He is a diehard Kentucky fan. He is a forward that when I came in I made a left back. And now he finally gets a chance to play higher up the field and get his first career goal at Kentucky. The goal was such a well-hit shot. I think our press in the second half confused Memphis a little bit and gave us more of the ball higher up the field and we were able to use it up the field.”
“I was kinda scared there for a minute that I would go without a goal,” Kemper said. “I saw Lodge clip it in and they didn’t have anyone up. I was sitting at the halfway line and went up and struck it. Fifteen minutes to go, maybe it would hit somebody and go in. Luckily it was a nice connect with the ball and it went in.”
UK will face SMU on Friday at 6 p.m. ET at Regions Park, with the winner advancing to the C-USA Championship game.
“One of our best games that we played all season was down at SMU and we lost 2-0,” Cedergren said. “Through about 65 minutes we had them under control. They were dangerous but so were we. We are excited for a rematch with the league’s best team.”
Memphis owned an 11-8 advantage in shots with UK owning a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks, holding the Tigers to a season-low one corner.
“It literally means so much,” Kemper said about the win and his goal. “I feel like I have put so much of my heart into this team for four years. We have had so many struggles in the past, especially our senior class. This is our only year with Johan and the staff. It just means everything, I can’t even describe the feeling. Just awesome.”
GAME NOTES: Sophomore defender Dustin Scibilia made his first career start, playing in his sixth game for the Wildcats 2012 … Senior Jacob Kemper got his first career goal as the game-winning tally … Senior Matt Lodge took two shots and now has a career-record 199 shots … Lodge added his 18th career assist … Jack Van Arsdale notched his fifth shutout of the year, tying his career high with six saves … UK held Memphis to a season-low one corner kick … UK now owns a 5-4-2 all-time record in its seven appearances in the C-USA Tournament … UK leads the series with Memphis, 6-4-2, including a 2-0 mark at neutral sites.
Information provided by UK Athletics
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