Both Kentucky’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are eligible for foreign trips this summer, and UK Hoops will take theirs to Italy.
Matthew Mitchell’s squad will spend August 4-13 in Italy, making stops in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Lake Como to play international competition. They’ll also save plenty of time for sightseeing, with planned tours of the Colosseum, Vatican City and more. This is UK Hoops’ first overseas trip since 2001 when they went to France and Switzerland. Prior to that, the women’s program also visited Finland and Estonia in May 1992 and Japan in July of 1982.
Want to join them? Fan packages are available through BasketballTravelers.com/fans. More detailed information will be released soon.
Meanwhile, the men’s team’s foreign trip has yet to be revealed, but we’re hearing it will be the Bahamas once again, which is great news because that was one of the best trips of my life. Start saving up now.
By Maggie Davis on ©March 08th, 2018 @ 6:30pm
Another future-Cat has been added to the Jordan Brand Classic roster. Five-star guard Rhyne Howard joins 23 other women from across the nation in the “showcase of the greatest male and female high school basketball players in the game today.” The girls game will tipoff April 8 at 3:30, followed by the boys game – which features Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro – at 5:30.
The news comes just one day after Howard was named Tennessee’s Class AAA Miss Basketball. The title was an obvious choice – Howard is leading Bradley Central High School to a 33-0 record while averaging 22.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 4.1 assists per game. She’s hitting 54 percent from the field this season.
In addition to her Miss Basketball title and her Jordan Brand Classic recognition, Howard was also named a McDonald’s All-America Game nominee and was on the Naismith Trophy Preseason and Midseason Watch Lists. The All-Star Girls Report ranks Howard as the No. 8 player in the 2018 class. Combined with Harlan-native Blair Green, the Report ranks Kentucky’s 2018 recruiting class No. 18 in the nation.
What a season it’s been for Matthew Mitchell and the Kentucky women’s basketball team. The No. 9 Cats upset No. 8 Alabama in the first round of the SEC Tournament Thursday, but the good fortune didn’t last. The Wildcats were eliminated from the SEC Tournament Friday, falling to an undefeated Mississippi State (31-0) 81-58. The Cats’ 14-16 season record marks the first time in Mitchell’s tenure the team has finished under .500. Now, for the first time in eight years, UK Hoops will not make the NCAA tournament. What went wrong? What went right? Here are the three takeaways from a tough season.
1. Matthew Mitchell’s future
Let’s start with the obvious. Despite the mass exodus of 2015, in which the program had more scholarship players transfer or decommit (seven) than return (six), Kentucky was able to hold on last season and even advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament thanks to then-seniors Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator. But this season, the turnover caught up to the Cats, and Kentucky was exponentially less successful after the departure of two of last season’s three leading scorers.
This year was tagged as the “recovery year” even back in 2015, but now the real question emerges: how will Kentucky move forward from here? The future is bright with two highly-touted 2018 recruits: Blair Green and Rhyne Howard both signed with the Cats last November. Green is a four-star prospect and the ninth best wing in the 2018 class, according to ESPN; Howard is a five-star prospect, the 10th best guard and 31st best overall player in the 2018 class. Both ladies are favorites to win the title “Miss Basketball” in their respective states, Kentucky for Green and Tennessee for Howard.
Mitchell’s ability to sign two highly-rated recruits shows he’s “still got it.” But if he fails to develop these players, it will not only hurt the team for another year, but it will also further hurt recruiting for the program. Mitchell’s contract was extended last December through 2022 for $825,000 annually with a five percent increase every year.
2. Consistency is key
While the Cats struggled on both sides of the ball this season, their inconsistent offense caused them the most issues. Take the Cats’ most recent loss, for instance. UK came out firing, hitting 66.7 percent from the field, and Kentucky actually led Mississippi State 23-22 at the end of the first quarter. But then the wheels started to come off, as UK Hoops has seen all season. In the next ten minutes, the Cats couldn’t buy a basket, and the Bulldogs went on a 19-2 run, including five consecutive three-pointers. Over the next two quarters, the Cats couldn’t get their offense back on track and were outscored 46-21.
After seven straight 20-point games, junior Maci Morris struggled offensively against the Bulldogs. She finished with 13 points – five of which came from free throws – plus three rebounds and three turnovers.
Moving forward, the Cats have to become a more consistent threat on the offensive side of the ball. There cannot be anymore sub-20 percent shooting quarters if Kentucky wants to find itself back in the NCAA tournament next season.
3. Morris-Murray Combo
The bright spot of this year’s team boils down to Kentucky’s two top-producing scorers: Maci Morris and Taylor Murray. Combined, the two averaged just under 29 points per game. Luckily for the Cats, the duo will be returning for their senior years next season. And they’re not the only ones returning: Kentucky returns the majority of its offense, losing only Jessica Hardin (1.2 ppg) and Alyssa Rice (6.6 ppg and 5.8 rpg).
Kentucky’s freshmen this season showed promise. Dorie Harrison and Tatyana Wyatt each averaged over six points per game; Keke McKinney and Amanda Paschal both averaged 4.7. With added minutes plus another year of experience, these ladies have the potential to develop into key players for Kentucky in the coming seasons.
Left without a bid for the NCAA Tournament, what’s next for the Kentucky women’s team? Click here to find out.
The SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship game will be played this afternoon, while the semifinals were played Saturday night. For the first time in eight years, the Kentucky’s women’s basketball team did not make an appearance in the semifinal round. The quarterfinal loss also means the Cats will break their eight-year streak of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Before the SEC Tournament departure, Coach Matthew Mitchell remained confident in his team’s right to play in the post season.
“You look at some teams that are going to the NCAA tournament, we’re right there with them, very competitive in games,” Mitchell said. “If you’re getting just completely blown out and the team looks like it kind of on its last leg, then you think about not playing. I would say our team has worked really hard.”
But no matter how hard the team worked, they weren’t quite able to deliver in the SEC Tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their 6-10 conference record also means the Wildcats will not play in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament – the SEC’s automatic bid will go to Alabama. It’s worth noting Kentucky beat Alabama twice this season (79-54 at home back in January and 71-64 in the first round of the SEC Tournament last Thursday afternoon). Unfortunately for the Cats, the Tide finished the season just one SEC win ahead of UK, therefore guaranteeing them a spot in the WNIT.
So what’s next for UK Hoops? Their most likely remaining option is the Women’s Basketball Invitational. The WBI is a 16-team, single-elimination tournament with games played on the home court of the team with the higher ranking. Kentucky would be the first SEC team to compete in the WBI since the tournament’s birth in 2010. Still, Mitchell just wants his players to have a chance to compete.
“We will definitely look for opportunities to play,” Mitchell said last weekend. “In my mind, as long as the team keeps coming with great energy at practice, and working hard, I would love for them to have an opportunity to play.”
Selections for the WBI will be announced alongside NCAA and WNIT brackets on Selection Monday. The first round will be played the following Wednesday and Thursday.
Your University of Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team was knocked out of the SEC Tournament on Friday, losing to second-ranked and undefeated Mississippi State in the third round.
The final score was 81-58, which is pretty similar to UK’s two regular season losses to the conference’s best team. (They real good.)
Taylor Murray led the Cats with 15 points, followed by Maci Morris and Amanda Paschal with 13 apiece. It didn’t help that Mississippi State hit 10 three-pointers and scored 21 points off UK turnovers in the game.
Kentucky will now miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years.
^Mood because day one of the Sec Tournament is complete for our Cats and they won BIG TIME!
UK Hoops beat Alabama 71-64 today in Nashville to advance to the quarterfinals against Mississippi State tomorrow afternoon. Karly posted a game recap earlier on the site, but I’m here to bring you some post-game quotes and leftovers.
Maci Morris had (yet another) a BIG game
Morris had 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists. It’s her seventh straight game with 20+ points, and she’s the only player in the league to do so. Today though, she started off pretty slow, with only seven points in the first half. Obviously, she heated up.
“In the beginning I was rushing a lot so the coaches pulled me out and told me to slow down and be more patient and poised, so I just tried to keep that in mind. Tay does a great job of finding me for open shots so that really helped,” said Morris.
Here’s one of the five (yup, five) three’s she shot today:
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) March 1, 2018
Taylor Murray also showed up
Murray finished the game with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists. Murray also KILLED it defensively, especially in the second quarter when shooting seemed to be an issue. With Freshman KeKe McKinney out, the fact that Murray and co. forced the Tide to miss six straight shots from the field in the second quarter is pretty impressive.
It was about staying composed and trying to come back on offense, too, and trying to score,” said mUrray on how the Cats bounced back.
Matthew Mitchell was proud
Who wouldn’t be though when you’ve got players like Taylor and Maci?!
They’ve meant a lot to us, been so productive. Both have worked on their game and tried to improve, tried to improve their leadership. Proud of them, and they’ve really worked hard,” said Mitchell
Matthew Mitchell also noted that a slow start like this one used to and could have discouraged the team completely but because of big plays from Maci and Taylor, they came back.
“Just kids finding the open person and they were trapping a lot and being very aggressive and for us just to be able to stay poised,” said Mitchell.
The Cats take on Unbeaten Mississippi State tomorrow at 1PM. The bulldogs have beat us twice this season, both times very badly.
So, listen, there’s so much motivation on our plate. We’ve got to rise up right now and shock everybody and get this
victory, it’s extremely important. Our NCAA tournament lives are at stake and we have to play with a maximum Kentucky Wildcat effort tomorrow,” said Mitchell.
Maximum Kentucky Wildcat effort, I like that phrase a lot. Hopefully, that effort is greater than maximum bulldog effort. We’ll find out tomorrow! Go Cats!
It was a slow start for UK Hoops when they took on Alabama for their opening game in the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday. The Cats started 0-of-4 from the field, but after turning up their defense, they were able to tie the game at 8-8 with five minutes left in the first quarter. Alabama answered with a 10-0 run to regain the lead. The score at the end of the first quarter was 18-8. Kentucky was 3-for-16 in the first quarter, while Alabama was 8-for-17.
UK Hoops scored the first six points in the second quarter, cutting Alabama’s lead to 14. The Cats were able to grab the lead for a quick moment, at 21-20, but a 4-0 run from Alabama put them back on top by the end of the half. Kentucky was able to outscore Alabama 15-7 in the second quarter, making up for lost points in the first period. The score at halftime was 25-23.
Kentucky scored another small lead in the third quarter, but three straight three-pointers from Alabama helped give the Tide a six-point lead. The score was 41-35 with five minutes left in the quarter. An 8-0 run from the Cats helped tie the game at 46-46 with 48.2 left in the quarter. The score at the end of the third quarter was 50-48, with UK Hoops in the lead.
With 8:20 left in the fourth quarter, UK Hoops had their biggest lead of the game at 54-50. No. 4 Maci Morris secured her seventh 20-point scoring game to put the Cats up 67-62 with 1:23 left. Morris also scored two big threes in the fourth quarter, helping Kentucky secure a win. The final score was 71-64.
“We have to rise up and play with a maximum Kentucky Wildcat effort tomorrow because we need this win. We need it,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said in the post-game press conference.
UK Hoops will take on Mississippi State tomorrow, Friday, March 2, in the quarterfinals of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
One hour from now, UK Hoops will begin their run in the NCAA Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Kentucky, a nine-seed, will play eight-seed Alabama at 1 p.m. ET on SEC Network. The winner will take on No. 1 Mississippi State tomorrow.
Here’s the bracket:
With a 14-16 record (6-10 in the SEC), Kentucky’s only chance of making the NCAA Tournament is winning the SEC Tournament, so tune in and cheer on the ladies.
Jess Hardin and Alyssa Rice took to the court at Memorial Coliseum for the last time today as the Cats lost to No 2 Mississippi State 85-63.
Despite it being Senior Day, the seniors barely showed up. I was pretty disappointed with Rice’s two points and three rebounds. Jess Hardin started, as per tradition but only played a few minutes throughout the game and didn’t score but two points late in the fourth.
Here’s what the seniors had to say about their time at UK (quotes taken from the press conference earlier in the week):
“It was just a place that I felt was the best fit for me. I couldn’t see myself anyplace else,” said Rice.
For Hardin, playing for Kentucky has been a dream come true coming from Monticello, Kentucky.
“I am going to remember all these wonderful girls that I have met here. The experience is everything that I had hoped it would be. It has just been great,” said Hardin.
Despite our seniors not showing up, Maci Morris did. Aren’t you surprised? Morris had 22 points (her sixth straight game with 20+ points) and went 3-5 from the three. Amanda Paschal also had a big game with 11 points and three rebounds.
Kentucky finishes the regular season 14-16 and the SEC 6-10. With this win, Mississippi State finishes the regular season 30-0. Much of that is due to Junior Center Teaira McCowan. McCowan absolutely dominated today. She had a double-double with 20 points and 20 rebounds. This is her 22 double-double of the season and also, she already the double-double in the second quarter. We were doomed from the beginning against her. She also had a HUGEEEE (no pun intended, though she is 6-foot-7) block over Taylor Murray (R.I.P. Taylor).
A big congrats to both Alyssa Rice and Jessica Hardin for putting forth time and effort to this UK Hoops team during their college years. I know I’ll miss them! A big thanks to all you UK Hoops fans, too for reading my posts and supporting the Cats this season! Let’s hope next year is better! I have a feeling it will be! Go Cats!
It was a bittersweet senior day for No. 15 Jessica Hardin and No. 45 Alyssa Rice, who both started in today’s game against Mississippi State. Unfortunately the game ended in an 85-63 loss to Mississippi State.
The crowd at Memorial Coliseum were on their feet early as UK Hoops started the game strong. The score was 9-3, but Mississippi State took the lead with four straight threes. The score at the end of the first quarter was 21-18, with the Cats hitting 7-of-17 from the field.
While the second quarter started with UK Hoops in possession of the ball, they missed their first two shots. A three and a layup from Mississippi State allowed them to increase their lead to 26-18. The Cats were able to cut this lead to late in the second quarter, but a 6-0 run from Mississippi State put the score at 46-31 at the end of the half. No. 4 Maci Morris hit 16 points in the first half, but Mississippi State, who averages seven threes per game, had already hit six in the first half.
The Bulldogs increased this lead in the third quarter, shooting 10-for-13 from the field and hitting multiple threes. By the end of the third quarter, Mississippi State had hit 8-of-14 in threes, putting the score at 68-49.
While the Bulldogs secured a win in the final quarter, Morris scored 22 points. This game was her sixth-straight 20-plus scoring game, making her the only player in the SEC to do that this season. Seniors Hardin and Rice also found themselves receiving a standing ovation from Memorial Coliseum at the end of the game. The final score was 85-63.
While this is UK Hoops last home game for the season, the first round of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament will take place on Wednesday, February 28 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.