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(Photo via UK Athletics)

3 Takeaways From UK Hoops Win Over Murray State

(Jaida Roper | Photo via UK Athletics)

The Kentucky Wildcats defeated in-state foe Murray State 88-49 on Friday in Memorial Coliseum, here are a few takeaways from what impressed me the most.

Rhyne Howard is unreal

The freshman from Cleveland, Tennessee is one of the best pure scorers in the country. Howard leads the team in scoring 18.5 points per game and on Friday against Murray State, she put up 17 points in the third quarter alone.

Howard was 6-9 from the field in that quarter after she scored only five points in the first half.

She’s never one to demand the ball, but once her teammates began to realize that Howard was cooking, they were more than happy to give her the ball any opportunity they could. Howard was especially deadly coming off screens and curling up from the baseline where she would pop open for shots from the corner.

She finished with 25 points on 9-13 shooting, including 5-8 from three. It was the fifth time this season she has scored at least 20 points. With the conclusion of this game, Howard is now shooting 48.5 percent from three this season on 70 attempts (which translates to over five three-point attempts per game). She’s an elite-level shooter.

Senior guard Maci Morris praised Howard after the game.

“It’s just fun,” Morris said, referring to watching Howard take over. “Jaida and I were actually just joking about how we think Rhyne shoots better when she’s tired. It just seems like she’s trying her hardest to run up and down the floor and when she gets the ball, she always finds a way to score. It’s very fun to watch and I’ve enjoyed playing with her this season.”

Get familiar with hearing her name repeated over the coming months, she makes getting buckets look so effortless that it’s actually unfair for the defender.

Jaida Roper is the key off the bench

The junior continues to be a force when she comes off the pine. Roper recorded a season-high 15 points on 5-8 shooting and dished out six dimes against Murray State.

She now has back-to-back games with at least 12 points and six assists and has been an excellent on-ball defender when she replaces lockdown defender Taylor Murray.

She may not be a starter, but she’s played the fifth most minutes of anyone on the team and is second in steals (Murray has a healthy lead in that category). She’s a player that gets better every time she steps on the floor and it’s beginning to be a noticeable trend.

After the game, I asked Roper how she has been able to build her confidence with every passing game leading up to this one.

“Credit to my teammates because they help my confidence every game,” Roper said. “They tell me to either take the shot, or if I’m open, make the play that I know I can make. A lot of credit goes to them because they boost my confidence and I’m just trying to put in the extra work that builds my confidence.”

Associate head coach Kyra Elzy sported a holiday-themed sweater and embraced Jaida Roper after the Kentucky win. (Photo via UK Athletics)

First quarter adjustments

The Wildcats came out sluggish on the defensive end to start the game. Through the first seven/eight minutes, the Racers were pushing the pace and doing everything they could to make sure their best player – Evelyn Adebayo – got as many touches in the paint as possible. It resulted in her scoring 12 first-quarter points and at one point helping Murray State to a surprising 20-14 lead.

Kentucky would finish the quarter on a strong note, tieing the game up at 20, but not before Murray State shot 8-12 from the field.

In the second quarter, the intensity picked up and the Wildcats took over. Adebayo didn’t make another shot until the very last second of the third quarter and hit only a couple of free throws between that time.

Tatyana Wyatt and KeKe McKinney did an outstanding job keeping her off the block and putting her out of position which was clearly frustrating Adebayo.

“We were just not matching her intensity. That’s what we talked about,” said head coach Matthew Mitchell. “I think she (Adebayo) came out really intense and played with a lot of hustle and a lot of fire, and I thought her confidence was really growing as she played well. We were a step slow, and we’re not a very good team when we’re a step slow. We have to commit to max effort, and we just weren’t able to match her intensity early on. So, I was really proud of the team for getting a handle on that and not letting them just run away from us. We were able to kind of reel them back in and get our feet back underneath us. I think she just had a terrific start, and you have to credit her for that. She’s a good player.”

Taylor Murray also provided some much-needed energy, ripping apart the Murray State backcourt multiple times while applying a full-court press. Murray finished with four steals.

The Racers would shoot 11-36 as a team after their hot start and failed to score double-digits in both the second and third quarter.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Two members, Bill and Matt, of the UK band covering for the students while they're on holiday break)

UK Hoops: Howard Leads Cats to Another Win

(Photo via Twitter.com/KentuckyWBB)

The 18th ranked Kentucky Wildcats (13-1) defeated the Murray State Racers (4-6) 88-49 in front of a holiday-themed crowd at Memorial Coliseum on Friday afternoon.

Freshmen Rhyne Howard led the Cats in scoring with 25 points on a lethal 9-13 shooting from the field. Senior Maci Morris added 13 points – all in the first half – while Jaida Roper added a season-high 15 points and six assists.

Murray State started this game off on fire, going 7-7 from the field, including three made triples. Evelyn Adebayo (no relation) was 5-6 in the first quarter for 12 points and was dominant in the paint. The Racers were living up to their name by pushing the pace and outrunning Kentucky’s full-court press. For the first seven to eight minutes of the game, Murray State was beating Kentucky down the court for easy layups and open looks from deep.

The thing is, pushing the pace against a team that loves to run up and down as much as Kentucky does usually doesn’t end well. That began to show towards the end of the first quarter and especially into the second. Kentucky forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter and eight in the second, which translated to 18 total points off turnovers.

The Wildcats locked down Adebayo after her explosive first quarter, bringing more help and putting pressure on her whenever she touched the ball. After 12 points in the first quarter, she went 0-1 from the field in the second.

The team’s leading scorer, Rhyne Howard, was held to only five points in the first half on 2-3 shooting, but it was Maci Morris who led the way with 13 points, making 3-5 on her shots from deep.

Kentucky would lead 42-28 at halftime before taking over in the second half behind 20 points from Howard.

The defense stepped it up in the second half, denying Adebayo from touching the ball – she scored only one made basket in the second and third quarters combined – and preventing Murray State from making the home run play to beat the press.

Howard set the third quarter on fire, scoring 17 of her 25 points in this frame, shooting 6-9 from the field.

Kentucky outscored Murray State 46-27 in the second half and had the game won before the start of the fourth quarter.

Murray State turned the ball over 27 total times which led to 25 Kentucky points and held the Racers to only 39 percent shooting after they went 8-12 in the first quarter.

Head coach Matthew Mitchell was decked out in a Kentucky-themed Christmas sweater as were several members of the crowd along the alumni band – who were taking place of the students currently on break.

(Two members, Bill and Matt, of the UK band covering for the students while they’re on holiday break.)

Kentucky will have the next week off before they take on Sacred Heart in Memorial on Dec. 29 at 11:30 a.m.


(Photo via Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

WBB: Top Guard in 2017 Transferring to Kentucky

(Photo via Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Chasity Patterson, the top-ranked point guard out of the class of 2017 and fourth-ranked player overall, is transferring to Kentucky from the University of Texas.

Patterson was the Preseason Big 12 Freshman Player of the Year last season and will be forced to sit out the remainder of this season along with the fall semester of 2019. Patterson will be able to practice and play with the team following that holiday break.

The five-foot-five guard averaged only 7.6 minutes and 2.8 points per game during her freshman season at Texas and appeared in only one game this season before requesting a transfer back in early November.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Chasity Patterson to our program and cannot wait to get her on campus,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Chasity is an athletic guard with incredible play-making abilities on both ends of the court. She’s a high-energy player who possess a winning pedigree having won 125 games in high school. Chasity fits our system perfectly and when you couple that with the opportunity to compete at the highest level here at Kentucky, it was a perfect match. We are confident that her experience will be a valuable asset to our team.”

(Photo via UK Athletics and Public Relations)

Kentucky has become somewhat of a hotbed for transfers in the last year, as coach Mitchell currently has four players that have previously transferred, two of them sitting out this season as required by the NCAA. Patterson will add to that list and should be a key addition moving forward as the starting backcourt of Maci Morris and Taylor Murray will both graduate at year’s end.

Rhyne Howard and Blair Green are the two players of the future for UK Hoops but bringing in a high-level prospect to solidify the point guard position for the next couple of years is a big-time win for the team.


(Photo via Twitter.com/@KentuckyWBB)

2 Takeaways From a Dominant UK Hoops Victory

(Photo via Twitter.com/@KentuckyWBB)

The 18th ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team absolutely obliterated the Western Carolina University Catamounts on Tuesday night in Memorial Coliseum.

The Lady Wildcats won handily, 99-39, allowing their second-fewest points of the season while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field. Here a few quick takeaways from a dominant performance.

Everybody got in on the action

Of the 11 players that appeared on the court, 10 of them scored at least one bucket. Eight players scored at least six points while six finished with at least 11 points. After a scoreless first quarter, freshman star Rhyne Howard finished with 18 points while seniors Maci Morris and Taylor Murray scored 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Sophomore Tatyana Wyatt added a season-high 16 points on 8-10 shooting and scored three of Kentucky’s first four buckets. The backup backcourt unit of Jaida Roper and Amanda Paschal was especially impressive. Roper finished with 12 points – and a career-high seven assists – while Paschal added 11 points of her own.

This was the first game since Nov. of 2016 that at least six Kentucky players have registered double figures in points.

The Wildcats combined to shoot 58.6 percent from the field (41-70) and 44 percent from three (11-25).

Head coach Matthew Mitchell praised his bench unit in the postgame, discussing the importance of having a reliable second unit that can come in and relieve pressure from the starters.

“We’ve had some great contributions from our bench. It’s so important for those players to contribute,” Mitchell said. “You saw Jaida (Roper) and Amanda (Paschal) both came off the bench and were able to make some shots. Ogechi (Anyagaligbo) came off the bench and scored for us. Blair (Green) was able to come off and score. Kameron (Roach) had a bucket. Anytime you can get that contribution from the entire team, it certainly strengthens your chances of victory.”

The backcourt is a defensive juggernaut

We all know how good Taylor Murray is on the defensive end. She was named to the SEC All-Defensive Team last season and is one of the country leaders in steals this year. She was excellent on that end of the court on Tuesday night, ripping away five steals – four of them coming in the first quarter. I cannot stress enough how easily Murray made some of these steals look. The timing she possesses when she swipes down on an unsuspecting ball handler is a form of art. There is rarely a player faster than her on the court and she baits the opponent into thinking they can beat her before she snatches both the ball and their soul.

But aside from Murray, the win over WCU showcased just how good the backcourt is as a whole on the defensive end. Morris is known as a scorer and may not be the faster player, but the way she shifts her feet and anticipates movement is unparalleled. She is so fundamentally sound when guarding the ball and keeping her opponent in front of her that she is rarely beaten off the dribble.

The same thing goes for Roper and Paschal. Roper and Paschal – both juniors – are a bit undersized when they replace players such as Morris or Howard, but their intensity more than makes up for it. Both players are quick and, like Morris, maintain incredibly quick feet.

“It’s really important for us to get that experience to help contribute and relieve the pressure off the starters,” Roper said, referring to the bench squad. “They play really hard so just to come in and give that extra spark so they don’t feel like there is a letdown is important. The bench players have been trying to step it up and help them out.”

The main reason Kentucky limited WCU to only 39 points was in large part thanks to the brick wall the four backcourt players formed throughout the entire game. If Carolina was lucky enough to get the ball across half-court, there was never an open lane or driving opportunity. Kentucky forced 24 turnovers which translated to 33 points.

Now enjoy these highlights.


(Photo by Britney Howard | UK Athletics)

UK Hoops Dominates Western Carolina 99-39

(Photo by Britney Howard | UK Athletics)

The 18th ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team made easy work of the Western Carolina University Catamounts in Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday night, dominating from the open tip and winning by a final score of 99-39.

Tatyana Wyatt scored a season-high 16 points on 8-10 shooting. She is now the second consecutive Wildcat to set a new season-high, as KeKe McKinney recorded her new high of 13 points on Saturday.


Western Carolina (2-9) came into the game with only seven rotational players and  – because of a couple more on-court injuries – barely finished the game with six healthy players.

To start the game off, Wyatt scored four of Kentucky’s first five buckets on her way to her new career-high.

As usual, Kentucky’s full-court press was present early and often in this game. The Wildcats forced nine Western Carolina turnovers in the first quarter which translated into 13 points. Senior guard Taylor Murray was especially effective on the defensive end, recording four steals in the first frame. She came into the game averaging the 16th most steals per game in the country at 3.45 and will see that number go up as she ended the game with five total.

Kentucky would hold WCU to only 20 first-half points on 39 percent shooting as the Wildcats forced 17 turnovers. On the season, the Catamounts had been averaging 20 turnovers per game.

After shooting a season-high from the field in their most recent game against Middle Tennessee State, the Wildcats kept the hot shooting going. Kentucky shot 60 percent (12-20) in the first quarter and 70.6 percent (12-17) in the second.

Reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, Rhyne Howard was held scoreless in the first quarter after failing to reach double figures for the first time all season against MTSU. However, she would pick things up in the second and end the game with 18 points, right at her season average.

Senior Maci Morris led Kentucky in scoring in the first half, dropping in 13 of their 56 points, including two quick-trigger threes in the face of her defender. Despite her great play in the first half, she would not score the rest of the game.

But that didn’t stop Kentucky from putting up another 43 points in the second half.

The Wildcats would finish the game with six players in double figures – the first time since Nov. 17, 2017 – and 10 of the 11 players who entered the game made at least one shot.

They held WCU to only 19 points in the second half on 25 percent shooting from the field and 31.9 percent for the entire game. Meanwhile, Kentucky finished the evening shooting 58.6 percent from the field. Most notably, they also shot 11-25 from three (44 percent).

The defensive presence of Kentucky’s backcourt -specifically Morris, Murray, and junior Jaida Roper – was an impenetrable wall that Western Carolina had no answer for. The end result was 24 forced turnovers which Kentucky turned into 33 points.

Kentucky’s defense giving up only 39 points was the fewest since their first game of the season against Alabama State, who they held to only 35 points.

Next up is Murray State on Friday at noon, where Memorial Coliseum will be giving away Santa hats and honoring National Ugly Sweater Day.


(Photo via Twitter.com/KentuckyWBB)

3 Takeaways From UK Hoops Win Over MTSU

(Photo via Twitter.com/KentuckyWBB)

The Kentucky women’s basketball team easily handled Middle Tennessee State on Saturday in Memorial Coliseum following the Wildcats loss to the fourth-ranked Lousiville Cardinals this past Sunday.

Kentucky was incredibly efficient from the field in the first half and put on another terrorizing display of their now famous full-court press. Let’s talk about my three biggest takeaways from the Wildcat victory.

Role players pick up the scoring

Reigning SEC Freshmen of the Week Rhyne Howard was limited to just eight points in the win over MSTU. It was the first time this season in which she failed to reach double-figures. Despite that, she played anything but a bad game. Howard still shot 3-4 from the field while adding four rebounds and three assists to her stat line.

Even with Howard’s less-than-usual production, Kentucky still found ways to score. While fans are accustomed to watching senior guards Maci Morris and Taylor Murray score in double-digits on a regular basis – Morris scored 14 while Murray added 12 – it was two role players in particular who picked up the slack.

Sophomore KeKe McKinney recorded a career-high 13 points on 6-10 shooting (she also recorded a career-high in blocks with five rejections) while freshman Blair Green was a perfect 3-3 from three for 11 points. Green hadn’t hit a three since the middle of November when the Cats faced Virginia at Rupp Arena, but once she saw the first one go in, her shooting confidence flooded right back through her.

“Just getting back in the gym and forgetting about the previous games, while pushing forward,” said the freshmen, Green. “That’s what helps build my confidence.”

Head coach Matthew Mitchell knew how important it was for Green and McKinney to come in and make big shots when their star scorer wasn’t as effective as normal.

“They (McKinney and Green) were so key to us getting control of the game,” Mitchell said. “Whatever runs MTSU were able to make in the second half, we still had a manageable and workable lead because of their stepping up and making some plays in the first half. When you look at the strategy of MTSU, they were going to try to force those two kids to make some shots. When they stepped up and made some shots, big boost for them as individuals, but a huge boost for our team and I thought that every time their shots went in, it was a big momentum builder for us, an energizer.”

Alex Johnson dominated inside

If it weren’t for Alex Johnson, Middle Tennessee State would have lost by a lot more than just 17. Johnson scored 27 points on 11-14 shooting from the field for MTSU. She was a bit undersized compared to the likes of McKinney, Howard, and Tatyana Wyatt, but more than held her own. In fact, she straight up dominated Kentucky’s frontline throughout the entire game.

Kentucky employed their full-court press as they normally do and it worked to effect for the most part. The Wildcats forced 18 turnovers (seven below their season average) and made life difficult in the backcourt for MTSU’s guards. However, whenever they did break the press and crossed the midcourt line, that’s when they were constantly looking for Johnson.

The majority of Johnson’s shots came right at the rim after she shed her defender and created space for a wide-open look at the rim. There were several instances in the second half when Johnson was demanding double – and sometimes triple – teams on the block. When Kentucky brought the trap on Johnson, they were able to limit her for the most part and got a bit lucky considering some of the open looks that MTSU just missed after Johnson would swing the ball or kick it back out.

Kentucky shot a season-high from the field

Kentucky started the game off on fire, making 15 of their 21 shots in the first half while holding MTSU to only 4-13 shooting. Kentucky’s shooting trailed off in the third, but they put the game on ice in the fourth quarter, finishing the game shooting a season-high 56.8 percent.

If you’re hitting over 56 percent of your shots for an entire 40 minutes, odds are you’re gonna win that game 10 times out of 10.

Four Kentucky players scored in double-digits and the Wildcats went 6-10 from three collectively.

On a team where the numbers of forced turnovers are typically the first thing you look at on the box score, it was encouraging to see them put on such a great offensive display, especially after losing to Louisville earlier in the week.

“If you think about our players, they played an extremely emotional game last Sunday,” said Mitchell, referring to the loss against Louisville. “They were so disappointed and then they had to turn around and start final exams and people have to understand how hard we are working in the classroom and what we are trying to achieve. We have very consciences students. So, that entire week up until Thursday, they are trying to balance to get better as a team, but also be strong with their exams. This is a tough stretch. Tough six-day stretch for our players. To come out and play that way in the first half, I can’t tell you how proud I was of them.”

Middle Tennessee State may not be an SEC school, but this was still a huge win for a Kentucky team that is showing massive improvements on a game-by-game basis. Next up is Western Carolina University on Tuesday back at Memorial.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo via Twitter.com | @KentuckyWBB)

UK Hoops Take Down MTSU 72-55

(Photo via Twitter.com | @KentuckyWBB)

The 18th ranked Kentucky Wildcats hosted Middle Tennessee State University in Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, winning their 10th game of the season by a score of 72-55.

Senior Maci Morris led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 14 points on 4-6 shooting while KeKe McKinney was not far behind her, scoring a career-high 13 points on 6-10 shooting while also swatting away a career-high five shots.

Reigning SEC Freshman of the Week and Kentucky’s leading scorer, Rhyne Howard, added just eight points on 3-4 shooting.

Kentucky couldn’t find their rhythm to start this one. The half-court offense stalled at times and if it weren’t for some late shot clock jumpers, the score could have been a lot closer than it appeared. But thanks to their stingy full-court press, Kentucky was able to keep MTSU behind them. Blair Green hit two big threes in the first quarter that bailed Kentucky out of some bad offensive sets.

In the second quarter, the offense found their flow by feeding off their lockdown defense. Kentucky forced seven turnovers in the frame and 12 total in the half, turning those into 15 points. A 13-0 run to cap off the half saw the Wildcats leading 45-23 at the break.

The lead could have been even more significant had it not been for Middle Tennessee’s Alex Johnson, who was able to crack open the full-court press of Kentucky. Johnson scored 16 points in the first half on 6-7 shooting with the majority of her shots coming at the rim. If Kentucky wasn’t successful in forcing the issue up the court with their press, Johnson constantly found herself in perfect position underneath the basket and her teammates fed her every time.

MTSU was held to 9-24 shooting (3-17 by players not named Alex Johnson) in the first half while Kentucky shot 15-21.

The third quarter was reminiscent of the first, but the shots weren’t falling this time around. Kentucky shot 5-16 in the third quarter and scored only 11 points. MTSU was able to go on a 14-6 run in the middle of the quarter that gave the Wildcats a bit of a scare, but in the fourth quarter, Kentucky put all hope of a comeback to bed.

A three by KeKe McKinney to open the final period kicked things off for the Cats as Kentucky began to get any look they wanted on the floor. Whether it was Taylor Murray slicing to the basket or Maci Morris freeing herself up for open looks, the offense was clicking through the first five minutes. MTSU tried to make things interesting by feeding Johnson down low, who continued to terrorize the frontline of Kentucky, adding another 11 second-half points on 5-7 shooting to her 27 point total.

Kentucky came into this game averaging the sixth-most turnovers forced in the nation at nearly 25 per game. The Wildcats finished this game forcing 18 turnovers which translated to 21 points.

After their hot shooting start, the Cats came down to earth in the second half, shooting 25-44 (56.8 percent) for the game while holding MTSU to 23-51 shooting (45.1 percent).

After losing to fourth-ranked Louisville on Sunday, this was a major bounce-back win for Kentucky against an MTSU team that came in with only two losses. Now, with classes over for the semester, the Wildcats will ready themselves for a Tuesday night matchup with Western Carolina University.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


@UKAthletics

UK Hoops schedule change – Plus, watch UK vs. UofL in style

@UKAthletics

The Kentucky women’s basketball team has made a change to their schedule: the No. 18 Cats will now take on the Sacred Heart Pioneers Saturday, Dec. 29 at 11:30 a.m. inside Memorial Coliseum. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m.

The time change means fans will be able to watch the Kentucky-Louisville men’s game, which is slated to tip at 2 p.m., directly after the conclusion of the women’s game. The rivalry game will be shown on Memorial Coliseum’s enormous (1,800 square foot) LED video board. Coach Matthew Mitchell and his wife, Jenna will be providing free pizza to fans who attend the WBB game and stay for the watch party. It’s a nice gesture by Coach and the perfect way to watch both match-ups.

Tickets are $10 in reserved seating areas, while general admission tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children (ages 6-18) and seniors (age 65+). UK students get into all WBB games free with a valid student ID, and UK faculty and staff can receive free admission for themselves and a guest to all WBB games with a valid employee ID.

Mark your calendars for Dec. 29 and get ready to support your Cats.


REMINDER: Kentucky WBB takes on Louisville NOW

Need something to help get over yesterday’s heartbreaking loss? We’ve got the cure.

The undefeated No. 19 Kentucky women’s basketball team is taking on the No. 4 Louisville Cardinals RIGHT NOW over on the ACC Network Extra and WatchESPN.

Can’t get to a television? Listen to the game here:

If you have a television subscription, you can watch the game on WatchESPN right here.

Let’s finish off the weekend on a high note.

#LsDown