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UK Hoops rolls past High Point, secures 71-49 win

@KentuckyWBB

After a slow offensive start, the Kentucky women’s basketball team finished with a decisive 71-49 victory over the High Point University Panthers. Maci Morris led all scorers, finishing with a season-high 22 points. Taylor Murray added 14 points and freshmen Rhyne Howard and Blair Green had 10 points each.

While the Wildcats had four players hit double-digit scoring, it was Kentucky’s defense that came out strong, especially in the second half, to win the game. UK held High Point to just 28.3 percent shooting while also forcing 19 turnovers. The Cats were able to convert these turnovers into 15 points.

KeKe McKinney was a major contributor on the defensive side of the ball, grabbing a season-high nine rebounds and recording three blocks in 24 minutes of play.

Kentucky outperformed High Point in every aspect of play – the Wildcats made a higher percent of their shots from the field and from behind-the-arc, they grabbed more rebounds, committed fewer turnovers, blocked more shots and sank more free throws. Overall, a successful day for Kentucky. The UK Hoops team is now 4-0 on the season.

The victory was extra special for senior point guard Taylor Murray, who was honored for joining the 1,000-point club during the team’s last game. She is the 34th player in school history to hit a four-digit point total.

Photo via @KentuckyWBB

And as if a win wasn’t enough, the Cats can now begin to look ahead to warmer weather. The team’s next three games will be played in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where they’ll take on South Florida, UCLA and North Carolina in the Paradise Jam. The action will begin on Thanksgiving Day at 1 p.m. when the Cats play South Florida.


@MaggieDavisKSR


(Photo via Twitter/@KentuckyWBB)

Takeaways from UK Hoops Win Over Virginia

(Photo via Twitter/@KentuckyWBB)

The UK Hoops team beat down the Virginia Cavaliers 63-51 in Rupp Arena on Thursday night to move to 3-0 on the season. Here’s what we learned in Kentucky’s first big win of the young season.

When the offense struggles, the defense steps up

It was a poor shooting night for the Wildcats. They shot 4-15 in the first quarter and 10-37 in the first half, yet still limited Virginia to only 20 first-half points. In the absence of the offense, the defense stepped up.

Kentucky constantly brought traps and double-teams in full court and half court settings, especially whenever Virginia’s Felicia Aiyeotan touched the ball. At 6-foot-9, she was the tallest player in all of women’s basketball last season. Against Kentucky, she was impossible to stop once she was in position underneath the basket. But Kentucky hardly gave her any room for comfort despite her towering over every Wildcat by several inches. Aiyeotan had eight points and was limited to five shot attempts.

It wasn’t just in the post, either. Kentucky’s half-court trapping gave Virginia problems all night long. The Cavaliers could never establish any kind of rhythm and played to the pace that Kentucky wanted them too.

32 Virginia turnovers were turned into 32 Kentucky points. On a night where Kentucky only hit 20 points in a quarter once and shot 33 percent from the field for the entire game, it’s nice to know that the defense can make up for any offensive shortcomings. It wasn’t like these were tough, contested misses either for the Wildcats. The shots simply weren’t falling. That should rarely be the case going forward with how many shooters this team can deploy and it’s even more encouraging to see them pick up the slack on defense when missing so many shots can take a mental toll on a player and team.

“It was very encouraging. I thought it showed a lot of growth from a lot of players.” head coach Matthew Mitchell said regarding his team’s defense and playing through missed shots. “We have a lot of returners on the team, who I think, a year ago would have been very deflated. Offensive struggles really deflated us from playing hard on defense last year and it was a problem that plagued us all year long. We have worked hard to correct that and so really proud that the highlights of the game were some defensive tenacity through a difficult offensive night.”

As Mitchell stated, last season there was a trend of players of getting discouraged if shots weren’t falling and it clearly affected other aspects of their game. So far this season, that hasn’t been the case.

“Just knowing the difference on how we would’ve responded last year compared to this year gives me hope for this team,” said senior guard Maci Morris. “I was really proud how we fought through the adversity and continued to play hard on defense.”

Virginia’s first-year head coach and Basketball Hall of Famer – Tina Thompson – disagreed with how intense Kentucky was on defense.

“We played Mississippi State in our first game, who pressures, I believe the best in the country,” said Thompson when comparing Kentucky’s defense to the undeniably stout defense of Mississippi State. “Yes, we faced it, and we turned the ball over a lot less, so I’m not exactly sure that I have the answer to your question. I do know that some of the times we turned the ball over, it was because we just made very bad decisions.”

I’m not sure if she was watching the same game or not, but Kentucky forced 32 turnovers. Virginia didn’t just make 32 poor decisions. The Cavaliers simply could not handle the all-out pressure that Kentucky brought. More than the majority of the time Virginia turned the ball over, it was because they were stripped, trapped, or double-teamed. It was an impressive defensive onslaught and the Cavaliers couldn’t do anything about it.

There is the workings of an elite SEC defense on this Kentucky team.

Second chance points were huge

Kentucky lost the overall rebounding war 41-33, but convincingly won the battle on the offensive glass 15-8, which lead to eight second-chance points.

They scraped underneath the basket and in the paint. The active hands of Kentucky were always looking to pry the ball loose. Most of the turnovers that Kentucky forced were because of them constantly reaching in and poking the ball away and it was no different whenever there was a 50-50 ball.

“I thought it was great at halftime that we could point to the effort. So, we had a lot of offensive boards, we created a lot of turnovers and we didn’t do that standing around, we had to work to get that done,” said coach Mitchell. “They were really flying to the boards tonight.”

Six offensive rebounds from KeKe McKinney and three more from both Tatyana Wyatt and Ogechi Anyagaligbo were instrumental in maintaining a constant attack on Virginia’s defense.

Taylor Murray records her 1,000 point

Senior guard Taylor Murray had 12 points and three assists in the win, but not one point was bigger than a free throw that came with the game coming to a close. She is now the 34th Kentucky player to break the 1,000 point plateau.

“It feels really good and I just want to thank my teammates for pushing me every day and I wouldn’t have made my 1,000 point without them,” said Murray.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo via Twiter/@KentuckyWBB)

UK Hoops Takes Down Virginia 63-51

(Photo via Twiter/@KentuckyWBB)

The Kentucky Wildcats women’s basketball team beat the Virginia Cavaliers 63-51 in Rupp Arena on a snowy Thursday night in Lexington.

Kentucky’s offense was inconsistent throughout the night, but the defense was a brick wall for 40 straight minutes, forcing the Cavaliers to 32 turnovers.

Kentucky shot a poor 23-69 from the field (33 percent) in the game, going 5-23 from three.

Senior Taylor Murray led the Wildcats with 12 points on 4-9 shooting and some excellent individual defense. Murray hit two free throws in the waning seconds of the game to become the 34th Kentucky player to reach the 1,000 point mark.

Both teams struggled to score in the first half. Kentucky could hardly buy a bucket, shooting 10-37 from the field in the first 20 minutes. The Wildcats didn’t hit their first three of the game until Tatyana Wyatt knocked one down with under two minutes remaining in the half. The team scored seven points in that span to take a 21-20 lead at the intermission.

Virginia struggled to score thanks to a Kentucky defense that was mostly impenetrable. The full-court press wasn’t as effective as it had been in the first two games of the season, but the halfcourt trap was executed to perfection.

Virginia shot 57 percent in the first half, but on only 14 attempts, and turned the ball over 18 times compared to only seven turnovers for Kentucky.

The height and speed of the Cavaliers allowed them to create space in the back half of the court and throw over top of the pressing Kentucky defense, but constant trapping near the halfcourt line made it nearly impossible for UVA to get any sort of rhythm. The double teams kept coming and Virginia played right into the hands of the defense.

The Wildcats held the Cavaliers to only eight points in the first quarter – although Kentucky was limited to eight points themselves.

Senior Maci Morris was 3-10 from the field in the first half and freshman star Rhyne Howard was 1-7.

In the second half, the pace picked up and so did the points.

Kentucky outscored Virginia 23-10 in the third quarter, forcing another six turnovers and pushing the ball in transition practically every time down the court.

Virginia’s tallest player – Felicia Aiyeotan, who, at six-foot-nine, was the tallest player in women’s college basketball last season – was double-teamed the second she touched the ball. If Virginia was fortunate enough to get the ball across halfcourt, they were constantly looking for Aiyeotan but could hardly find her thanks to terrific team defense. She was limited to eight points on the night.

After making only 10 shots in the entire first half, Kentucky hit nine shots in the third quarter alone, including 3-6 from three.

The first five minutes of the fourth quarter was much of the same as the fourth, as Kentucky continued to add to its double-digit lead. It wasn’t until UVA was able to go on a 7-0 run and later cut the lead to 10 with under two minutes remaining that the suspense in the game began to build a bit.

A couple of key forced turnovers, offensive rebounds, and clutch free throws down the stretch ultimately closed out the win for the Wildcats.

Kentucky is now 3-0 to start the season. They were impressive in their first two wins against inferior teams but proved they have a potentially elite defense against a Virginia team with NCAA Tournament expectations.

Head coach Matthew Mitchell was happy with their efforts, to say the least.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


women's stats 11/11

Quick Hitters from Tonight’s UK Hoops Win

Via @KentuckyWBB Twitter

Good Sunday night friends! Are we all still sad about yesterday? Yes? Cool, me too. How about reading about a winning game?

After a thrilling 52 point victory against Alabama State Wednesday, UK Hoops’ journey continued tonight with a 91-41 50 point victory over Southern University. Since I couldn’t be at the game due to some lovely winter sickness, I became an armchair reporter and watched the game from home to write tonight (I’m devoted, I know).

Here are a few quick observations via my couch about tonight’s game:

This is the Program’s 800th Win

Now, let’s get 801, 802, 803…..

Rhyne Howard is a shooter

The freshman from Tennesee may be one of Mitchell’s best players, and it’s only her second game.

In the first half, Howard was hot on the 3, making four of six and scoring 16 of the Cats 50 points in the first half. At one point she had as many points as the Southern team. Howard finished with 29 points, four rebounds and four assists.

She good y’all, she real good.

We force the turnovers…and it works for us.

Like on Wednesday, we really forced Southern to turn the ball over. 29 times to be exact. Out of those 29, we scored 41 points on them…the total amount of points they scored. Ouch. That’s gotta sting.

On Wednesday in the post-game press conference, Taylor Murray said she thought the defense was “sluggish” at first, tonight that was not the case. You can tell Mitchell worked on defense this week in practice and it paid off.

Overall, we stacked up really well on the boards. See for yourselves:

 

This team is fun

You can see it on the court and on Matthew Mitchell’s face. This team is having FUN together. It’s only been two games but it already feels different than last year, I’d say we’re in for a good season.

KeKe McKinney tweeted this out earlier today, you know it’s a good team when this happens.

As someone who covered and sat through the brutality of last season, I for one am LOVING the start to this season. Seriously, now is the time to get on this train!

 

UK Hoops takes on the University of Virginia on Thursday at 8:30 in Memorial. At the game, Coach Mitchell plans on paying one student’s spring tuition, so students: GET IN THERE. Come on out and support this team! Go Cats!

 

@savannahpattKSR 


UK Hoops Coasts to Victory in Season Opener

Via @KentuckyWBB

UK Hoops kicked off their season tonight with an 87-35 victory over Alabama State. Yup, the Cats won by 52 points (#Catsby50).  The Cats and Matthew Mitchell came out fighting and set a hopeful and fun tone for the season.

The first quarter started out slow, well, for everyone except Taylor Murray who scored six points almost instantly. At the end of the first UK Hoops only lead by one point, but then the second quarter started. The Cats went from a 15-14 lead to a 39-22 lead in just one quarter. Talk about playing fast. Maci Morris had back to back three’s, Taylor Murray kept shooting and fouls and turnovers went our way. Murray finished the half with 12 points, Morris with eight.

“That second quarter was really big for us, just to get in there and impose our will on ASU,” said Matthew Mitchell. “We all worked together in the second quarter.”

The second half was an absolute bloodbath, I’ll resist the urge to compare it to a similar (more painful) event that happened last night, but I think you get the gist. UK Hoops played really fast with freshmen Rhyne Howard and Blair Green making the impact. The pair went a combined 11-0 run in the third, extending the lead to the 20’s and eventually the 30’s. Starting the fourth with a comfy 64-30 lead, and it escalated from there, to FIFTY-TWO-FREAKIN-POINTS.

“It’s a good step for us just to get out there and say ‘that’s our style of play’ and let everyone know,” said Mitchell.

Freshman Rhyne Howard went off scoring a whopping 15 points, most of which came in the fourth. Blair Green finished with 13, making the tow of them the first and second highest scoring freshmen in program history. Taylor Murray finished with 16 points and six steals, and Maci with 11.

“She’s very quick…I kind of look up to her,” said Howard on Taylor Murray.

Howard also said that she foresees a lot of three-pointers in future games. She went 3 of 6 tonight.

My biggest takeaway from the season opener? We can score, and we can play fast. But, we will struggle against a team who’s bigger than us. ASU is small and we defended them easily. We outrebounded them and scored off their turnovers. We gained 51 of our points off turnovers, and most impressively, outrebounded them 43-35 and for offensive rebounds 24-9.

But, we struggled in the post a bit. Against bigger teams, this is going to be a problem, but hey – tonight I’m all about the positivity. We really did play well, I’m just looking ahead to powerhouse teams like Mississippi State who we can’t hold to 30 points.

“There may be a night or two where it doesn’t look very good, but we just have to be committed. We have the athleticism and potential,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell said he hopes that the team keeps working on fundamentals and “playing strong.”

All in all, it looks like it’s going to be a great season for UK Hoops and I for one am excited to cover them on this great website for the third year in a row. I hope you’ll come out to some games and watch with me.

UK Hoops plays Southern University this Sunday at 7 PM here in Memorial. Come on out!

 

@savannahpattKSR

 


Wenyen Gabriel’s sister has an offer from UK

(Photo: Twitter/@WenyenGabriel)

Wenyen Gabriel’s younger sister, Piath Gabriel, has been offered a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Kentucky.

Big brother announced the news on Twitter last night:

Gabriel is a 6-5 forward out of New Hampshire, ranked 60th overall and No. 16 at her position in the ESPN rankings.

She also holds offers from Boston College, Illinois, Virginia Tech, Marquette and Louisville, among others.

Will a second Gabriel play for Kentucky?


Takeaways From UK Hoops Exhibition Win

Takeaways From UK Hoops Exhibition Win

(Photo via Twitter/@KentuckyWBB)

The Kentucky women’s basketball team routed Lincoln Memorial University in their only exhibition game of the season by a score of 101-64.

While it was only a preseason game, there were still a couple significant takeaways that we can look at as the team heads into the new season. Take a look at the highlights before we get rolling.

Most notably, the full court press was dominate. Kentucky executed a hard press for nearly the entire game and disrupted any type of offensive rhythm LMU tried to establish. The result was 31 total turnovers for LMU – more than double their total number of assists (15) – and it turned into 41 points for Kentucky.

“I do not care who you are playing,” said head coach Matthew Mitchell. “to force 31 turnovers in 40 minutes is impressive and the type of effort that we have to have this year.”

The length of Kentucky on the perimeter is going to be a problem for opposing offenses as they can quickly fill holes and intercept passes. The Cats are long enough to employ a zone defense and it was rather effective when Coach Mitchell threw it into the defensive scheme throughout the course of the game and it’s something he wants to continue working on as the season progresses.

“We need our zone to be really disruptive, it’s going to be an attacking zone and so we were able to zone press back into a zone half-court,” said Mitchell. “our length really helps us there.”

The press is going to be the backbone of this Kentucky team. Being able to go an entire season against top-tier competition will be a challenge and the team understands that it’s going to take plenty of hard work and conditioning to keep it up all year.

“We’re gonna have to be able to press like that the whole game in order to be successful,” said senior guard Maci Morris.

The other notable takeaway was the impressive shooting confidence from the freshmen, Blair Green and Rhyne Howard.

Green scored 17 points on 8-17 shooting while Howard added 16 points on 5-13 shooting. They came out of the gate firing and never got discouraged even if their shots weren’t falling initially.

“Coach has complete confidence in us,” said Green. “and we have the green light to take any shot we feel we can make.”

The jitters of playing in their first official game at Memorial Coliseum didn’t seem to phase the two fresh faces. The team had a combined 26 assists to only seven turnovers.

“I think playing in Italy helped us a lot and having the scrimmage helped a lot,” said Green. “so we’re kinda bonded now.”

The regular season officially kicks off on Nov. 7 when the Cats take on Alabama State at home.

When asked their predictions for Saturday’s Georgia-Kentucky football game, both Morris and coach Mitchell believe in a 28-21 victory for the Cats.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Photo via Twitter/@KentuckyWBB)

UK Hoops Wins Sole Exhibition Against LMU 101-64

(Photo via Twitter/@KentuckyWBB)

The Kentucky women’s basketball team won their only exhibition of the preseason, defeating the Lincoln Memorial University Railsplitters 101-64, as freshman Blair Green led the way for the Lady Cats with 17 points.

The Cats controlled the game from the opening tip and maintained at least a 20-point lead for the majority of the second half.

Kentucky came out with a hard full-court press, suffocating every LMU ball handler as they came up the court. Kentucky forced 31 LMU turnovers, the majority of them out of the press.

The length of the Wildcats was simply too much for the Division II school out of Tennessee, as they dominated the offensive glass, outrebounding the Railsplitters on that end 24-16.

Seniors Maci Morris and Taylor Murray scored 11 and 14, respectively, as they begin the journey through their final season at Kentucky.

The two freshmen, Green and Rhyne Howard, showed no signs of lacking confidence despite it being their first real-game experience. The two attempted a combined 30 shots for 32 points. Five Kentucky players scored in double-digits.

Kentucky mixed it up on defense at times, switching to zone periodically throughout each quarter to throw out some different looks and take advantage of their length on the perimeter. Kentucky bothered LMU all night with the press and rarely did Kentucky even need to set up their defense before causing a turnover or a quick missed shot.

It was a great opening game for the Cats to establish some confidence coming into the season. They’ve already been tuned up after playing in Italy over the summer, but the wins and losses will start to count next week.

The first regular season game is Nov. 7 against Alabama State at Memorial Coliseum.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


Ciara praises Matthew Mitchell’s Big Blue Madness dance

Ciara praises Matthew Mitchell’s Big Blue Madness dance

For this year’s Big Blue Madness, Matthew Mitchell did the “Level Up Challenge,” a dance based on R&B star Ciara’s hit “Level Up.” I’ll totally admit that I had no idea the Level Up Challenge was a thing, but it is and it’s big on the interwebs, and Mitchell’s rendition was so impressive that Ciara herself tweeted about it on Monday, telling her 11 million followers the UK Hoops coach’s moves were “on fire” flame emoji flame emoji flame emoji.

In case you missed it, here’s the video:

At UK Hoops Media Day yesterday, Mitchell was asked about Ciara’s tweet and gave a perfect Matthew Mitchell answer.

“I mean, can you believe that? Could anyone ever believe that Ciara would take note of what had to be the worst rendition of her dance? And I continue to be recognized — I don’t know if that was praise. I think it was. I think fire emojis mean something. I think that was praise. I don’t know that there’s ever been a dancer in the history of dance or someone who attempts dance who’s gotten more positive energy sent to them for poor dancing. I know it boggles everyone’s mind.”

Mitchell admitted he’s grown weary of having to come up with new dances every year.

“We’ve got to think of a good exit strategy because you’ve got to be sick of seeing it. I’m sick of doing it.”

Nice try, Coach. As long as R&B stars are praising your moves, I doubt you’re getting out of it anytime soon.


WATCH: Player Interviews from Women’s Basketball Media Day

WATCH: Player Interviews from Women’s Basketball Media Day

Image via UK Athletics

 

Senior guard Maci Morris

 

Senior guard Taylor Murray

 

(more…)


Sights and Sounds from Women’s Basketball Media Day

Sights and Sounds from Women’s Basketball Media Day

Kentucky’s 2018-19 rendition of women’s basketball media day allowed the public an inside glimpse of what to expect from the Wildcats this upcoming season on Tuesday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum.

“We are excited to kick the season off,” said head coach Matthew Mitchell. “I think this is a special group of people who care a whole lot about each other and are going to look after each other. I am looking forward to getting the season started.”

Mitchell credited last summer’s visit to Italy with providing a head start on the preparation for his 12th year at the helm. Kentucky picked up two wins in three exhibition games last August.

“There were so many great moments we had during the trip … and we certainly had some basketball benefit from it,” Mitchell said. “The greatest benefit for us was their opportunity to come together as a team and help each other out.”

Senior guard Maci Morris, who recorded the highest scoring output of Kentucky’s foreign tour with 24 points on 6-of-8 (.750) shooting from three-point range in an 81-64 win over Marghera Select Team to end the expedition, joins Taylor Murray as the only returning starters to bring back double-digit scoring averages from a season ago. Mitchell looks to lean on the pair for added leadership on the floor.

“(Morris and Murray) have fully invested in their time at Kentucky,” said Mitchell. “They have given a lot on the court, but also been through some turbulent times. They have kind of run the gamut during their time here. For them to really finish off with a special season, I am highly motivated as a coach to help them do that. I know they are motivated to do that as players. I’m looking forward to their senior season. They are going to do great.”

In addition to the experience of Morris, Murray, sophomore KeKe McKinney, and seven role players returning from a unit that produced the first losing record of Mitchell’s storied tenure, Kentucky expects an immediate impact from the prolific freshman duo of Rhyne Howard and Blair Green.

“(Howard) is very talented in really every way you can measure a basketball player,” Mitchell said. “I think she has a chance to be a very good player, and she’s already shown that in the time that she’s practiced with us. … I look forward to a successful career for her. We’re sure glad she came to Kentucky.

“(Green) came in very fit, very focused, and with a real genuine humility,” said Mitchell. “She and Rhyne both, I want to make sure that it’s clear: They have got things they have to learn and do better, and they have got to get lower and more physical, and they have got to get stronger. But, just from an effort standpoint, and an attitude and ‘coachability’ standpoint, I’m really impressed with both of them.”

After addressing the media for over 30 minutes, Mitchell led his team in a full open practice. Check out a short clip of the Wildcats below. Kentucky’s lone exhibition tune-up at Memorial Coliseum will take place Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. ET versus Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.).


UK Hoops’ Dorie Harrison out indefinitely

Some unfortunate news to pass along from the women’s basketball program: sophomore center Dorie Harrison is out indefinitely for personal health reasons.

“Dorie needs to step away from the basketball court to address her personal health. We will give her the time she needs to get healthy and she has our full support. We look forward to her return to the court. We ask everyone to respect her privacy during this time,” Matthew Mitchell said in a release.

Harrison played in 32 games last year, starting eight. She averaged 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and was named SEC Freshman of the Week twice.

Matthew Mitchell’s squad starts the season with an exhibition vs. Lincoln Memorial on Friday, Nov. 2 at Memorial Coliseum. They’ll host Alabama State for the season opener on Wednesday, Nov. 7.