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UK Hoops

BBM: What we learned about this year’s Women’s Basketball Team

BBM: What we learned about this year’s Women’s Basketball Team

Last night’s Big Blue Madness was one to remember. But among the dunks, dances and intense video montages was also some basketball. The Kentucky women’s basketball team scrimmaged during the first part of the evening, giving fans their first glimpse into a new season of UK Hoops. Here are three things we learned:

#1 Maci Morris is still a baller

Well, this one almost seems too obvious. The Bell County native stole the show with her walkout/introduction, but the action didn’t stop there: she brought the same energy to the court during the scrimmage. Although the game was short, it’s clear this team revolves around her. At one point, she left the game to check in with Sean Farnham and the SEC Network crew and for some reason, the game just felt like it had lost some of its spark. Morris brings an intangible energy when she’s on the floor, not to mention her impeccable three-point shooting and leadership qualities.

But, it’s not all perfect for the senior Wildcat. According to Matthew Mitchell, she’s had to work hard on her strength conditioning to become more of a “complete” player.

“She wants to be a pro; she wants to play in the WNBA,” Mitchell said during Madness. “We’ve worked hard on her conditioning – she’s worked hard on it – and then her defensive intensity has just taken it up another level. By the time this season is complete, we hope she’s written an awesome final chapter in her Kentucky career and that launches her into what her aspiration is – that’s to be a great pro. I believe she’s going to do that.”

Defense has been a relatively-weak spot for Morris, as well as most of the team excluding point guard Taylor Murray, so it’s promising to hear Mitchell praise her defensive efforts before the season even gets underway.

Morris recorded over 17 points per game last season and shot 47.5 percent from behind-the-arc. She’ll need another huge season to earn the Cats a bid to the NCAA Tournament, but, by the looks of things last night, she should have no problem doing just that.

#2 A tale of two courts

The UK Hoops team has quite a talented backcourt with seniors Morris and Murray plus two highly-touted freshmen guards, Rhyne Howard and Blaire Green, but they’re still looking for some standout players in the front court.

Fans will see a lot of new, relatively-inexperienced players under the basket this season, and it’s very possible some games will be determined by their performances. Last year, Kentucky suffered five losses by single-digit margins, many of them on the road. Improving rebounding and second-change points will be huge for the Cats this season.

Coach Mitchell will look to Dorie Harrison, a sophomore center from Nashville. She played in every game last season, averaging 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Tatyana Wyatt, also a sophomore, is also poised for a break-out year. The forward put up numbers similar to Harrison’s last season (6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds), while hitting 32.6 percent from the three-point line. Both players showed improvements last night during Madness, but will need to keep working to become the major contributors this team needs them to be.

#3 Rhyne Howard could be a star

After spending her summer with the USA’s National Team, Rhyne Howard is ready to make an immediate impact in Lexington. ESPN ranked her as the No. 10 guard in the class after a stellar senior season – 22.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.3 steals and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 54 percent from the field. That versatility is something Kentucky looks for in a recruit and, according to Coach Mitchell, it’s something they’re already getting from Howard:

“She definitely can score the ball, but she doesn’t have to score to set other people up. She really does a good job…. She’s big, great length, great athleticism, so she can make plays on the board, on the defensive end,” Mitchell said. “She’s really a complete player, and we’re looking forward to watching her develop. She’s talented right now and she’s someone we’ll rely on.”

Mitchell continued his praise for Howard but also included fellow-freshman and Kentucky-native Blaire Green.

“I’m really excited about the freshmen. They’re talented and they play super hard, they’ve had great attitudes, they’re in great shape,” Mitchell said during the scrimmage. “They’re just really talented, good basketball players. It’s a steep learning curve for freshmen to come in and perform but we think these two are really ready to go.”

Let’s hope so. The Cats’ first game is quickly approaching – they’ll take on Lincoln Memorial University in an Exhibition Game on Friday, Nov. 2. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside Memorial Coliseum.


@MaggieDavisKSR


UK Hoops releases complete 2018-19 schedule

UK Hoops releases complete 2018-19 schedule

The SEC Women’s Basketball schedule was finally released today, meaning UK Hoops’ full 2018-19 schedule is now complete.

The non-conference slate features a date with Virginia at Rupp Arena on November 15 and games vs. South Florida, UCLA, and North Carolina in the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam in St. Thomas later that month. The Morehead State game originally scheduled for Thursday, November 29 has been moved to Wednesday, November 28 at Noon ET.

Conference play begins at home vs. Vanderbilt on January 3 before back-to-back road games at Mississippi State and Tennessee. Matthew Mitchell’s squad will play in Rupp again on February 3, when they’ll host the Florida Gators.

Here’s the complete schedule for your viewing pleasure:

And an update on the new, state-of-the-art video board going up in Memorial Coliseum:


Matthew Mitchell and the Cats pick up in-state commit, Cassidy Rowe

Matthew Mitchell and the Cats pick up in-state commit, Cassidy Rowe

While Coach Matthew Mitchell and the rest of the women’s basketball team are competing in Italy, they’ve picked up a commit from right here in the Bluegrass. Cassidy Rowe, a native of Pike County, Kentucky, has just committed to the Cats.

Rowe will be a freshman at Shelby Valley High School in the fall. Even though she’ll be new to school, she won’t be new to the basketball team – she’s already played a key role on the roster. Last year, Rowe averaged 9.9 points and 3.3 rebounds as the starting point guard… as an eighth grader. She’s considered a favorite for Miss Kentucky Basketball 2022.

Coach Mitchell extended a scholarship offer to Rowe less than a month ago. Just days earlier, she suffered a torn ACL during an AAU game in Chicago.

Rowe tweeted about her offer on July 13, saying “I am beyond excited to announce that I just received a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky!! I want to thank the UK coaching staff for believing in me even after my injury.”

She also had offers from Northern Kentucky University, Morehead State, Murray State and the University of Denver.

Welcome to the BBN, Cassidy!


@MaggieDavisKSR


Matthew Mitchell Adds Arizona State Transfer

@sabrinahaines

The Kentucky women’s basketball team has picked up its second transfer from a Power Five school this offseason.

Sabrina Haines announced on Twitter she will attend the University of Kentucky this fall after spending the last two years at Arizona State.  A 5’10” guard, Haines averaged more than 10 points per game last season before she was sidelined with an ACL injury.  A Top 100 player as a high school senior, Haines will have two seasons of eligibility after sitting out next season.

Haines will be joined on the sideline by Nae Nae Cole, a transfer from N.C. State that must also sit out during the 2018-19 season.  The 6’3″ forward will have one season of eligibility remaining at UK.


Two Former Wildcats to be Inducted into Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame

Tonight a pair of former Kentucky Wildcats will be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.  Former head coach Mickie DeMoss and letterwinner Ceal Berry will be honored in Knoxville, Tennessee.

After winning six National Championships as an assistant for Pat Summitt at Tennessee, DeMoss came to Lexington in 2003 to rebuild Kentucky’s program.  Within three years she had the Cats in the NCAA Tournament, earning SEC Coach of the Year honors.  Since her departure from UK in 2007, she’s served as an assistant five different programs and is currently on LSU’s coaching staff.

Ceal Berry is a Louisville native and graduate from Assumption High School that became one of the first UK female student-athletes to receive scholarship aid for athletics.  A four-year guard at Kentucky, she’ll be honored with the Sue Feamster Trailblazer Award for her 22 seasons as Colorado’s head coach.


Mathew Mitchell adds to roster with NC State transfer

Getty Images

Matthew Mitchell’s Derby Day just got a whole lot better.

Nae Nae Cole, a 6-foot-5 forward, announced she was transferring from NC State to play for Kentucky.

Cole announced the decision via Instagram:

Thank you NC State for everything. I’ll miss the good times but I’ll always have the memories and the true friends I’ve made while being here. Ready for a new journey, Lexington here I come! #BBN

Cole will have to sit out next season and will one season of eligibility left. She played in 19 games last season for the Wolfpack, averaging 7 minutes, 0.5 points and 0.5 rebounds per game.

 


Could Matthew Mitchell’s Coaching Staff be Changing?

Could Matthew Mitchell’s Coaching Staff be Changing?

UK Athletics

As first reported by Jen Smith at the Herald-Leader this morning, we may see some new coaching changes for the 2018-19 Women’s Basketball Season.

According to a new posting on UK’s job boards, Matthew Mitchell is looking for a special assistant. Here’s the job description taken from the posting online

An internal employee being considered? Could it be Lin Dunn? Jen seems to think so and so do I.

Read Jen’s full article here on who she thinks will fill Dunn’s role if Dunn takes this new job.


UK Hoops is headed to Italy this summer

UK Hoops is headed to Italy this summer

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.


UKathletics

UK Hoops signee wins Tennessee Miss Basketball, joins Jordan Brand Classic roster

UKathletics

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.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Three takeaways from a tough UK Hoops season

Three takeaways from a tough UK Hoops season

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).

@ukathletics

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.

@MaggieDavisKSR


What’s Next for UK Hoops?

What’s Next for UK Hoops?

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.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Kentucky eliminated from SEC Women’s Tournament

Kentucky eliminated from SEC Women’s Tournament

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.


Photo via @KentuckyWBB

Quotes and Leftovers from UK Hoops’ Big Win

Photo via @KentuckyWBB

^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:

Dang.

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.

Looking ahead

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!