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UK Hoops

Photo via @KentuckyWBB

UK Hoops Remains Undefeated

Photo via @KentuckyWBB

Your University of Kentucky Women’s basketball team is now 4-0. After defeating Gardner-Webb last Sunday, UK Hoops started a long road trip. They won against Montana on Thursday night and now, have completed their road trip with a 73-68 win against Washington State. This game had me on the edge of my parent’s couch and I’m still hyped as I write this quick recap for you. Here’s how it all went down:

It wasn’t looking good for the Cats in first half, Washington State lead 23-16 with about five minutes left in the half. Mackenzie Cann didn’t want the half to end like that at all. She hit three consecutive threes and the Cats went on a 12-3 run to cut the halftime score to 35-34.

My exact mood during the beginning of the second half.

The fourth quarter is where it really got wild. At the end of the third quarter, UK Hoops lead 56-48. Washington State went on a 10-2 run, taking advantage of our slow offense. With 2:37 left, it was all tied up at 66. How’d we win? Two words: Maci Morris. Maci Morris shifted momentum tremendously with a huge steal and two clutch free throws. Up 71-68 with seven seconds left, Washington State put their three-point shooters on the court in hopes of making a long shot, they did not.

Mackenzie Cann had her first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Maci Morris had an impressive 20 points and six rebounds. The Cats went 27-65 and finished with a total of 48 rebounds, something Matthew Mitchell said he wanted to work on last week.

“It was a very intense game, we were all very engaged,” said Mackenzie Cann, who didn’t even know she had a double-double until the game ended.

UK Hoops returns home this Wednesday the 22, to take on Morehead State.

Go Cats. See you there.


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Good morning, BBN. It’s been another busy weekend for UK athletics that unfortunately ended with a tough 42-13 loss at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs. So let’s get started with what you need to know to start your day.

A Quick Football Recap

The KSR crew had plenty of coverage for you following yesterday’s game, and we’ll have plenty more coming your way today. But, for now, here are some of the main takeaways:

Kentucky couldn’t stop Georgia’s run offense.

In fact, the Bulldogs nearly doubled the Cats’ total yards, finishing with 504 yards to UK’s 264 yards. Georgia’s pair of star running backs – Sony Michel and Nick Chubb – combined for almost as many rushing yards as the entire Kentucky offense with 238 yards between them. The Wildcats simply had no answer for those two.

There were three moments that really changed the game for Kentucky.

Sure, the Cats were outmatched on plenty of plays, but these three moments really shifted the momentum away from the Wildcats: Lonnie Johnson’s costly roughing the kicker penalty, Tavin Richardson’s shoulda-coulda-woulda drop at the end of the first half and Lynn Bowden’s thrown interception in the third quarter. With the exception of the roughing the kicker penalty, these moments came from an energetic Kentucky offense taking risks in order to try and make the big plays. Say what you want, but the Cats were not “playing conservatively.” In a game where you’re already a multiple-touchdown underdog, I don’t mind drawing up the big plays. But next time, let’s make them.

Move on and get ready for Louisville

Kentucky has no time to sit around and pout. Louisville is coming to Kroger Field in six days for a game that’s just as meaningful as the Governor’s Cup always is, if not more so. This team has done some special things this season, but losses to Florida and Ole Miss have already overshadowed some of the victories for fans. If UK loses to Louisville at home next week, I’m afraid all of the impressive things this team has accomplished will be forgotten.

Plus, who doesn’t want to beat Louisville? I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

UK Hoops Plays TODAY

The women’s basketball team is back in action today. They’ll play Washington State on the road at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon. The Wildcats are 3-0 on the season so far. They’ll once again look for strong performances from Taylor Murray and Maci Morris, who were the leading scorers in the Wildcats’ 17-point victory against Montana last week, scoring 18 and 16 points, respectively.

Kentucky narrowly defeated Washington State 69-67 in Memorial Coliseum last season, but the Cats were carried by two standout games by then-seniors Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator. Who will step up against the Cougars tonight? Listen to the call on 630 AM WLAP if you’re in Lexington, or catch the live stream on Pac12.com.

… And so does the volleyball team

The Wildcats will take on Ole Miss today at 2:00 at home. It’s senior night for Kentucky, so be sure to head over to Memorial Coliseum for today’s game. The No. 3 Cats are on a four-game winning streak, and they’re looking to improve their already impressive 23-3 record. This is your last chance to watch this season’s stellar team in regular-season play at home… don’t miss it.

NFL Games Today

Mourn one college football loss with a day full of professional ball. Here are today’s matchups:

  • Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears at 1:00 on FOX
  • Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Cleveland Browns at 1:00 on CBS
  • Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers at 1:00 on CBS
  • Arizona Cardinals vs. Houston Texans at 1:00 on FOX
  • Los Angeles Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings at 1:00 on FOX
  • Washington Redskins vs. New Orleans Saints at 1:00 on FOX
  • Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Giants at 1:00 on CBS
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Miami Dolphins vs. 1:00 on FOX
  • Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Chargers at 4:05 on FOX
  • Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos at 4:25 on CBS
  • New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders at 4:25 on CBS
  • Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys at 8:30 on NBC

That’s all I have for now. Have a great Sunday morning and, as always, go Cats.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Five Takeaways from UK Hoops Victory

Via @KentuckyWBB

UK Hoops dominated once again this afternoon in Memorial Coliseum with a 72-34  win over the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. Our newest member of the Women’s Basketball squad, Karly has a recap for you, but I’m here to give some leftovers.

Everybody eats

This is an un-selfish team for sure. 10 of our 11 players scored. Four of whom had double-digits. Roper had 10 points, one rebound and two assists. Mackenzie Cann had 10 points and seven rebounds. Alyssa Rice had 11 points and eight rebounds. This team is DEEP. Matthew Mitchell said that he was really happy to see to see everyone on boards.

“The depth on this team is great. You can just play your hardest and know that you are going to get a break with someone else coming in,” said Jaida Roper.

Maci Morris had her first double-double

Junior guard Maci Morris had her first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“anybody can run around and fire the ball up, it’s what are you doing with the overwhelming majority of the time you don’t have the ball,” said Matthew Mitchell on Maci’s boxout technique.

Even though Mackenzie Cann was hitting the threes instead of Maci, Cann said it doesn’t matter who hits them as long as they’re wearing blue.

“She’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen,” said Cann.

Improvement

If there’s one thing Matthew Mitchell hit on in the post-game press conference, it’s improvement. With a game Friday and one today, the wuick turn around meant a very short practice yesterday. Mitchell said they spent most of it working on defense and rebounds.

“You cannot fix everything, so what we really tried to work on yesterday was rebounding. We got better but still not where we want to be there,” said Mitchell.

Tierra Huntsman 

The senior guard for Gardner-Webb was on fire tonight. She had 21 of GWU’s 34 points. Head Coach Rick Reeves, who may or may not be my new favorite person after his press conference comments, simply said “she does what she has to do.” Gardner-Webb had a few last minute injuries before the game and Tierra was really the only one making shots.

“We talked about her in the huddle and just said ‘we gotta stop her,” said Roper.

Despite the loss, Rick Reeves had nothing but good things to say about Kentucky – including telling the story of how excited he was when his team met Coach Cal last night.

“Kentucky’s better than anyone in our league, they’re very well coached,” said Reeves on Matthew Mitchell.

Big Wins

Counting the exhibition game, this is UK Hoops third big win this season. I asked Mackenzie Cann if the wins are getting to their heads and all she said was “we’re gonna rest tomorrow get back to work.” So, I think that means they aren’t geeking about it, as the kids would say.

“Today was a day of improvement and I am really proud of our players for working hard this weekend to get two wins,” said Matthew Mitchell.

UK Hoops does have a lot of work today as they prepare for a two game stretch of away games. They play Montana on the 16 at 9PM and Washington State on the 19 at 4PM. The Cats return to Memorial at 2 on the 22 for the Morehead State game. If I were you, I’d get in here and see them (hopefully) win big again.


(Via @KentuckyWBB)

UK Hoops win 72-34 against Gardner-Webb

(Via @KentuckyWBB)

 

It was a rough start for UK Hoops this afternoon at Memorial Coliseum. Five minutes in to the game, the Cats offense had shot 2-of-5 from the field, giving Gardner-Webb an early lead of 6-2. Kentucky responded by turning up the defense early, forcing four early turnovers from GWU and going on an 8-0 run to secure their first lead of the game at 10-9. With No. 32 Jaida Roper hitting two big shots, the Cats increased this lead to 17-12 by the end of the first quarter.

Roper continued to be a powerful force for UK Hoops, scoring 3-of-3 from the field in the early minutes of the second quarter. The Cats defense allowed GWU only four points in the second quarter, with No. 4 Maci Morrison ending the half as the lead scorer with eight points and three rebounds. Kentucky held a 19-point lead at halftime, with the score 35-16.

UK Hoops slowed offensively in the third quarter, but still held a 31-point lead over GWU. The score at the end of the third quarter was 51-30. The Cats only increased this lead with a 13-0 during the fourth quarter, ending the game with a final score of 72-34. No. 22 Makenzie Cann, Roper, and Morris contributed 10 points each. Morris had her first career double-double, scoring 10 points with 10 rebounds. Rice was the lead scorer for Kentucky with 11 points total. 10 of the 11 UK Hoops players who took the court scored in today’s game. “Today was a day of improvement and I am really proud of our players for working hard this weekend to get two wins,” Coach Mitchell said in a post game press conference. UK Hoops is undefeated this season at 2-0.

The Cats play the Montana Grizzlies on November 16, at 9 pm. UK Hoops will be back in Memorial on November 22 to play Morehead State at 2 pm.


UK Hoops Defeats Sacramento State 101-70

UK Hoops Defeats Sacramento State 101-70

(via @KentuckyWBB)

There were plenty of nerves surrounding the UK Hoops game against Sacramento State after Coach Mitchell announced yesterday that No. 21 Ogechi Anyagaligbo would be out for the season with a torn ACL. While the Cats remained consistently in the lead, seven team fouls gave Sacramento State the opportunity to shoot six points from the free throw line. UK Hoops managed to hold a seven-point lead over Sacramento State by the end of the first quarter, with the score 31-24.

 

The second quarter began with the Cats grabbing a nine-point lead, but Memorial Coliseum’s excitement was quickly deflated when Sacramento State answered with a 7-0 run to cut UK Hoops lead to two. UK’s defense responded, ending the half with an 11-2 run, and widening the Cats lead with a halftime score of 56-42. No. 24 Taylor Murray and No. 22 Makenzie Cann proved that Anyagaligbo’s injury wouldn’t be a hindrance. Murray contributed 20 points, making her the lead scorer at the half. Cann was a close second with 15 points and six rebounds. Kentucky’s defense only grew stronger in the third quarter, when UK Hoops held Sacramento State to just 13 points.

 

In the fourth quarter, Kentucky’s defense waned slightly when Sacramento State scored a 7-0 run, cutting UK’s biggest lead of the night from 29 points to 22. Kentucky responded, ending the fourth quarter in triple digits, with a 31-point lead over Sacramento State. Murray was the lead scorer for the night with 22 points, and Cann was the second highest with 17. “We’ve got 14 fantastic young women on this team that will contribute in some way this season, and that can be on the court or off the court,” Coach Mitchell said in a post-game press conference. UK Hoops won the game 101-70.

 


UK Hoops loses junior forward to torn ACL

UK Hoops loses junior forward to torn ACL

Unfortunate news from UK Hoops: Matthew Mitchell just announced that junior forward Ogechi Anyagaligbo suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s exhibition game vs. Southern Indiana and will be out the entire season.

Anyagaligbo transferred to Kentucky from Stony Brook in the summer of 2016 and sat out last season. At Stony Brook, she was the 2015-16 America East Conference Rookie of the Year, averaging 10.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.

Awful news. Get well soon, Ogechi.


UK Hoops Signs Two Highly-Rated 2018 Players

UK Hoops Signs Two Highly-Rated 2018 Players

 

@KentuckyWBB

Two high school basketball stars have officially signed on the dotted line for Coach Matthew Mitchell. Blair Green and Rhyne Howard both signed their National Letter of Intent earlier this afternoon to play for the UK’s women’s basketball team in 2018.

Green, a native of Harlan, Kentucky, is tagged as a four-star prospect and the ninth best wing in the 2018 class, according to ESPN. Last season, she averaged 23.1 points per game and added 7.2 rebounds per game. The 6-foot guard’s all-around style of play garnered attention from Louisville, Dayton, Tennessee and UCLA. But choosing Kentucky was easy for Green, who committed to UK prior to her junior season in September 2016.

Her mother, Debbie Green, served as her coach at Harlan County High School and also played at Kentucky for one season. And her childhood best friend? Maci Morris.

“Blair Green is a player that we have known about for a long time and have had a great relationship with for many years,” Mitchell said. “We are absolutely thrilled that she is officially a Wildcat.”

Howard comes to Kentucky as a 6-foot-2 guard from Cleveland, Tennessee. She has earned numerous awards so far in her high school career, including Tennessee’s 2017 Miss basketball runner up and unanimous District 5 AAA Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017. ESPN lists Howard as a five-star prospect, the 10th best guard and 31st best overall player in the 2018 class. Like Green, she’s an all-around player who can contribute from anywhere on the floor. She averaged 19.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 steals, 3.8 assists and 1.2 blocks per game as a junior last season.

“Rhyne Howard is a player that Big Blue Nation is going to be really excited about. She is extremely versatile and can play — if called upon — all five spots on the floor,” Mitchell said. “I think Rhyne is one of the most dynamic players in the 2018 class. She is highly intelligent and is an incredible student.”

Mitchell has a habit of referring to his players as “high character” women as well as talented athletes. Green and Howard are no exception.

“Both Blair and Rhyne are everything you look for in a player when you hit the recruiting trail. They both are outstanding athletes and playmakers that will add versatility to our team,” Mitchell said. “Blair and Rhyne have terrific personalities, are fun to be around and are all-around tremendous additions to our program. We are just thrilled that both of them are Wildcats.”


@MaggieDavisKSR


(Via UKathletics)

UK Hoops defeats USI 87-56 in first exhibition game

(via @KentuckyWBB)

The University of Kentucky Women’s Basketball team played their first exhibition game tonight against the University of Southern Indiana, winning 87-56.

Freshman Dorie Harrison scored the first two points of the season, while junior guard Maci Morris quickly became the standout player of the game, scoring two-for-two from the three-point line in the early minutes of the first quarter. UK Hoops struggled with free throws at first, making 50% of their shots from the free throw line, while Southern Indiana brought their free throw percentage up to 84%. The Cats still managed to take the lead 26-18 by the end of the first quarter.

UK Hoops increased their lead in the second quarter, with Morris making two more field goals. Murray also contributed two points from inside the field, while both Cann and Murray scored from the three-point line. The Cats ended the half up by 21 points, the score at halftime 46-25.

(Via UKathletics)

With seven minutes left in the third quarter, Morris had 11 points, Murray added nine more points with five rebounds and five assists, and Wyatt and Rice had five points each. ISU quickly gave UK a run for their money with a 10-4 run, cutting UK’s lead 57-38. UK Hoops responded with a 14-4 run against Southern Indiana, ending the third quarter with a lead of 67-44.

McKinney was 3-4 from the field during the fourth quarter, Morris scored eight points in the fourth quarter, giving her the most points for the game at 19. “I thought we did a lot of things well. We executed well, we hustled well, rebounded good. I thought we communicated well when we messed up. We shot the ball really well,” Morris said in the post game press conference, highlighting some of the team’s strong areas of the night. Wyatt contributed 10 points, while Rice, McKinney, and Roper contributed nine each.

“We got a chance to see where we’re at tonight. We played everybody and got a chance to see everybody, and that was really a positive and obviously there are areas where we need to improve, and we’ll work on that,” Coach Mitchell said.


Five First Thoughts from the UK Hoops Exhibition Game

UK Athletics

It was great to be back in Memorial tonight, despite it being at least 1,000 degrees, where UK Hoops beat Southern Indiana 87-56. Our newest UK Hoops writer, Karly will have a full recap for you soon, but here are five things that stuck out to me during the Cats’ first and only exhibition game.

1. Versatility

Within the first ten minutes of the game, Matthew Mitchell had already played 10 players. The lineup was constantly switching in and out. Last year, the most players we played in one game was 11, we had already played 12 in the first half tonight. Matthew Mitchell said he felt great about the depth and “coachable volume” this team has.

“It’s nice to have some subs,” said Maci Morris.

2. Maci Morris

The junior guard had an explosive game with 19 points, and four assists.

“I have to knock them down and get [Murray] some assists,” said Morris.

In the fourth quarter alone, she shot 8 straight without missing. As an extremely uncoordinated individual, I was in awe.

The girl was ON FIRE.

3. Turnovers

UK finished with 22 turnovers. Yes, we still won by ,but turnovers seem to be a problem with this team. With a few newcomers mistakes like this are bound to happen. Matthew Mitchell said he wanted to work more on the press break in practice and wants to look to the vets to solve turnover problems before this Friday night’s game.

“We are just going to have to live with some of the growing pains and understand that they are going to be there” said Mitchell.

4. Taylor Murray

It took Murray a bit to find her groove but the junior guard had an impressive game. It’s clear she’s been working on her speed and confidence on the court. The junior guard finished with 11 points, six rebound and six assists. Last week, Murray was named second team all-SEC, and with tonight’s performance it’s no surprise why.

“I’m being a leader, taking the open shot, helping my teammates,” said Murray.

5. It’s going to be a fun and fast season

This team has the potential to be fast, I mean really really fast. One thing that stuck out to me in the post game press conference, is how happy and determined Matthew Mitchell is to coach this team. Mitchell believes this could be a team that “nobody wants to play at the end of the year.” One strength from last year’s team was speed and hustle, but Mitchell wants to turn it up this year.

“We need to find that next level. That special level of hustle and effort,” said Mitchell.

Join us next Friday at 7PM as UK Hoops takes on Sacramento back at home to officially kickoff the season!

@savannahpattKSR

 

 


@KentuckyWBB

Women’s Basketball Preview: What does this team look like without Epps, Akhator?

@KentuckyWBB

Last year’s women’s basketball team was one to remember. The season was plagued with controversy from the start, following a tumultuous 2015-16 season in which seven players and three assistant coaches left the program. Still, head coach Matthew Mitchell and his new team of assistants managed to salvage the season.

Sure, they had a few heartbreaking losses — like when they fell to Louisville 71-73 in overtime — but they also had some amazing moments — like when the unranked Wildcats defeated No. 3 Mississippi State in an overtime, senior night victory. They finished tied for third in the SEC and they advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The season didn’t end the way they wanted it to, but it exceeded expectations nonetheless.

None of this would have been possible without seniors Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator. By the end of the season, both women earned their place in the University of Kentucky record books: Akhator is second on the all-time rebounding list (averaging 10.8 rebounds per game); Epps is fifth in program history career points (averaging 17.7 points per game). Both were named honorable mention All-Americans and both were selected in the 2017 WNBA Draft: Akhator going at No. 3 (the highest in program history) and Epps at No. 33.

But as fun as that team was, it’s over, and it’s time to move forward. Just ask Coach Mitchell, who doesn’t even remember the final record from last season.

“Whatever our record was… 22 and whatever, I don’t remember the record. But I’ll never forget that team,” Mitchell said. “I forget the records and maybe the scores of the games overall, but I won’t forget that team.”

(In case you were wondering, their final record was 22-11).

“It’s going to be an interesting journey,” Mitchell said of this year’s team. “A lot of statistical things that we’ll have to replace with the loss of Makayla and Evelyn. And that’s really evident to everyone.”

@KentuckyWBB

First things first, the team has to fill the hole at point. Epps primarily ran this position last season, even though it wasn’t her natural spot. This year, the role will belong to junior Taylor Murray.

Last season, Murray came into her role as a major contributor, and that’s only continued over the summer. She finished her junior season with an average of 12.2 points per game and 4.9 rebounds. But the most notable aspect of her game has to be her speed, Mitchell says.

“What a fantastic improvement we saw from the start of her sophomore year until the end, and that’s carried on,” Mitchell said. “We have one of the great weapons in the country to be an up-tempo, fast-paced team when you have arguably the fastest… clearly [Murray] has elite-level speed.”

Then there are the other returners. Maci Morris, who finished as the team’s third leading scorer last season behind Epps and Akhator, has made a “huge jump” going into her junior season, according to Mitchell. Last year, criticism of Morris was largely centered on her defensive abilities, something she says she’s really focused on during the off-season.

“That I’m not just a shooter,” Morris said when asked what people will see change in her game this year. “I’m not a liability on defense.”

Alyssa Rice is another player who has to step up this season in Epps and Akhator’s absence.

“There’s no question as a fourth year senior we’re looking to her to give us some great production statistically and also from a leadership standpoint,” Mitchell said of Rice. Plus, she’s funny:

This leadership component could be what makes or breaks the Cats this season. With such a young team, Mitchell has to rely on the upperclassmen.

A freshman’s not going to step in and replace Makayla Epps; a freshman’s not going to step in and replace Evelyn Akhator,” Mitchell said. “You hope your seniors are better, and your juniors are better, and your sophomores and then your freshmen get better over time. You do it as a team; you do it as a group.”

So what is this group capable of? As seen during their open practice on Media Day, it’s raw. The potential was there, and there were moments that looked really good. But there were also moments that so clearly needed work. The Cats still have a couple of weeks before their season opener, and they’re optimistic.

“We have no idea what our ceiling is, so why put any limits on that?” Mitchell said. “Why say, ‘well we’d like to go 20-10 and be a No. 9 seed in the tournament — that’d be a really great year for us.’ That’s never been what we’ve done.”

Kentucky’s first test of the season will be on November 5 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum against the University of Southern Indiana.


@MaggieDavisKSR


UK announces new voice of women’s basketball, baseball

UK announces new voice of women’s basketball, baseball

With Neil Price now calling football games in Starkville, UK has hired the new voice of women’s basketball and baseball: Darren Headrick.

Headrick has a decade’s worth of experience announcing collegiate and professional sports and was named a Baseball America Best MLB Broadcaster Prospect honoree in 2015. He will also serve as the host of the Matthew Mitchell Radio Show, Nick Mingione Radio Show, the Wildcat Sports Update, and Big Blue Weekly. He will host his first Big Blue Weekly show tonight following the Mark Stoops Radio Show.

Headrick comes to Kentucky after spending the past few years as the TV and radio play-by-play announcer for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. A Tennessee native and UT graduate, he also spent the past few seasons calling University of Tennessee basketball, baseball, softball and soccer games on the SEC Network+.

Here are some samples of his work so you can get to know his voice:

Welcome aboard, Darren.


UK athletics

Three takeaways from yesterday’s women’s basketball open practice

UK athletics

Following Coach Mitchell’s Media Day press conference Tuesday, members of the media were allowed to sit in on a women’s basketball practice. Savannah gave us plenty of sights and sounds from the practice, but here are some leftover thoughts from yesterday’s game.

He wasn’t kidding about their speed

Coach Mitchell spent a lot time during his press conference talking about this team’s athleticism and fast-tempo. After watching the Wildcats play for over an hour, it’s clear he wasn’t kidding.

With junior Taylor Murray running point, she drives the offense with a speed this team simply didn’t have last season.

Mitchell raved about Murray’s “elite speed” during his press conference, calling her one of the “great weapons in the country.” Additionally, she’s taking on a larger leadership role, helping patch the hole Makayla Epps left behind.

“She’s just really embraced her role,” teammate Alyssa Rice said of Murray. “She’s becoming more vocal. She’s a quiet player and just naturally leads by example, but I think now she’s taking the step in becoming a more vocal leader and helping the younger players come along as well.”

And while her leadership skills may have taken time to develop, her speed did not.

“My speed just comes natural,” Murray said. “That’s just something I try to improve on each and every year: just getting faster or changing direction.”

Alysaa Rice impressed

After a season in which she dramatically improved her game, the senior is stepping into her new-found leadership role — on and off the court.

“That’s one thing we talked to Coach about early in the season — just accepting that leadership role,” Rice said. “I think we’ve done a nice job of just coming together and helping the younger players out and accepting that coaching role as well as players.”

In addition to her team-leading abilities, Mitchell touched on Rice’s improvements on the court, specifically around the rim. Throughout practice today, the senior showed off this increased physicality, hustling for rebounds and getting physical under the basket.

“We’ve been working on it all summer. We’ve just been doing a lot more team-oriented stuff. Just going against a player constantly when we do 5-on-5 things. As a senior now, [physicality] is just something I really have to emphasize. It’s something that’s really on my mind.”

Expectations are high

After finishing last season tied for third in the SEC (22-11 on the season; 11-5 in conference play), this year’s team is determined to improve their record this year – and they’ve got the expectations to prove it.

We’re winning a championship,” Maci Morris said. “We’ve got to lead the team and make sure everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing because we want to win.”

Coach Mitchell agreed.

“Oh, we’re going to go for it. We’re going to go for an SEC title and an SEC tournament title and a Final Four and a National Championship. That’s what we’re going to aspire to.”

Like Mitchell reiterated numerous times during today’s press conference, this team is going to have to work to get to where they want to be.

“You have to be realistic: are any of those things that I’m telling you just going to fall out of the sky and be given to us? No, we’re going to have to go after it. But that’s the pursuit.”


This is a very young team, and it’s clear the pieces are still coming together. Statistically speaking, both sides of the ball will suffer – at least initially – in the absence of last year’s record-breaking seniors, Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator. Coach Mitchell and the players are optimistic – but that’s often the case on Media Day. Although the practice was strong, fans won’t get a real chance to analyze this new UK Hoops team and how they fit together until their first game of the season: November 5 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Sights and Sounds from UK Hoops Media Day

Sights and Sounds from UK Hoops Media Day

UK Athletics

It’s the most wonderful time of they year! Big Blue Madness is only a few days away and today was one of my personal favorite days, UK Hoops Media Day! Yes, that’s right, we’ve made it – it’s basketball season y’all!

Maggie and I spent our afternoon listening to Coach Matthew Mitchell (read her post on what he said here), watching the girls practice and talking to the players. Here are some quick sights and sounds from today’s festivities!

I was exhausted just watching them practice.

Junior Taylor Murray talks about her role on the team.

Senior Alyssa Rice talks about her physicality this season.

Senior Mackenzie Cann talks about the team attitude and losing Epps and Akhator.

So there you have it. Your first look at this year’s UK Hoops team! Maggie Davis (@maggiedavisKSR), KSR newcomer Karly Walker, and I (@savannahpattKSR)  will be bringing you all your coverage this season! So follow along, it should be a fun one!

Oh, and here’s one last close up of Matthew Mitchell rocking some trendy mesh leggings. I for one, can’t wait to see his BBM performance!


UK athletics

Four quick hits from Matthew Mitchell’s first press conference of the season

UK athletics

While the football team may have a week off, the women’s basketball team is in full gear. UK’s annual Media Day is taking place today, beginning with a press conference by head coach Matthew Mitchell. We’ll have plenty of notes from the open practice and player interviews coming your way later, but for now, here’s what you need to know from Coach Mitchell’s presser:

Adjusting to life without Epps, Akhator

There are a lot of aspects of this team that will change in the absence of Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator, who both graduated last season. But Mitchell, for one, is not worried about the “basketball aspects.”

“I think I miss the personal part of it. You miss those relationships – those were two terrific young people,” Mitchell said of Epps and Akhator. “But the basketball part… I’ve never been one to be real upset about that part. They come here to try and get better as people and players, and you try to pour in as many good things as you can as a coach. And then it’s on to the next year.”

This team is going to play FAST

Last year’s team was a shooting team, led primarily by Epps and Akhator with strong contributions from then-sophomore Maci Morris. This year’s defining characteristic? Speed. Mitchell spoke on this, saying Kentucky spent this summer building a strong base for a fast-paced season.

“If you look over the ten previous years, it’s been more up-tempo than not,” Mitchell said. “I think that’s what we believe will be the best way for this team to play.”

And if it’s not?

“Clearly there’ve been times when I’ve wanted to do certain things, and the team was better at others,” Mitchell said. “I will always make the adjustment to benefit the team. “

This year’s identity:

If he said it once, he said it a million times: speed, quickness, athleticism.

“I believe the identity is going to be hustle, quickness, speed, athleticism,” Mitchell said. “Try to force the other team to be uncomfortable and make some mistakes.”

With six players who have never seen time in a Kentucky uniform before, it will be a process to get all 14 players to mesh. The team has four freshmen, Tatyana Wyatt, Kameron Roach, KeKe McKinney and Dorie Harrison, one junior college transfer, Amanda Paschal, plus Ogechi Anyagaligbo, a junior who did not play last season because of NCAA transfer rules. We’ll take a more in-depth look at each of the newbies later, but one commonality is obvious: pure athleticism.

Of the new players, the average height is just over 5-foot-9. But that’s factoring in the two new guards, who bring the average way down: Paschal is listed at 5-foot-7 and Roach comes in at 5-foot-six. The forwards are each listed at over six feet.

“I think those six players really inject some depth, some athleticism, some size. We added four players that… have great length. All of them are athletic. All of them have different gifts. Our two guards are explosive and can do things.”

What we can expect at Big Blue Madness

The head coach has become a staple at the annual event, and, thankfully, this year will be no different. Although he didn’t give any hints toward what his performance will include, he did promise there will be dancing.

“Once a year, I have to call my parents and apologize. Every Saturday morning after Big Blue Madness: ‘Mom, Dad, I did it again, I embarrassed the family,'” Mitchell said. “It’ll be another horrific two-and-a-half minutes while I’m out there. Somehow, someway, people enjoy that. I still don’t get it, but we’ll be ready to roll. Don’t you worry about that.”

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s how Mitchell introduced his team at last year’s Madness:


@MaggieDavisKSR