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.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) December 19, 2018