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