Coming off a career 21 points on Sunday at Louisville, Taylor Murray was the saving grace for Kentucky Friday against Middle Tennessee State University.
Trailing after the first period, the N0. 15 Cats came back to roll over the Blue Raiders 61-48 at home.
The first half for the Cats was filled with turnovers, which MTSU had no problem taking advantage of. Turning nine Kentucky turnovers into eight points by the end of the half.
It didn’t help that MTSU got off to a hot-start shooting while the Cats couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. Halfway through the first period the Cats hadn’t scored a field goal in three minutes and 42 seconds, and were trailing the Blue Raiders 11-7 going into a media timeout, during which head coach Matthew Mitchell must’ve struck a fire under them.
Coming out of the timeout, Murray scored on two back-to-back drives, tying the game up at 13.
However, the little spark was not enough to hoist the Cats over, as they still trailed 18-15 at the end of the period.
Murray stepped up in the second period, taking charge of the game as star senior Makayla Epps sat the entire period with two fouls. Still trailing halfway through the period Murray once again went back-to-back on go-ahead drives to boost the Cats up 27-23 over the Blue Raiders. The two drives also brought the sophomore to 10 points, putting her in double-digits for the fifth time this season.
While Epps was on the bench, freshman guard Jadia Roper earned her first real significant minutes of the season. Roper knocked down shots when they were needed and attacked on defense aggressively. The freshman, according to Mitchell played her best game yet, scoring seven points and grabbing three rebounds.
The Cats were able to go into halftime leading, Murray leading them with 12 points and Roper not too far behind with seven of her own.
Lucky for the Cats, Epps sitting for the entire second period and halftime gave her 25 minutes of rest, sending her out with fresh legs for the second half. And she was ready to go, scoring 11 of her 13 points in the half.
“Her presence is out there, even when she’s sitting on the bench ready to come back in,” MTSU’s head coach Rick Insell said.
From the start of the second, Kentucky ran with the game. Crashing the boards, out rebounding MTSU 44-22 and shooting their tails off, much like MTSU did in the first half.
Overall, Evelyn Akhator churned out yet another double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Maci Morris had an off night with just two points and four turnovers of her own out of the teams 15. Also, tonight first time Kentucky hasn’t made a three since November 27, 2014. They did however shoot 41 percent from the field.
Kentucky’s next game will be against an unranked, but tough, Arizona State University team at 1 inside Rupp Arena for their annual “Pack the House” game. A total of 22,000 tickets are available for the game and Mitchell wants it to be the largest crowd in women’s college basketball this season. Get you tickets here.