As the men dominated the floor in Rupp Arena this evening, the UK Hoops team squared off against Rice University in their season opener in Memorial Coliseum. Kentucky came out with the victory, 72-39.
It was a slow start offensively for both teams, but Rice really seemed to struggle against Kentucky’s size and defense. In the best UCLA impersonation I have ever seen, the Owls didn’t get a basket that wasn’t from the free throw line until 6:06 left in the first half, but by then it was too late; Kentucky was was up 18 at the end of the half and didn’t let their foot off the gas. The Cats shot 48% from the field and 33.3% from the three point range in the first half, along with 10 steals, 10 blocks, and 13 turnovers. At the half, Maci Morris (Bell County, represent!!) and Taylor Murray both led the team in scoring with 10 points each. Evelyn Akhator had nine rebounds.
Rice started the second half by missing all but one of their first six field goals, allowing Kentucky to extend the lead by 33 points at the end of the third quarter. In the second half alone, the Cats shot 51.7% from the field and made 5 out of 8 of their three point shots. Four Cats ended the game in double digit scoring, Maci Morris and Evelyn Akhator with 16, Alexis Jennings with 10, and Taylor Murray, who Coach Mitchell said had a heck of game, tallied 12 points for her Kentucky debut. Janee Thompson led the team with six assists.
With such a short bench, foul trouble may be a issue this team faces this year. Mid-way through the third quarter, three of Kentucky’s eight available players had three fouls. “We knew it was going to be a difficult night just from the numbers standpoint,” Coach Mitchell said after the game.
Mitchell also complimented the game’s leading scorer, Maci Morris (16 points) after the game. “[Maci] is a good player, she is a tough, tough kid and has a great attitude and is very resilient. She doesn’t hang her head. She got physically dominated on some toughness plays [because of] her youth and inexperience. I challenged her at halftime, since she turned it over four times in the first half, and she only turned it over twice in the second half. She is a really, really mentally tough kid. ”
Evelyn Akhator ended the game with a double-double, 16 points and 17 rebounds “Evelyn was upset in the hallway,” Matthew Mitchell said. “She wanted 20 rebounds and only came up with 17. So we’ll work on that.” During player interviews, Akhator said she wasn’t joking, 20 rebounds a game was her goal–5 rebounds every quarter.
Although her suspension is now over, Makayla Epps is still in the concussion protocol, but Coach Mitchell said if everything goes smoothly in the upcoming practices she will be available for the game on Sunday against Arizona State.
The Cats will face the Sun Devils on Sunday at 5:30 pm est in Tempe. The game will be televised on the PAC-12 Network.