Kentucky secured the win early on, leading 24-13 at the end of the first quarter. Janee Thompson, who returned for the first time after brutally breaking her leg last year, and freshman Maci Morris came out hot putting up early points on the board with a couple of threes and field-goals.
At the half, the Cats led 44-27 and ran with the game from that point on. The third quarter opened with UK going 5-6 from the field and closed the game with a 10-0 run that put them just five points shy of the century mark.
Union didn’t want to go down without a fight though. A team who lead Division-2 women’s basketball in three’s last year made 17 tonight with 24 out of 27 of their second half points coming from three-pointers. The Lady Bulldogs challenged Kentucky’s perimeter defense all night, but the Cats dominated in the paint out-rebounding them 23-14 and out-scoring them six to 50.
Alexis Jennings (20), Thompson (17) Batouly Camara (15), Evelyn Akhator and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers (12) and Maci Morris (10) all scored in the double-digits tonight. Jennings also would have gotten what would have been her second career double-double if it had not been an exhibition game as she had 12 rebounds.
Matthew Mitchell commended his teams effort tonight and the past week. Noting that the last week had been fun and that they have progressed a lot. Ranked 17 in the USA Today/Coaches Preseason Top 25 and 18 in the Associated Press Top 25, he says that while they have quite the distance to go as a team, they have great attitudes and as long as they stay coachable they will go far.
“We have a long way to go as a team, but I feel really good about their effort, attitude and energy,” Mitchell said.
The last twenty days have been nothing but normal for Matthew Mitchell’s squad with three people leaving the program (Chrishae Rowe, Linnae Harper and Morgan Rich) as well as an injury that will leave Alyssa Rice out for over a month. Mitchell is proud, though, of how his team has reacted and responded to the adversity that has faced them. They’ve been able to block all of negativity that has been surrounding them in the pre-season and not let it enter the building.
“I really credit the players for being resilient. That’s one of the things that we want this team to embrace is having that quality of resilience as a team,” Mitchell said.
While for the freshman and Akhator it was their first game in a Wildcat uniform, Thompson suited up for the first time since missing the last 17 games of last season after a nasty leg injury against South Carolina. She now has a piece of metal in her leg that, according to Mitchell, she is having to adjust to, but she was excited to get back on the court tonight with her team.
“I had some nerves because it’s been so long. But it felt good. Everything felt normal. I mean, I’ve been playing for all my life, pretty much. So everything pretty much came back to me easily, and it was just basketball,” Thompson said.
While the Cats had a good showing tonight, this is just the tip of the ice-berg for them. Mitchell believes that they have a long way to go before they reach their full potential, plus they’ll have all of their players back and healthy. Akhator had her hand wrapped tonight due to a hand-sprain that occurred in practice this week so she wasn’t 100%. Also, Makayla Epps will return at Arizona State on Nov. 15. However, she was noticeably absent from the bench tonight because she is on concussion protocol after getting an elbow to the face this week that resulted in a possible broken nose according to Mitchell.
UK Hoops’ next game will be Friday against Rice at 7pm in Memorial Coliseum.