Looking for its first Southeastern Conference win of the season after a challenging start in league play, the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team begins a two-game road swing Thursday at 7 p.m. ET against Florida inside Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Fla.
The game will be broadcast live on the SEC Network+ with Kyle Crooks and Brittany Davis on the call. The action can also be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. Darren Headrick, in his first year with the program, will be calling the game on the UK Sports Radio Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Headrick’s call on 630AM WLAP. Live stats and free audio will be available online at ukathletics.com.
Kentucky (8-9, 0-3 SEC) is coming off a 56-42 home loss to Georgia. The game against the Bulldogs ended a stretch where the Wildcats have played eight straight teams that have been or are ranked/receiving votes in the national listings. UK had a slow day offensively against Georgia, shooting a season-low 20.4 percent from the field, including just 3-of-14 from long range. Senior guard Makenzie Cann paced UK with 10 points, while freshmen post Dorie Harrison had nine rebounds.
The Wildcats have been led this season by junior guard Maci Morris, who is averaging 16.1 points per game with 4.2 rebounds per game and a team-best 39 3-pointers. Morris, who only played 21 minutes against Georgia due to a bruised knee, has scored in double figures in every game but two this season including five 20+ point performances. Morris is hitting 45.3 percent from long range this season, which ranks top 20 nationally and second in the SEC. Fellow junior guard Taylor Murray ranks top 40 nationally and top five in the SEC in assist-turnover ratio at 2.5. The native of Odenton, Md., is leading the team in assists with 65 and steals with 34, while sitting second in points (9.6) and rebounds (5.1) per game.
Florida enters the game with a 8-8 record, including a 5-5 mark at home, 1-2 record in true road games and 2-1 mark in neutral-site games. The Gators are 0-3 in the league with losses to Auburn, Alabama and Ole Miss. The most recent loss for Florida came in overtime at Ole Miss, 78-75. UF was paced in the game by senior forward Haley Lorenzen, who scored 19 points with 10 rebounds. Junior guard Funda Nakkasoglu scored 18 points with five 3s, while senior guard Dyandria Anderson and senior forward Paulina Hersler each had 12 points.
The Gators are averaging 72.1 points per game this season, allowing opponents to score 69.3 points per game. UF is hitting 42.4 percent from the field, 34.4 percent from 3 and out-rebounding teams by 6.3 rebounds per game. Florida is hitting 9.6 3-pointers per game, while allowing opponents just 6.6 makes from long range. Nakkasoglu is leading the Gators in scoring this season with 15.7 points per game hitting a team-best 40 3-pointers, while Lorenzen is averaging 12.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Hersler, Anderson and sophomore guard Delicia Washington are all averaging double figures with Hersler and Anderson averaging 11.9 points per game, while Washington is posting 10.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Kentucky leads the all-time series in games played against Florida, 29-25. The Gators own a 12-9 record in games played in Gainesville. UK has lost the last two meetings in the series in Gainesville with the last win against the Gators on the road coming on Jan. 1, 2012, 59-56. Kentucky has won four of the last five and 10 of the last 13 meetings in the series. Matthew Mitchell is 11-4 against Florida in his time at Kentucky and 11-5 overall as a head coach against the Gators.
Kentucky defeated Florida 67-48 in the two team’s lone meeting last season inside Memorial Coliseum. Evelyn Akhator was the star scoring 19 points with nine rebounds, while Morris had 15 points and Makayla Epps posted 14. Murray dished out a season-best 11 assists in the game. Washington led Florida with 14 points. UK forced Florida into 23 turnovers, which the Wildcats were able to turn into 24 points. Meanwhile, Kentucky turned the ball over 15 times, but Florida was only able to get 10 points off of the Wildcats’ miscues. Kentucky won the rebounding battle 30-28, and the Wildcats took advantage of their opportunities on the offensive glass. Kentucky had 13 offensive rebounds and the Wildcats were able to get 25 second-chance points, compared to just five second-chance points for Florida.
For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, or Kentucky Women’s Basketball on Facebook.
Kentucky WBB News Conference
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Opening statement …
“Well, it will be a tough game tomorrow night in Gainesville, Florida. They are tough to defend and shoot a lot of 3s, they do a good job of that. They have some really good post players so they are an inside and outside threat. They will be hard to defend and we have been working hard on trying to get better with that. They are really, really smart defenders. They are going to try to make us take shots that we do not want to take. It will be a big challenge on the road for us. The team has been practicing hard and really doing well, we just have to find some way to get all of our progress that we are making in practice show up in a game. So tomorrow night is another opportunity to get that done.”
On Maci Morris’ injury …
“She is day-to-day with a bone bruise. It is very painful and it is all about pain tolerance now and how does it fill. She is such a tough kid and may have been able to make it through the Georgia game, but she came off of a screen and knocked knees with Dorie (Harrison) and that is really what shut her down for the rest of the day. The knee looks good, structurally it is great. It is just very painful. We won’t know (if she will play). But I can tell you, she is as tough physically as anybody I have ever been around. She was really in pain when she went 38 minutes against Texas A&M. So we will just have to see. It is something that we will have to work on every day and try to limit her reps in practice. She is probably without a doubt in the best rhythm offensively, so if there is anybody that can kind of weather through that it is her. It is a tough painful injury for her right now.”
On if they had the knee looked at further after the Georgia game …
“Yeah, we have gone back and looked at it again and it is a bone bruise.”
On what’s going differently this year that’s limiting Taylor Murray’s abilities …
“Well, I think what is the biggest difference is if you look at her freshman and sophomore year, you had people who game plans were devised around. So, you know, Arizona State tried to stop Evelyn (Akhator) and Makayla (Epps), and Maci (Morris) had 29 points. South Carolina was working hard to shut down Evelyn and Makayla, then Taylor goes for 29 points, and she’s been able to play sort of in the background those first two years, and use her speed and we were able to get out and run a little bit more than what we’ve been doing here this year. So, teams are just trying to make sure she can’t score at the rim and they’re really trying to play her right hand. It’s no secret and I’m not giving away any secrets. It’s just what’s happening. Also with our lack of depth we haven’t been able to get out and run the way that I would like to run, so that’s kind of taken away some of her ability to be dynamic and score because she may be out but the wings aren’t running with her so it’s not all on her. So, now we’re trying to get set up and execute a little bit better. So, it’s just a different set of circumstances that she’s got to battle her way through, and the great thing about Taylor is that she’s making no excuses. She knows she has to play better. She’s said she has to play better. I expect she’s going to and this is a great opportunity for her to grow because she’s capable of doing the things that we’re asking her to do. She’s just not comfortable doing those right now and that’s just one of these lessons in life. She’s got to expand her horizons and get out of her comfort zone and understand that we’re not playing against a bunch of do-do birds here in this league. They know what you can do and they’re trying to take it away from you the best they can and the game plan is focused around stopping Maci and Taylor. So, that’s a different role for her. So, that’s the best that I can describe it to you. She’s working hard to play better and I believe she will.”
On how much improvement he’s seen from the three freshmen post players over break …
“Well, I’ve seen a lot of progress in practice. The difficulty we’ve had is getting that to the game. So, they just still get in a rush. We were not efficient with any of our shooting, perimeter or post, on Sunday. And, you know, you listen to people who wish you well like, ‘Hey, you just can’t get the ball to go in the basket,’ like it’s some kind of mystical force out there. What’s happening is our young post players are not trusting their fundamentals and their process. Tatyana Wyatt is such a good player, but if she lets someone push her 10 feet from the basket and she’s using back-to-the-basket moves 10 feet from the basket, that doesn’t work. You’ve got to face up and you’ve got to have that poise and confidence to do that. Or when she got some deep seals, she did too much instead of just being able to make the quick read. She had a little right hand hook and she kept trying to go back and make it more complicated. These are the things that are showing up in the game. They’re getting better. It’s not at the rate that any of us wish it would be but they are working hard. This is what I would say, it’s just right now a battle to stay in what are the facts and not get caught up in emotion. It’s just such an emotional roller coaster you’re on and it’s just so easy to get caught up in what’s gone wrong. The facts are you’re not making shots because you’re not doing the right thing, it’s not because the ball won’t go in the basket. You’re not doing what you need to do. So, the effort’s there in practice. It will come around. It will show up. I hope it shows up tomorrow night, but there is a strong commitment to these kids working hard and trying to get better and they are. They’re getting better.”
On how hard work in practice showing in games can affect a team…
“When you lack experience in the fire, so everybody besides Maci is kind of out of their comfort zone of what their role is. Everybody’s got to battle through and make some plays in what their role is right now and not hang on to the comfort of not being out of the spotlight. The spotlight is shining on us right now. There is no doubt people understand that we have struggled to put the ball in the basket at times, and it is a pretty specific game plan. You just have to go in every day with that mindset. I’ve been very proud of the team, as difficult as it is around here to go through this because we have been so successful. It just adds on to it. The emotions just get so high that you have to find a way and manage that and come to practice every day. I was just so impressed with them yesterday. It was about as poor of a performance that you could see on Sunday, 20 percent shooting. The team that beat us shot 27 percent. That would normally be an automatic win. The only teams that I’ve ever seen that could win like that were back when we were running and pressing. We would shoot 32 percent and turn somebody over a hundred times and win. Difficult game and about as low as you probably can get, and these kids came back yesterday really, really positive, worked real hard and got better. We improved yesterday. Our defense continues to improve. We played good enough defense to win in all three games. We’re not talented enough. If we don’t make the proper play and use the proper fundamentals, you’re not giving yourself every chance you can to win. That’s where we are right now. That’s the message. It would do a world of good if they could go into the game and slow down, have some poise and make some things go right. That would be tremendous for our confidence right now because there’s no doubt about it that part of what we’re fighting right now is between the ears. There’s no question about it. The results we are getting are not indicative of what their ability is. We’ve just got to keep working, getting better. I think that is what our challenge is right now. Nothing is going to happen for us. Eventually, we have to step up and make some things happen.”
‑ GO CATS –
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