Matthew Mitchell and the UK Hoops team, fresh off a win over the rival Louisville Cardinals, traveled to the Volunteer State on Sunday to face Middle Tennessee State and returned home with a hard fought 68-52 road victory, their ninth of the season.
During the 1st half, Kentucky had several chances to pull away but the Blue Raiders offensive rebounding kept them in the game, and in turn, made the Wildcats earn every inch of separation they got.
In the end, the Cats’ 47 percent shooting and the Blue Raiders’ 26 turnovers proved to be the difference-maker in a contest that was tight until the very end. Here's our five takeaways from the win.
Maci Morris Finds Her Groove
Morris’ ability to score is well documented, she had 10 points against MTSU, but her struggles on the defense are also well known.
Coach Matthew Mitchell said after the Louisville game that at some points this season Morris would have had trouble guarding his elderly mother.
Over the last two games Morris has worked hard to overcome the stigma that she can’t defend quicker athletes at this point in her career and has played suffocating defense.
She also had four rebounds and two assists on Sunday and by doing a little bit of everything Morris is making herself into the Wildcat’s utility player; a valuable role that will ensure her a permanent spot in the rotation.
Since her very first game in the Blue and White, Taylor Murray has established herself as the team’s spark plug off the bench.
Against Middle Tennessee, she shot 3-of-6 from the field and was perfect from the charity stripe for a grand total of 10 points. Murray also contributed three assists and three rebounds on the day.
Like Maci Morris, Murray has quickly solidified her place in the rotation and her energy, as well as consistency, will be a valuable asset once conference play starts.
By this point in the season it is obvious that Makayla Epps is UK’s best and most valuable player.
Whenever Middle Tennessee would get into striking distance Epps either answered herself or had a hand in swinging the momentum back in the Cats’ direction. Epps finished with a team high 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting and also had four assists to go along with three steals.
Evelyn Akhator and Alexis Jennings have each come up big for Kentucky at different points this season, and each played a solid game against the Blue Raiders, Jennings shot the ball well and Akhator was a beast on the boards.
Unfortunately, both players struggled holding onto the ball and combined for seven turnovers.
Post play will be crucial for UK in the SEC and turnovers could make these two a liability but thankfully I don’t see this becoming an issue.
The Bench Turns It On
With the exception of Taylor Murray, UK’s bench played an abysmal game against Louisville but against MTSU the reserves rebounded nicely.
Batouly Camara played 21 minutes, she scored four points, had an equal number of rebounds and blocked two shots in a solid performance.
In her second game back from injury, Alyssa Rice scored three points and snagged three boards all while providing hustle off of the pine.
Ivana Jakubcova scored a basket, dished out an assists and grabbed a steal in seven minutes of action.