The UK Hoops team’s recent run of victories will not win a beauty pageant, but a yeoman’s effort guided the Wildcats to their 18th win of the season opposed to eight loses tonight in a 69-62 triumph over Arkansas in Fayetteville. The win also keeps UK in the top four in the SEC with a 9-4 mark.
After a neck and neck first quarter, Kentucky held Arkansas to four points in the second and opened up a 31-20 lead at the half.
Hot shooting brought the Razorbacks out of the woods, and soon they were nipping at the Cats’ heels. The Hawgs got the lead as close as four on several occasions, but timely defense and clutch free throw shooting kept Kentucky afloat down the stretch.
Taylor Murray led four Wildcats in double figures with 16 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists, and six steals. Evelyn Akhator notched a routine double-double with 12 and 11. Maci Morris contributed 13 points, and Makayla Epps added 14.
3’s Saved the Day
Anytime a team shoots 40 percent--UK was 8-of-20--from downtown, there is a good chance that the plane ride home will be celebratory in nature and not have the ambiance of a wake.
Jaida Roper and Maci Morris’ four combined triples in the first quarter kept UK even with the Razorbacks when the hosts baskets was as wide as the Grand Canyon and when Kentucky was cold On a personal level, this should be a confidence booster for the streaky Morris and also helps make a case for more playing time for Roper.
The only cause for concern from the 3-point part is the number that Makayla Epps took. The senior finished 2-of-8. Launching jumps shots is not a strong suit of her game, and when she does not drive the ball, the offense stagnates. Look for and hope that the tally goes down next time out.
Jessica Jackson’s Big Game is a Concern Going Forward
Limited front court depth and size in the paint have made the Cats a dream come true for talented forwards in conference play, especially ones like Arkansas’ Jessica Jones who have an inside-out game.
Jones shot well, 10-of-20 from the field and 3-of-7 from beyond the arc, and finished with 24 points.She rebounded well, seven total, and also dished out four assists. Only foul trouble could stop her.
Kentucky does not have the ability to stop someone with Jackson’s skill set, in this writer’s opinion, and that may well be what keeps them from a deep run in March. Matthew Mitchell and his staff have a lot of work ahead of them to devise an appropriate strategy to shore up a potentially fatal weakness.
Kentucky Continues To Do the Small Things Well
This group of ladies in blue and white just don’t have the firepower to blow opposing teams out of the water night in and night out. They are going to struggle with teams at the bottom of the barrel, but the one thing they’ve done well as of late is embrace the non-sexy side of the game.
The Cats continued a recent of the trend of getting to the free throw line. Against the Hawgs they netted 15-of-19 attempts. They also stayed out of foul trouble, committing only eight as a team, and sent Arkansas to the stripe a tame four times.
Coach Mitchell’s young women also played outstanding defense. They forced the Razorbacks into 18 turnovers to the tune of 21 points.
These Cats are gritty, and they keep rolling up their sleeves in this manner then good things will continue to happen for them.