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UK Hoops-Morehead postgame numbers, notes and quotes

Makayla Epps (UK Athletics Photo by Britney Howard)

Makayla Epps (UK Athletics Photo by Britney Howard)

KENTUCKY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL POSTGAME NOTES

Kentucky vs. Morehead State

Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.

Nov. 23, 2016

FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 74, Morehead State 47

 

Team Records and Series Notes

–          Matthew Mitchell is in his 10th season with Kentucky. Mitchell is 253-119 overall as a head coach and 223-90 during his tenure at Kentucky.

–          Kentucky is 129-19 all-time in Memorial Coliseum under Mitchell.

–          Currently, UK is No. 20 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 24 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25. Kentucky has been ranked in both the USA Today/Coaches’ Top 25 and The Associated Press Top 25 since week 13 of the 2009-10 season, which is a program-record streak of 135 weeks.

–          Kentucky now holds a 29-4 edge over the Eagles with today’s victory, including a 19-1 mark in games played in Lexington. The Wildcats have also won 12-straight games over Morehead State.

–          Kentucky will return to action Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. ET when the Wildcats host Samford inside Memorial Coliseum. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network+ and on the UK Sports Radio Network in Lexington on 630AM WLAP.

Team Notes

–          Kentucky used the starting five of Makayla Epps, Evelyn Akhator, Maci Morris, Alyssa Rice and Taylor Murray.

o   UK is 4-1 this season with that starting-five combination.

–          Tonight’s win brings UK’s record to 4-1 overall.

–          Kentucky has won 60 consecutive regular-season non-conference games inside Memorial Coliseum, dating back to Dec. 19, 2008 vs. Alabama A&M.

–          With tonight’s victory, Kentucky rises to 94-17 against Ohio Valley Conference opponents.

–          After scoring the first points, Kentucky never trailed in the contest.

–          Kentucky went on an 11-0 run to start the game, forcing a Morehead State timeout with 7:57 to go in the first quarter. The Wildcat’s also went on a 12-0 run early in the second half.

o   Kentucky has recorded nine 10-0 or more runs this season.

–          The Wildcats held Morehead State to only two points in the second quarter, the lowest of any UK opponent in a quarter so far this season.

o   UK held the Eagles scoreless in the final 7:30 of the first half.

o   Kentucky extended that effort, not allowing a Morehead State field goal until the 2:26 mark in the third quarter to hold them without a field goal for 15:04.

o   Morehead State’s two points scored in the second quarter tied Kentucky’s program record for fewest points allowed in a quarter.

–          Kentucky dominated the defensive end in the first half, grabbing 20 defensive rebounds and not allowing Morehead State to earn a single offensive rebound.

–          UK’s 35 first-half points marked the fewest points scored in a first half this season for the Wildcats.

–          Kentucky ended the game with its largest lead of the night, a 27-point advantage.

–          UK completely dominating the paint, outscoring the Eagles 40-6 in the paint.

–          This was the third time this season Kentucky has held an opponent to 20 points or less in a first half, holding Albany to 19, New Hampshire to 20 and tonight holding Morehead State to 19.

 

Individual Notes

–          Taylor Murray had a career night, posting career highs in points with 18 and rebounds with eight.

o   Murray led all scorers in the game, shooting eight-of-13 from the floor as well as two-of-five from beyond the arc.

o   Murray recorded her 12th career double-digit scoring performance and her second of the season in tonight’s win.

o   In the first half alone, Murray had matched her previous career-high of 14 points.

–          Evelyn Akhator added 11 points and nine rebounds in tonight’s win.

o   Akhator was just one rebound away from recording her sixth consecutive double-double.

o   Akhator’s 11 points tonight marks her lowest point total of the season.

–          Makayla Epps posted 18 points and nine assists to end the game.

o   Epps has now recorded double-digit points in four-of-five games this season.

o   Epps’ nine assists are a season high for the senior.

o   With tonight’s performance, her career-points total climbs to 1,290.

o   Epps needs 143 points (1,433 total) to enter Kentucky’s top-10 scorers in school history.

–          Maci Morris recorded 14 points and six rebounds for the Blue and White.

o   Morris’ has scored 14 points in back-to-back contests now, after scoring 14 against Colorado on Saturday as well.

o   Her 14 points matches her season high.

o   This was Morris’ first game without a 3-pointer in 10 games, as she had made at least one 3 the past 10 contests.

–          Makenzie Cann had seven points and seven rebounds in the game.

o   Cann has made a 3-pointer in each outing so far this season.

–          Alyssa Rice grabbed six rebounds to go along with two points and two blocks tonight.

–          Jaida Roper and Jess Hardin each scored two points off the bench as well.

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement…

“Well, it was a good victory for us tonight. Morehead State really challenged. They’re a good team. They’re really well coached. It was tough out there tonight. I thought that we made some mistakes tonight. Clearly, we have a lot to work on and get better, but proud of the team for hustling through and getting the victory.”

 

On Taylor Murray improving her game…

“What I loved about Taylor tonight, more than her offense, was her defense. We’ve been really talking to her and really encouraging her to try to get her going defensively. We need her to be a leader for us and a star on defense, and that is what I’m most proud of her for tonight. I thought she really tried. She wasn’t looking for comfort tonight, trying to get off the ball. She really got after it tonight and that was outstanding. I think Morehead’s game plan was to play off of her, and there’s nothing better than seeing a good player use her footwork with confidence. And that was really a great night for Taylor Murray. Last year she was a back up to Janee (Thompson) and Makayla (Epps). Really whatever she gave you was sort of a bonus. This year, it is on her now and it’s a new roll for her and I’m really pleased with her development.”

 

On Morehead State not having a field goal for a 15-minute span…

“The first quarter, I think they only made one as well and then there was the five 3s. We tried to talk about it at the break between the first and second quarter. I think we played some good defense. I think they missed some shots that they normally make. I don’t know if that was all of our defense. We’re trying to get better defensively. We are now means where we want to be. We just have a lot of work to do, and that’s where we are right now. I continue to say that I believe in these kids and what they’ll do. It was a tough trip out to Colorado, and I’m just proud they came back and worked and got better. We were glad to win tonight.”

 

On talking to Makayla Epps when she was struggling…

“I thought she and Evelyn (Akhator) both let missed shots affect them. If the defense is going to stop you that is one thing, but if you stop yourself, that’s not good. I thought she was really rushing and pressing. She just needs to believe in her abilities and not rush. Make sure you stay calm and believe in her abilities and know that the shots will start falling. She came back with a big second half and started making shots which was good. I was trying to get her to understand that she was stopping herself. It wasn’t anything that the defense was doing. She was just getting deep in the lane and not making shots. She just needed to work on those finishes, and I thought she did a better job with that in the second half.”

 

On playing zone…

“We’re trying. We’re not very good at it right now. We have so much to learn and so much improvement. I believe that it is going to have to be our plan. We’re trying to improve the zone. We have worked the last couple of days and it’s going to be a slow go of it, but I saw some improvement tonight. We’ll have to work on it but I do think that is a part of our defense that we’ll have to rely on at times.”

 

On rebounding out of zone…

“There were three things that we tried to get better at coming out of the Colorado game. We desperately need to improve in transition defense. We worked hard on that. I think we made some progress on that. We were getting beat on the boards against Colorado. We worked a lot with two-three zone defense and trying to attack it. Coach Todd played a lot of two-three zone last year and I thought he was going to this year, but pretty much man-to-man. I do feel like we got better in those three areas, but I thought the rebounding was better. We have to be really strong, technical rebounders. We have to box out and push back. Besides Evelyn (Akhator), we don’t have much size. So, we’re going to have to out work and out smart people.”

 

On using these early games to prepare for future games…

“For our particular team, with everything that we went through… I’m really happy with what they’re doing and we’re relying on a lot of inexperienced players who will continue to get better and they’re hard workers and great kids. I think that tonight showed a lot of things that we need to get better at doing. I thought the Colorado game showed us what we need to get better at, and I am really happy with the schedule and what we need to work on right now and we just have to keep working.”

 

Kentucky Players

#25 Makayla Epps, Senior, Guard

On her being emotional after the Colorado loss…

“I love this program. I’ve been here longer than anybody else on my team. I have put a lot of work and dedication into this program, so it was very emotional to lose. I’m not a sore loser, but I don’t like losing. I’m sure a lot of people don’t, but I really take it to heart. That was a game where I felt like we really shot our self in the foot. If we would have done some things differently, we could have won that game. Colorado played hard, and to lose early was devastating. Because I’m a senior, that’s one game I can’t get back. So, it made me a little emotional.”

 

On how she has seen Taylor Murray continue to develop…

“I don’t treat Tay as the average sophomore. She got a lot of minutes last year. Her and Maci (Morris) both got a lot of valuable minutes as freshmen. Because of that as sophomores, you can see the growth from one year to the next. It’s fun to see my teammates get out there and just score the ball in a variety of ways – especially Tay. We’re both point guards. We spend a lot of time together. We joke with each other. We sat in the locker room together for about thirty minutes. Didn’t say two words, but we were with each other. We are always around each other a lot, so to see her have a career night is really fun.”

 

On she was struggling with her shooting early in the game…

I put a lot of work into my shot. We shoot a lot in practice, and to not see the ball go through the net is very frustrating. But Tay (Murray), Maci (Morris), Evelyn (Akhator) always said, ‘It’s okay Epps.” When I look over to the bench, Coach says, ‘You got it it.’ So, just as long as my teammates keep uplifting me and encouraging me, I’ll be okay. Missing shots isn’t the end of the world. As long as we win, that’s the most important thing. My stats are just my stats. Tonight was just a rough shooting night.”

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