Murray, Cann Pace Wildcats to Season-Opening Win

Makenzie Cann (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Junior guard Taylor Murray scored a game-high 22 points, adding five rebounds and three assists, while senior guard Makenzie Cann hit four 3s to score 17 points with six rebounds as the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team rolled to an impressive 101-70 win Friday night against Sacramento State.

The victory was Kentucky’s ninth straight season opening win and ninth straight win in a home opener. The Wildcats will be back in action Sunday at 2 p.m. ET against Gardner-Webb on the SEC Network+ with Jeff Piecoro and Christi Thomas on the call.

Kentucky (1-0, 0-0 SEC) started the game red hot from the field, scoring a program-record 31 points in the first quarter paced by Cann, who hit all four of her 3s in the first half. The game was tied 20-20 in the first quarter and the Wildcats swung the momentum to take control of the game, going on a 36-22 run the rest of the half.

All 12 eligible Wildcats played in the game with 10 scoring points. UK also showed its depth as all five newcomers not only played in the game but scored as well. UK had 36 bench points in the game to only 11 from Sacramento State.

On top of Cann and Murray, three other Wildcats were in double figures with freshman forward Tatyana Wyatt posting 13 points with two rebounds, while fellow freshman post Dorie Harrison scored 10 points with nine rebounds. Junior guard Maci Morris had 12 points in the game, including two 3s. Sophomore guard Jaida Roper had nine points, two rebounds and three assists.

As a team, the Wildcats hit 50 percent from the field on 35-of-70 shooting and 45 percent from long range going 9-for-20. Sacramento State – one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country – hit just five 3s in the game on 25 attempts and the Wildcats help them to just 36.1 percent from the floor overall.

Kentucky dominated the specialty stats, outscoring Sacramento State 48-40 in points in the game, 18-9 in points off turnovers and 17-7 in second-chance points.

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement…

“Well, I’m proud of the team for earning their first victory of the season, and they certainly had to earn it. Some really difficult situations we were in in the first half. My hat is off to Sacramento State and how hard they competed. They really came out with tremendous energy and effort and it was real tough on us, it was real tough on us in the first half. But I thought the run at the end of the first half was key. You know, I thought we were able to get in at halftime and really listen to coaching and commit to playing with some better defensive fundamentals. We ended up with a great victory, so real proud of the team.”

 

On previous players comparison to Taylor Murray’s speed and coaching her…

“I don’t remember anyone quite as fast as her straight ahead. She’s really fast. I’ve been blessed to be around some great players and some fast players. The only person that I remember visually seeing here at Kentucky was John Wall, just had that burst of speed that you were just like, ‘Wow. How is he going that fast?’ And that is kind of like Taylor when she gets going. It’s gonna be hard for anybody to keep her in front. Then she’s got great body control to get out of the way, she doesn’t charge much. She’s got great, tremendous body control. It’s such a weapon especially for us, we’ve been able to put some pieces around her that have some speed. I know Sacramento State wanted to force tempo, but I tried to talk to our team. We’ve been working all summer. We got here early in June trying to say we wanted to be able to get fed enough to make tempo an issue for another team and I thought we did a good job that time. Taylor’s fast, really, really fast and it’s a tremendous weapon, but another thing you have to realize about her is the first day I watched her in individual workouts summer of her freshman year, the improvement she’s made in her shot between that day and today is just, she’s a really good shooter. She’s got great fundamentals, great technique, a commitment to those two things and she’s shooting the ball really, really well too. She’s rounded into a really solid player.”

 

On concerns for freshman in the first game of the season…

“You know, it’s 37-35 and we were turning the ball over and you know I was worried that we might hang our head. We had gotten into some foul trouble which is probably the best thing that had ever happened to us was those young players had to get out there and had to figure it out. That was a tremendous end to the first half, so you know, after it was 37-35 I think you know we ended the half 56-42 and it was just a good run and from that point up. A lot of young players and you know Coach (Linn) Dunn was sitting there and just saying, ‘Hey, we gotta be patient here. There’s four newcomers out on the floor.’ It was three freshmen and then Amanda (Paschal) and I don’t know if it was (Alyssa) Rice or who it was. They did a nice job and they created some separation after the end of the half. It was very key for us because if that team gets hot from the 3, and boy we did a great job on the 3- point line tonight, because I wanted to try and limit their attempts, so 25 attempts from them from the 3-point line is a good job by our team. I was hoping we could get 28 or less, and so we got 25, so that was good. But you didn’t want that team hanging around because they were explosive. You saw them. They made some really great plays in the game. Proud of the young players. They did a good job tonight.”

 

On being able to utilize the platoon sub…

“Yeah, I had to go back in the memory banks to find out how to do that. We did not platoon sub last year, you were right. It was a good feeling.”

 

On playing 12 players and having 10 scorers tonight

“Well, yeah, I think that we’re going to have to work hard and definitely we have areas where we can improve and I don’t know if we’ll play 12 every night, but it was great to see everybody play hard enough so we could get everybody in the game and get some experience. Because I’ve told this team, we’ve got 14 fantastic young women on the team that will all contribute in some way this season. There will be somewhere everybody, including Ogechi (Anyagaligbo) who is out for the year, something that she will make a contribution to this team that will be important, and so you never know if it’s going to be on the court or off the court, but I was happy to see that. I thought we had some moments we can build on tonight.”

 

On free throw shooting…

“Yeah, we had only missed one I think at the halftime, and so we missed a few there in the second half. But you know if you can hang around 80 percent as a team, that’s a real bonus for you and something that can help you win some ball games.”

 

On rebounding…

“Yeah, we’d given up 11 [offensive] boards at halftime and you know, it’s just not a habit yet and we have to do better. We worked hard on it for three days, you know, I just probably hadn’t done a very good job. There’s just so much that we tried to get in and that’s just something that’s just not where it needs to be, but we’ll just work at it every day and that’ll be something. We won’t have a real long and hard practice tomorrow, but we will definitely have to touch on that because we’re just looking at the ball and you can’t when the shot goes up. You have to find your player and box out and you know we may have tried a little bit better, but you may have tried a little bit better, but you just saw it’s not in a good habit right now. We need to get that going, but the good news is I think we have an athletic enough team, disciplined enough team and tough enough players that understand that they want to win and they’ll get it. We’ll get there.”

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