By: Tyrus York – It was a rough start for UK Hoops as they opened their season against Rice in Memorial Coliseum on Friday night. Forget the fact that the normally very well attended game was undercut by a men’s game playing simultaneously in Rupp Arena, the Cats were hitting the floor without their best player in Makayla Epps as she winds down her suspension from off the court issues over the summer.
It took UK Hoops almost 2 minutes of game time to score a point, and nearly 5 minutes to score more than two. Fortunately for them Rice was in the same boat, unable to get in the scoring column themselves until a little less than 5 minutes into the game.
Once they got going, it didn’t take the Cats long to put away Rice, leading 19-2 after the first quarter and never looking back; eventually winning 72-39.
Getting used to the new 4 quarter format in women’s college basketball may take some time, at least for me, but the pivotal point early in the game seemed to be the first media timeout that occurred after the first 5 minutes.
That was when Taylor Murray, a true freshman point guard from Odenton, Maryland checked in and went nuts with a pair of steals and layups that got the blood pumping for her team.
Another true freshman, Maci Morris from Pineville, KY and reigning Miss Basketball who got the start on opening night, added on with some offense of her own draining a 3 the easy way and the hard way with a layup and a foul. She would finish her debut with an impressive 16 points on 60% shooting.
It was good seeing Janee Thompson back on the floor after suffering a terrible injury halfway through last season. She was a little rusty, turning it over 5 times and pulling an 0-fer from the field, but was able to contribute 6 assists, 3 steals and 3 points from the free throw line.
Rice was very physical with the Cats, frustrating at times the inexperienced players that Matthew Mitchell was forced to play. Dressing only 8 players due to suspensions, injury, and some unexpected departures, several true freshman had to step up and answer the call.
The inexperience showed in the Cats as they gave up 22 turnovers, nearly matching the 23 they forced from the Owls. Coach Mitchell doesn’t blame those turnovers on effort however; pointing the blame at their inexperience, something he hopes and expects will improve in the coming months.
Kentucky will have a very early test with a quick turnaround and long flight to Tempe, Arizona to take on #15 Arizona State Sun Devils on Sunday. That game will be found on the Pac-12 Network at 5:30 pm.
It is unclear whether Makayla Epps will be available Sunday despite her suspension being served. She is in concussion protocol and will be a game time decision depending on how she responds during practice tomorrow and on game day.