There were many questions to be answered heading into this Kentucky basketball season.
The biggest among them: How would Kentucky replace the production of star seniors Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps?
It appears that’s going to be a massive group project.
Even if much younger, the Cats proved to be deeper and more prolific all around with seven different players scoring at least eight points in UK’s 87-56 exhibition win over Southern Indiana on Sunday night.
Maci Morris had 19 points and four assists in the victory at Memorial Coliseum. Fellow junior guard Taylor Murray added 11 points, six rebounds and six assists. The Cats had 21 assists on 30 made baskets.
“It’s just going to be a work in progress,” Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the group, which saw 10 different players play at least nine minutes. “Early on you’re really going to be finding out exactly where people can shine. … It’s going to be a little up and down there early because you’re so youthful in some key areas.”
Freshman Tatyana Wyatt added 10 points and five rebounds for UK, which outrebounded the Eagles 39-25.
The Cats shot 51 percent from the field and held Southern Indiana to 35 percent shooting. Kaydie Grooms led the Eagles with 20 points.
Kentucky struggled against the Eagles’ press early in the game and trailed by five points in the opening minutes, but quickly found its rhythm. With so many new faces and so much to put in, Mitchell said the team hadn’t yet put in a press break.
“We have to live with some of the growing pains and understand they’ll be there,” Mitchell said. “Thought our veterans really stabilized the game.”
After tying it up 17-17, Kentucky went on a 25-7 run in which the Cats held the Eagles without a basket for more than five minutes.
UK played only 11 players total last season but played 12 in the first half this game — and 10 of those players scored at least three points. All six of the newcomers played in the first half.
At the half, which Kentucky led 47-25, the Cats were shooting 56.3 percent from the floor. Twelve of Southern Indiana’s points came at the free throw line.
Morris led the way with 11 first-half points for Kentucky, which opens its season on Friday night against Sacramento State at Memorial Coliseum.
Two other returnees, Alyssa Rice and Jaida Roper, had nine points apiece, with Rice adding three rebounds and three blocked shots and Roper pitching in four assists and three rebounds in the victory.
Sacramento State at Kentucky
7 p.m. Friday (SEC Plus)