Maybe Kentucky hit the snooze button one too many times. An 11 a.m. start — making it the first game of the season in women's college basketball — might have been a tad too early.
Or maybe Kentucky was distracted by the opposing coach's head-to-toe argyle suit that had one player wondering whether the halftime entertainment had arrived early. Whatever it was, it took a while for ninth-ranked UK to find its rhythm against Morehead State on Friday. But once it did, the game got out of hand quickly, with UK scoring 18 unanswered points and cruising to an 82-48 win.
"It was not a masterpiece by any means, but we are proud to get a victory," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said of UK's 19th straight win in Memorial Coliseum, in front of 6,793.
After an uneven first-half performance, UK went to its defense to dominate the Eagles, who turned over the ball 36 times.
"It looks like there's eight of them out there, a couple of times maybe even nine or 10," Morehead Coach Tom Hodges said of UK's defense. "Their effort level and their defensive tenacity is what sets them apart from almost everybody else in the country."
When UK was struggling offensively, the defense was what carried it through, senior Victoria Dunlap said.
"We didn't have a lot of energy," Dunlap said about the first half. "We weren't talking; we weren't doing what we needed to do to play defense, but that definitely picked up in the second half."
Despite missing 12 of her 16 shot attempts, Dunlap ended the game with 18 points and nine rebounds. The reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year added seven steals, four blocked shots and three assists.
Sophomore A'dia Mathies also had 18 points even though she struggled with foul trouble much of the game.
Kentucky (1-0) missed 12 of its first 17 shots and trailed 17-16 with 5:44 left in the first half.
"We are so busy as coaches trying to put in all the options of the play that we sometimes forget the simple option," Mitchell said when asked about UK's first half. "That, to me, was it. I don't think that it was anything else but very poor execution offensively."
Luckily for UK, Morehead's shooting was worse. The Eagles missed 14 of their first 19 shots and made 24 percent (7-for-29) in the first half. Five of their buckets were three-pointers.
UK led 27-20 at the half but used physical defense to keep the Eagles without a field goal for the first 7:30 of the second half.
In that span, MSU missed eight shots and fumbled away the ball seven times while UK scored 18 points to mount a 45-22 lead. Twenty of the Eagles' 36 miscues were in the second half.
"They forced us into some awkward decisions and bad spots," Hodges said.
Chynna Bozeman led the Eagles with 16 points and five rebounds. Morehead (0-1) outrebounded the Cats 43-39. Ashar Harris grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.