Want to challenge Maci Morris?
Tell her she could do better than she did previously.
That’s what happened Sunday when Kentucky’s head coach called out his junior guard for slacking on defense and having just four rebounds in the Cats’ season opener on Friday night.
“She wants to win and might be the most competitive player we have,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said of Morris. “We have some competitive people, but she wants to win. I told her what I thought she needed to do and she just goes out there and does it.”
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And what she did after that exchange with her head coach was score her first career double-double on Sunday against Gardner-Webb with 10 points and a career-best 10 rebounds, including nine on the defensive end.
“We complimented her yesterday in front of the team,” Mitchell said Wednesday as UK prepared for a cross-country road trip where it will play at Montana (0-1) on Thursday and then at Washington State on Sunday.
The 6-foot guard has many attributes, but perhaps Morris’ best trait is her ability to take coaching, Mitchell said.
“And there was the definition of it there to go out and get nine defensive boards because you were being tough and boxing out,” he said of Morris, who averaged 2.8 rebounds last season.
“Those were not freebies, they were not falling into her hands, she had to work for them. Maci doesn’t surprise me, I have tremendous respect for her and I think when she is locked in and really focused on what she needs to do she is an outstanding player.”
Lots of people maybe looked at Morris coming out of high school at Bell County and saw her as a one-dimensional kind of player, but Mitchell said she has a solid all-around game that will keep growing because of how well she takes coaching.
“You could tell she was the kind of player that could sense what her team needed and go and do what was needed,” he said, adding later, “She has always had a great sense of what a team needs.”
News and notes
Freshman Tatyana Wyatt will not make the trip out west after suffering a concussion in practice Sunday morning. The forward is still making her way through the concussion protocol, Mitchell said.
“Just much better for her to advance through the protocol without having to get on a flight and flying across the country,” he said, adding that she will stay behind with Ogechi Anyagaligbo, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
• Walk-on guard Paige Poffenberger, who has sat out this season with her own concussion, has been cleared to play, the coach said.
• Kentucky also will be without assistant coach Kyra Elzy, who has missed the first week of the season while tending to a family medical issue. Former UK player and current director of player development Amber Smith will handle the assistant coaching duties for the trip this weekend. She previously worked as an assistant this summer when Lin Dunn missed time coming back from knee replacement surgery.
“We feel like when we get back Kyra will be ready to roll when we return from this trip,” Mitchell said.
• The UK game next Wednesday against Morehead State has been moved from an evening game to 2 p.m. Fans can bring canned food items or new clothing items like gloves, winter hats and socks to the UK Ticket Office on game day to receive free general admission tickets to the game.
Kentucky at Montana
When: 9 p.m.
Live video broadcast: BigSkyConf.com (online only)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630
Records: Kentucky 2-0, Montana 0-1
Series: First meeting