After a tough loss Thursday at No. 9 Baylor, the Kentucky women’s basketball team found its shot and its confidence back home in Memorial Coliseum with a decisive 82-54 win over Tennessee Tech on Sunday afternoon.
The No. 20 Cats, who shot just 32.2 percent against the Bears and went an entire quarter there without a field goal, buried 75 percent of their shots in the first quarter and 60 percent for the half as the Cats established a cushion they wouldn’t relinquish.
“When we got back here (from Baylor), one of the things we focused on was shooting, a lot of shooing, (and) getting back into that flow, whether it was our game day practice or (when) we had Saturday practice,” UK point guard Taylor Murray said. “Just keep shooting and building that confidence in shots that we know will go in. And they went in today.”
Maci Morris led the Cats with 16 points, making the most of her 17 minutes going 6-for-7 from the field, including 2-for-2 from the three-point line.
“(The hot start) was important to just build everybody’s confidence back up,” Morris said.
Tatyana Wyatt, playing just her third game since her return from a concussion scored 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting. She also had three blocks.
In all, 12 of 13 Cats scored as Kentucky was able to empty its bench in the second half in front of an announced crowd of 4,561.
“We don’t have a lot of practice time over the next week and, so, today was extremely valuable for our starters to go in and get us a cushion where we could work on some things (with the second unit),” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said.
UK is in the middle of a stretch of four games over eight days with matchups against Evansville on Tuesday, Florida Gulf Coast on Friday and Miami (Fla.) next Sunday.
UK held Tech scoreless for more than four minutes from the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the second as it put together a 15-0 run that ballooned the lead to 31-13 before Tech could answer. Morris had seven points in that span.
A 10-0 run to end the first half left no doubt the rest of the way as the Cats went to the break up 49-24. They extended the lead to 33 points in the third quarter.
The Golden Eagles (1-6) have faced a brutal early schedule with road games at Middle Tennessee and Georgia in addition to Kentucky. They had trouble with UK’s tenacious defense, shooting just 33.3 percent from the field and committing 16 turnovers. Yaktavia Hickson, the team’s lone senior, led Tech with 16 points.
UK outrebounded Tech 46-23, including 18 offensive rebounds leading to 21 second-chance points. Freshman center Dorie Harrison missed some close buckets, but Mitchell praised her effort getting five offensive boards to go with her seven points.
“Dorie still had some tough moments around the rim, but she’s getting to the rim,” Mitchell said. “I’m telling her (that) she’s not that far off. She’s really going to be tough for us when she’s able to just make a few more. She doesn’t have to make all of them, but she’s got to make more than she’s making (3-for-12). But just her effort to get in that position and not back down is really good.”
Sunday’s game marked a homecoming of sorts for Tech’s Jordan Brock. The 5-foot-7 freshman guard out of Harlan has started two games but mainly comes off the bench, averaging 7.3 points and 20 minutes per game.
Sunday, Brock came off the bench and scored seven points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field. Both makes were three-pointers. She played 23 minutes, some at point guard, and is beginning to understand how drive when teams take her outside shot away, her coach said.
“I think Jordan is going to be a really special player for us,” said first-year Tech Coach Kim Rosamond, who spent 10 seasons as a Vanderbilt assistant. “I don’t know that I’ve seen any kid that’s any better shooter than what Jordan Brock is.”
At Harlan, Brock was a nearly unstoppable force, averaging 25.3 points and leading the Lady Dragons to the 13th Region title her senior year. Her 2,997 career points are a Harlan record.
Evansville at Kentucky
7 p.m. Tuesday (SEC Plus)