Just when Tatyana Wyatt was getting settled into the start of her first college season, the Kentucky forward was injured in practice.
The freshman had to miss five straight games while coming back from a concussion.
It wasn’t exactly the start to her career she imagined.
“It was very difficult just having to think positive every day and tell myself that eventually I’d come back,” Wyatt said.
She can disregard the “eventually” as of Tuesday night.
Wyatt is officially back, notching her first career double-double for No. 20 Kentucky in its 100-62 drubbing of Evansville in Memorial Coliseum.
The 6-foot-2 forward from Columbus, Ga., had career bests in points with 20 and rebounds with 10 to help the Cats (8-1) run away with the victory.
Kentucky’s coaches were prepared to be patient with the freshman, who suffered the concussion in a pre-game practice hours before the second game of the season.
They expected it to take awhile for her to get comfortable again.
They were wrong.
Even as early as her first game back on the floor, a huge loss at Baylor, Matthew Mitchell said he saw signs of her starting to make plays.
She’s only improved since then.
“She’s extremely poised offensively for a freshman,” Mitchell said of Wyatt, who made eight of her 11 attempts, including a pair of 15-footers and a three-pointer.
“She’s getting better defensively. Hustling, smart, highly intelligent player who plays hard, great attitude. She walks in with a smile on her face most every day ready to get better.”
That smiley, bubbly freshman has an edge, too, teammate Maci Morris said.
“Tot’s tough,” said Morris, who also had 20 points in the victory. “When she gets the ball down low, she’s going to score it. I just love her mentality. If she gets it, she knows what she needs to do. She’s going to get the ball on a rebound and when she goes back up, she’s going to take somebody’s head off if that’s what it (takes).
“She’s playing great right now. I’m really excited to see what she can do.”
It was UK veterans Morris, Taylor Murray and Alyssa Rice who helped the Cats rush out to a massive 19-0 lead over the Aces to start the game.
It took five minutes for Evansville to score its first points, on a three-pointer by Hannah Noe. Before that, the Aces had missed four shots and turned the ball over four times.
By the end of one quarter, Kentucky had a 35-8 lead after shooting 59.1 percent and making five of its eight three-pointers. The Cats also went without a foul or a turnover in that span, finishing the game with just six miscues.
“To come out with that energy and that focus tonight, I was really, really proud of that,” said Mitchell of UK, which shot a season-high 57.1 percent and 47.1 percent from three-point range.
Morris was a big part of that, hitting four of her five tries from long range in the victory. Before a miss in the third quarter, Morris had made nine three-pointers in a row.
“I was kind of mad when I missed,” she said. “I just rushed it. I got a little excited.”
Seven UK players scored at least six points, including 14 points, five rebounds and four assists for Rice.
Taylor Murray added 11 points and four rebounds and Jaida Roper had 10 points and five assists in the victory.
Kentucky scored 31 points off of 20 Evansville turnovers and won the rebounding battle 38-23. The Aces managed just four offensive rebounds for the night and scored only two points off of those six UK miscues.
The Cats experimented a bit with the start of a full-court press, which is still a work in progress because of the six newcomers, Mitchell said, adding: “Hopefully by the end of the year, that will be a weapon for us.”
Evansville (2-5) was led by Noe’s 23 points. She made six three-pointers in the loss, the Aces’ third in a row.
Next up for Kentucky is a trip to Florida where the Cats will play at Florida Gulf Coast on Friday and then at Miami on Sunday.
No. 20 Kentucky at Florida Gulf Coast
7 p.m. Friday