Senior guard Maci Morris scored 17 points and keyed a game-changing run as the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team closed its non-conference schedule with a 71-43 rout of Sacred Heart in Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Morris went 7-for-16 from the field, including a 3-for-5 mark from three-point range, and added five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. She also moved up to No. 15 on UK’s all-time scoring list, passing Jodie Whitaker.
Morris sank a three-pointer from the left corner for the first points of the game. With Sacred Heart (4-7) leading 13-12 late in the first quarter, Morris nailed another three-pointer to put the Cats ahead for good. UK closed the first half on a 10-0 run that included five points from Morris, taking a 33-20 advantage into the locker room.
Kentucky (13-1) hit nine of its first 13 shots and went on a 14-0 run during the third quarter, then stretched the lead to 31 points in the fourth.
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The Cats held Sacred Heart scoreless for nearly seven minutes to begin the second half and forced 12 of the Pioneers’ 17 turnovers after the break. UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said a renewed commitment to defense was the main point of emphasis at halftime.
“We talked at halftime about our defensive focus,” Mitchell said. “Forcing 12 turnovers in the second half is more on schedule with what we we’re wanting to do.”
Jaida Roper had 12 points and five assists off the bench and Taylor Murray added 11 points, six rebounds and three steals. Freshman sensation Rhyne Howard pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds, leading Kentucky to a 57-35 advantage on the glass. Sophomore forward Tatyana Wyatt added seven boards.
“Coach has really been emphasizing rebounding. We’ve been working on boxing out and trying to go to the boards hard,” Morris said. “I’ve got to give a major shout-out to (Wyatt) because she was crashing the boards like crazy today and keeping the ball alive.”
The 18th-ranked Wildcats open Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. Mitchell said the Cats are ready for the challenge of the SEC grind.
“We have done a good job of building our team and we know what we need to do to be successful,” he said. “Now there are no more games where you can kind of let your athleticism overwhelm the opponent. Now you really have to lock in ... I think we have enough athleticism to be successful.”
Vanderbilt at No. 18 Kentucky
7 p.m. Thursday (SEC Network Plus)