After a historic win in Knoxville, Kentucky women’s basketball got some great news about injured senior point guard Taylor Murray on Friday.
The knee injury suffered at the end of the first half Thursday night is not serious and her ability to play will be assessed “day-to-day.” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell called the injury a patella bone bruise.
“She’s a tough, tough kid,” Mitchell said at the team’s press conference Friday. “We would not be the team we are right now without Taylor Murray. ... It’s a bruise and we’re thankful that it’s not ligaments.”
Murray, who leads the team in assists and steals and is third in scoring with a 12.9 points per game average, went flying to the floor on a hard foul by Tennessee’s Rennia Davis as Murray tried to finish a fast break with a layup with less than a minute left in the second period. Murray landed awkwardly with her left kneecap appearing to absorb most of the impact. She was taken directly to the locker room and sat on the bench with an ice pack on her knee for the entire second half.
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Friday, she smiled as she walked past reporters gathered for the press conference, favoring the left knee with a slightly stiff-legged limp. Mitchell said she would be on the stationary bike at Friday’s practice to get her moving.
Also heartening, Mitchell said, was the grit Kentucky showed in getting the program’s fourth win ever in Knoxville against the Lady Vols.
The Cats took control at the outset, leading by as many as 17 points in the first half and 16 in the second half, but saw the margin trimmed to just two points in the game’s final minutes with Murray out and its other team leaders, Maci Morris (27 points) and Rhyne Howard (six points, five rebounds) on the bench after fouling out. Howard fouled out with more than seven minutes left. Morris fouled out with just over four minutes left.
“We were just trying to hang on there at the end, and we did more than that,” Mitchell said. “We were courageous and had the courage to go and make something happen.”
With Tennessee gaining momentum, Mitchell credited Ogechi Anyagaligbo and Amanda Paschal for making big plays down the stretch. Anyagaligbo scored 13 points, including a calming 15-footer as Tennessee edged closer in the fourth period. Paschal hustled after her own miss and got a steal of what looked like a Tennessee defensive rebound with 1:23 left that helped set up the biggest play of the game.
The ball worked to sophomore backup point guard Jaida Roper who nailed a deep three-pointer from the left wing as the shot clock wound down and the game clock read 55 seconds left.
“Jaida’s three was the real dagger, I think, in the game and it was a tough shot contested by their center,” Mitchell said.
Sunday, Kentucky returns to face Mississippi in Memorial Coliseum at 1 p.m. Ole Miss boasts one of the league’s top scorers in Crystal Allen (18.3 ppg). Mitchell will also be looking to get his team working harder on the boards after getting outrebounded 50-32 by Tennessee.
“We have a lot of confidence that we are good enough to win games, but we also understand that you can’t expect to win a lot of games getting outrebounded and dominated on the boards like we did yesterday,” he said.
Howard, the team’s leading scorer, will also be looking to get back on track after she was limited by foul trouble Thursday to a season-low 14 minutes. She was held more than 10 points below her average by the Lady Vols.
“We won the game by two points. She scored six and was our leading rebounder and she made one of the most incredible hustle plays that saved two points for us, so, my message to her was ‘you played great last night. You’re fine,’” Mitchell said. “’The reason you foul is you’re standing straight up, and you’re not using proper technique. It’s as simple as that. You’re not a bad player. You’re not a bad person. You’re just not using proper technique. ... She’s already an incredible player and she will learn from these experiences.”
Mississippi at No. 16 Kentucky
When: 1 p.m. Sunday (SEC Network)