MOREHEAD — This time, Rocky got knocked out.
Sophomore Kastine Evans scored a career-high 23 points Friday night to lead No. 18 Kentucky to a 96-60 victory over Morehead State in a women's basketball season-opener.
A Johnson Arena crowd of 3,870 broke the MSU attendance record of 3,030, set in 2004 against Samford.
Evans, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, led UK back from a 32-31 halftime deficit in a game that included 51 fouls and 59 free throws. The Wildcats' depth was too much for the Eagles.
"I felt like physical play was the determining factor," Morehead Coach Tom Hodges said. "Much like a heavyweight 15-round fight. I felt like we hung around and kind of stayed off of them for the first half; really probably the first 25, 27, 28 minutes. But when they got into our body and just made it a physical, grind-it-out game, that's when they were able to pull away and close the game out."
A'dia Mathes added 16 points, along with five of UK's 27 turnovers, before fouling out. Keyla Snowden hit three three-pointers en route to 15 points. Maegan Conwright added 11 points and five assists, and Samantha Drake had a team-high 10 rebounds to go with five assists.
"We struggled there in the first half, obviously, down one going into halftime," said Matthew Mitchell, the former Morehead coach who is in his fifth season at UK. "So hats off to (Morehead). I just thought the final outcome was probably because our pressure was able to finally wear Morehead State down a little bit, and we started getting some easier buckets. But they made it awful hard on us there for a while."
Courtney Lumpkin led Morehead with 12 points and Linda Dixon had nine. Ashar Harris, a 5-11 junior, had 20 rebounds to go with eight points, although she also had seven of the Eagles' 30 turnovers.
The 36-point margin was two more than a year ago, when UK won 82-48.
Evans, who missed UK's exhibition against Coker because of a hip pointer, still is not 100 percent, according to Mitchell.
"She practiced maybe one time that was close to full speed and that was yesterday, and she didn't look great," Mitchell said.
After a good shootaround Friday, Mitchell said he thought that Evans took over when she sensed it was possible for UK to lose the game.
"That's always in the back of your mind because the game can go any way," Evans said. "Obviously we didn't want to come out here and lose a season opener.
"We have a lot to work on. I felt like we came out in the second half with a lot more energy and just came out with what Coach expects us to do the entire game."
The Wildcats have now won 13 of 14 season openers, including four of five under Mitchell.
For a half, that success seemed to be in jeopardy.
Morehead led by as many as four, and it enjoyed a one-point halftime lead thanks in large part to a 26-19 advantage on the boards. Harris had half of Morehead's caroms.
UK turned that around in the second half, outrebounding the Eagles 30-12.
"I just thought we were more competitive. Just our spirit was better there to try to make some plays," Mitchell said.
The first half, he said, "we just simply had too many people standing and not attacking the offensive glass. Then a lot of ball-watching on the defensive end. Ball going up, you need to find Ashar Harris. I think she had 20 rebounds, and that's just not good awareness. Because when a kid's playing that hard, you'd better put a body on her."
Better rebounding in the second half led to numerous runouts, and it was reflected in the shooting percentages. After going 12-for-31 (38.7) percent) in the first half, UK shot 23-for-37 (62.2 percent) the rest of the way.
Morehead's last lead came on Terrice Robinson's basket with 17½ minutes left for a 36-34 advantage.
UK went on a 13-1 run to take a 47-37 lead, and a 20-9 flurry pushed the margin to 67-46. The Cats continued to pour it on, with the final score being the greatest margin of separation.