UK Women's Basketball

It's no island breeze as UK women fight off Northern Kentucky

Kentucky's Linnae Harper (15) went up for a shot against Northern Kentucky's Christine Roush (10) during the first half Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum in the Cats' 82-64 win over the Norse.
Kentucky's Linnae Harper (15) went up for a shot against Northern Kentucky's Christine Roush (10) during the first half Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum in the Cats' 82-64 win over the Norse. Herald-Leader

On island time everything is slower, sleepier.

There's no rush to get anywhere anytime soon.

No. 13 Kentucky appeared to still be operating on island time as it returned to Memorial Coliseum from three games in the Virgin Islands last week.

The Cats were lethargic and slow early on, never leading by more than 12 points over Northern Kentucky in the first half.

Then they missed their first seven shots of the second half and allowed NKU to pull within six points before brushing off the sand and surf. The Cats made eight of their next nine shots to pull away to win 82-64 on Wednesday night.

Island time wasn't as big of a concern as practice time for Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell, though.

"This is just where we are right now and I think if we can ever string some practices together ... you can start to make some improvement," he said. "We just aren't sharp right now."

Relying on young post players "forgetting where to go" and not moving the ball effectively, gets Kentucky into ruts.

Coach and players seem to think practice can fix that, but it will need to happen fast with a game at No. 7 Louisville looming on Sunday.

"It's tough. We've played a lot of games with very little practice," senior guard Bria Goss said. "So it's a lot of mental focus. ... But I think we're going to get better as we go along in this process."

After the Norse cut the Cats lead to six points early in the second half, UK was able to get out of its funk with a little bit of aggression.

"I thought finally we got a little defense going, and I thought Linnae Harper led the charge there," Mitchell said of the sophomore, one of four players in double figures for Kentucky, with 13 points.

Kentucky (7-1) was able to force three straight turnovers and scored on eight of nine shots in a row to start to pull ahead behind Harper and Makayla Epps, who added 11 points and six rebounds.

Forward Kyvin Goodin-Roger scored the first seven points of the game and accounted for 13 of the Cats' first 19 points, besting her career high in the first eight minutes.

The sophomore, who sat out last season with a blood clot in her lungs, finished with a game-best 19 points to go with four rebounds and three steals.

"She was aggressive to start offensively," Mitchell said of Goodin-Rogers. "When she gets in a rhythm and can make some threes for us and get to the basket and play with some energy offensively in transition, she can help us out."

Goss added a season-best 16 points and four rebounds.

Mitchell was glad to see the senior, who had been doing other things well but not scoring much in the early part of the season, find her form.

"Bria plays so hard and works so hard for you, and I think she was pressing a little bit and shooting real off balance shots early in the season," Mitchell said. "Really panicked around the goal and I thought tonight she was much more under control, took good shots."

But even Goss, a career 81.6 percent free throw shooter including making more than 90 percent last season, struggled from the free throw line last night.

Kentucky hit 46.7 percent from the field, which was only slightly behind its free throw shooting at 51.2 percent. The percentage fell to 42.3 (11 of 26) in the second half.

It's been a consistent issue for the Cats so far this season, who are shooting a combined 62.6 percent from there after eight games.

Mitchell said the team did some extra reps at the free throw line on Tuesday at practice and Wednesday's shoot-around, but it "didn't help us very much.

"There's not a lot you can do there but work at it and keep working at it, but we sure missed far too many tonight."

Former Mercy standout Christine Roush and Kaitlyn Gerrety led the Norse (4-4) with 13 points apiece.

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