UK Women's Basketball

Morris ‘does it for the mountains’ as Kentucky rolls to 5-0

Fans cheered as the University of Kentucky women were introduced before their home game against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday.
Fans cheered as the University of Kentucky women were introduced before their home game against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday. cbertram@herald-leader.com

The mountains came to Memorial Coliseum, so Maci Morris elevated her game.

Former Bell County teammates and friends were in the stands Wednesday to see the 2015 Kentucky Miss Basketball, and she showed them her best side.

Behind Morris’ career-high 17 points, No. 12 Kentucky topped Eastern Michigan 89-67, helped by a 24-4 points avalanche in the third quarter.

“She does it for the mountains,” teammate Makayla Epps joked of Morris, who made five of six three-pointers and added six rebounds in the victory. “She put on a shooting clinic because the mountains were in the stands today.”

Mostly she did it because she didn’t want her teammates to be upset with her, Morris said.

“I want to get them the assist,” she said. “If I’m open, they want that assist, so I’m like, ‘I’ve got to make this.’”

There were plenty of assists to go around Wednesday with the Cats getting 26 on 34 made baskets. The assists numbers tend to rise when a team makes 59.6 percent of its shots, the most for any UK team since 2007.

Coach Matthew Mitchell had no desire to go down a statistical memory lane, though.

“Over the years, the statistics don’t interest me nearly as much as what I see out there from effort and energy,” he said. “They’ll have to shoot real well if we play defense the way we did today.”

The coach, who hasn’t been displeased with his team much this season compared to previous seasons, said he thought there was a lack of energy and effort for the noon game in Memorial Coliseum.

“Those are the things that we just can’t have lapses in,” he said. “We have to be great attitude, great effort, great energy to be what we can be.”

He pulled Epps early in the first quarter to question all of the above when he saw her drive the lane lazily. Epps, who had 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds in the victory, said he was right.

The junior saw the intensity level rise during the second half, especially when the Cats held the Eagles to 26 percent shooting in the third quarter.

“As a group collectively, we did lack a lot of energy today, starting with warm-ups,” Epps said. “In the end, I thought we played a way better second half than we did a first half. We picked up energy tremendously in the second half.”

Senior Janee Thompson, who had her second career double-double with 16 points and 10 assists, said there were “little spurts where we had energy and focus, and it helped us get the lead, but we have to be able to do that throughout the entire game.”

The Cats (5-0) had a 66-47 lead after the third quarter, but the Eagles mounted a run.

“I thought we did a really good job of fighting right back,” said Coach Tory Verdi, whose team was led by 21 points and nine rebounds from Janay Morton.

As the Eagles (2-1) sneaked back into it early in the fourth quarter, Thompson answered with two from long range.

“Janee’s back-to-back threes were sort of the breaking point of the game,” Mitchell said.

Morris, Thompson and Epps combined to make nine three-pointers for the Cats, who shot 52.9 percent from long range.

And while Mitchell was displeased with the Cats’ effort at certain points, he was pleased to see his true freshman guard play well, whether it was for the mountains or for the assists.

“I thought Maci was fantastic today,” he said. “Great, great job. She was a real zone buster today. We need some of that right now.”

There are other things UK needs, too, but Mitchell said he was pleased with the outcome overall.

“Grateful for a huge third quarter,” he said on the day before Thanksgiving. “Big, big third quarter helped us get enough cushion to win. Eastern Michigan was tough on us today, and we’ll have to get better.”

No. 12 KENTUCKY 89, E. MICHIGAN 67

E. MICH.

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Morton

34

8-20

3-3

9

5

2

21

Webb

32

5-15

0-0

4

1

1

10

Ozelci

32

3-8

0-0

3

0

4

8

Sweeney

32

6-23

2-2

5

3

3

15

Kehoe

15

1-2

0-0

3

0

1

2

Dailey

14

2-8

0-0

0

1

0

4

Easley

7

0-1

0-0

2

0

1

0

Baldwin

25

3-6

1-5

5

0

2

7

Deans

8

0-0

0-0

1

1

1

0

Robinson

1

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Totals

200

28-83

6-10

34

11

15

67

Percentages: FG .337, FT .600. 3-Point Goals: 5-25, .200 (Morton 2-6, Ozelci 2-7, Sweeney 1-9, Webb 0-1, Dailey 0-2). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 3 (Baldwin 2, Ozelci). Turnovers: 9 (Sweeney 4, Webb 2, Dailey, Baldwin, Morton). Steals: 8 (Morton 3, Webb 2, Dailey, Sweeney, Baldwin). Technical Fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Thompson

27

6-11

2-2

2

10

1

16

Morris

28

6-9

0-0

6

2

1

17

Akhator

26

6-10

0-1

7

0

2

12

Epps

38

9-15

1-2

6

8

1

21

Jennings

16

3-5

2-2

4

1

2

8

Camara

17

1-1

2-4

7

0

3

4

Jakubcova

19

2-2

2-2

5

0

3

6

Goodin-Rogers

7

0-2

2-2

3

2

0

2

Murray

22

1-2

1-2

4

3

2

3

Totals

200

34-57

12-17

46

26

15

89

Percentages: FG .596, FT .706. 3-Point Goals: 9-17, .529 (Morris 5-6, Thompson 2-4, Epps 2-6, Goodin-Rogers 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 7 (Camara 2, Jakubcova 2, Morris, Goodin-Rogers, Akhator). Turnovers: 20 (Epps 4, Thompson 3, Jennings 3, Murray 3, Camara 2, Jakubcova 2, Morris, Akhator, Goodin-Rogers). Steals: 1 (Thompson). Technical Fouls: None.

E. Michigan

22

13

12

20

67

Kentucky

19

18

29

23

89

A—4,988. Officials—Bruce Morris, Greg Small, Nick Marshall.

Next game

Jackson State at Kentucky

2 p.m. Sunday (SEC Network Plus)

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