UK Women's Basketball

Mitchell: Cats ‘desperately’ need to limit turnovers

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell watched his team during the first half against Middle Tennessee on Sunday in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell watched his team during the first half against Middle Tennessee on Sunday in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Associated Press

By Matthew Mitchell’s math, if Kentucky wants to continue to be successful this season, it has to turn the ball over 12 times or fewer in each game.

The Cats had nearly that many by halftime of the game against Middle Tennessee on Sunday.

But UK took much better care of the ball in the second half, with just three miscues, which had the head coach much happier and helped the Cats get a 68-52 victory over the Blue Raiders at the Murphy Center.

“Coach was really focusing on making smart passes, just being strong with the ball and running the plays right, being patient and not trying to force things,” freshman Maci Morris said of the halftime chat. “We did a better job of that in the second half.”

Mitchell agreed that the second half “is much more like what we want.”

The coach said part of Kentucky’s problem is finding a way to make things easier on junior college transfer Evelyn Akhator, who had a team-high four miscues in the victory.

“A lot of that is Evelyn is trying to find herself,” Mitchell said. “People are playing off of her so much, so she has a lot of decisions to make. As a coach, we have to simplify things for her when she catches the ball in the high post.”

The 14 turnovers were fewer than UK had against Louisville (18) and considerably better than its average of 19 turnovers in the first three games this season.

The Cats forced Middle Tennessee into 26 turnovers, which UK turned into 21 points.

“We desperately need to become a 12-turnover-a-game team” to be successful, Mitchell said.

‘It wasn’t just luck’

Poor Maci Morris.

After being called out for lackluster defense against Northern Kentucky two games ago, the freshman guard bounced back to have a strong defensive showing against Louisville.

But that wasn’t enough for her coaches, she said, laughing.

“One of my coaches was making a joke about being lucky with my defense in the Louisville game, so I wanted to prove him wrong that it wasn’t just luck and I’m doing better,” said Morris, who for the second straight game was assigned to the opponent’s leading scorer.

Brea Edwards still managed to get 15 points, but one of the country’s best three-point shooters made just two of seven from long range. Morris had two steals.

“Maci Morris for the second straight game really hustled on defense and really is not being an adequate defender, she’s being an effective defender,” Mitchell said. “I thought we really made Brea hustle today.”

Harper, Rich select new schools

Former UK star guard Linnae Harper will transfer to Ohio State, according to reports by and The Columbus Dispatch.

Morgan Rich, the Allen County-Scottsville guard who signed with Kentucky but never played, announced via social media that she plans to play at Oklahoma. The 5-foot-10 freshman was never cleared to practice with the team and requested a transfer.

Western Kentucky announced last week that former UK player Kyvin Goodin-Rogers is transferring there.

Quick hits

▪  Kentucky moves to 9-0 for just the fifth time in program history. The other seasons were 1980-81, 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2013-14.

▪  Forward Alyssa Rice scored her first points of the season after missing UK’s first seven games with a stress reaction in her right foot. In nine minutes Sunday, the sophomore had three points, three rebounds and a steal.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader