UK Women's Basketball

UK women improve to 11-0 with rout of Tennessee State

Kentucky forwards Maci Morris (4) and Batouly Camara (1) congratulated guard Taylor Murray (24) on scoring during the first half Monday, Dec. 28, 2015 in Lexington.
Kentucky forwards Maci Morris (4) and Batouly Camara (1) congratulated guard Taylor Murray (24) on scoring during the first half Monday, Dec. 28, 2015 in Lexington.

Kentucky’s coach couldn’t have scripted it better.

Closing out 2015 and heading into Southeastern Conference play, Matthew Mitchell got just what he wanted from the Cats’ 81-39 victory over Tennessee State on Monday night.

It was a “team win” for No. 7 Kentucky with six players — including all five starters — scoring in double figures, but none scoring more than 14 points.

It’s the type of team Kentucky is going to have to be if it wants to add to an 11-game win streak as it starts league play.

We need to be a team that you don’t know who you can key on, and anybody can hurt you.

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell

“We need to be a team that you don’t know who you can key on, and anybody can hurt you,” Mitchell said after the victory at Memorial Coliseum. “We need balance and we need everybody contributing and hustling.”

Mission accomplished for UK, which matched the best start in school history at 11-0 and is one win at Auburn on Sunday from getting to 12-0 for the first time ever.

“They’re better than they were last year,” said Tennessee State Coach Larry Joe Inman, who faced UK here just a few months ago in the NCAA Tournament. “They’re more complete inside and outside. … They’re very hard to guard, I mean really hard to guard because they have so many weapons.”

In the first half, it was freshman guards Maci Morris and Taylor Murray picking up the scoring slack when UK stars Makayla Epps and Janee Thompson struggled, going a combined 1-for-11 from the field.

Murray matched her career best with 13 points in 17 minutes; her roommate, Morris, finished with 13 points as well.

“We just play our game and whatever we can do to contribute, to help the team is what we do,” Morris said.

The Cats got a big lift off the bench early from Murray, who had eight points in that first quarter, including a sequence where she hit a three, forced a five-second call on the other end, then got a steal and completed a three-point play.

“We feed off of each other,” Murray said of UK’s balance. “We always penetrate, we have shooters and we can all drive. We just help each other when we’re out there on the floor.”

Morris and Murray, along with fellow freshman Batouly Camara, combined to score 20 straight points in the first half and help give UK a 38-17 advantage at the break.

“They had some really good moments in the game,” Mitchell said of his freshmen. “I’m just really happy that they’ve been able to progress so quickly.”

UK forward Evelyn Akhator led the way 14 points and 13 rebounds to go with two blocked shots, two steals and an assist. Alexis Jennings pitched in 10 points and eight boards.

“This year to me, they’re very good inside and they’re very good outside as well,” Inman continued of Kentucky, which has had five or more players score in double figures four times this season. “You can’t leave anybody open for any amount of time or they’re going to knock it down. … It was hard to pick your poison.”

Kentucky’s defense was pretty toxic, too, with the Tigers scoring a season-low 39 points on 26.7 percent shooting. Tennessee State turned the ball over 24 times, which UK turned into 27 points.

Only junior forward Jayda Johnson scored in double digits for the Tigers (5-7), finishing with 19 points and six rebounds.

“We really wanted to have our team focused and take pride on limiting them to as few possible points as we could,” said Mitchell, whose team also outrebounded the Tigers 46-36 and blocked nine of their shots.

Eventually Kentucky’s veterans got their games going, too, with Thompson scoring 10 points (despite starting the game 0-for-7) and dishing out four assists. Epps added 11 points to go with four rebounds, four assists and four steals in the rout.

The Cats, one of the nation’s top offensive teams this season, made 47.1 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from three-point range.

It had Inman singing UK’s praises: “I’ve been in this business a long time, seen a lot of great teams, a lot of great players and I just thought (Kentucky) had the complete package.”

No. 7 KENTUCKY 81,

TENNESSEE ST. 39

TENNESSEE ST.

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Davis

27

2-11

4-6

9

1

1

9

Lawrence

29

1-6

0-0

3

2

1

2

Palma

27

2-7

0-0

6

2

4

4

Johnson

28

9-23

1-1

6

1

4

19

Beard

20

1-5

0-0

1

1

0

2

T Parker

22

0-3

0-0

3

0

2

0

Beatty

14

1-2

0-0

0

0

2

2

Hood

3

0-1

0-0

0

0

0

0

Cox

20

0-1

1-2

2

1

1

1

Sims

10

0-1

0-0

0

0

1

0

Totals

200

16-60

6-9

36

8

16

39

Percentages: FG .267, FT .667. Three-point goals: 1-11, .091 (Davis 1-2, Cox 0-1, Sims 0-1, Beard 0-1, Lawrence 0-3, Johnson 0-3). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 3 (T. Parker 2, Davis). Turnovers: 24 (Johnson 6, Beard 6, Davis 4, Cox 3, T. Parker 2, Palma, Beatty, Lawrence). Steals: 4 (Johnson 2, Lawrence, Davis). Technical fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Thompson

33

3-14

2-2

2

4

1

10

Morris

26

5-9

2-2

2

0

0

13

Akhator

24

7-11

0-1

13

1

0

14

Epps

33

4-7

3-4

4

4

1

11

Jennings

24

4-8

2-4

8

0

1

10

Camara

21

3-8

0-0

6

2

0

6

Jakubcova

11

0-2

0-0

2

1

2

0

Murray

17

5-7

1-1

2

2

2

13

Rice

11

1-2

2-2

4

2

2

4

Totals

200

32-68

12-16

46

16

9

81

Percentages: FG .471, FT .750. Three-point goals: 5-8, .625 (Murray 2-2, Thompson 2-4, Morris 1-2). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 9 (Jennings 2, Rice 2, Morris 2, Akhator 2, Camara). Turnovers: 13 (Epps 3, Akhator 2, Camara 2, Rice 2, Murray 2, Morris, Thompson). Steals: 8 (Epps 4, Akhator 2, Morris, Murray). Technical fouls: None.

Tennessee St.

9

8

9

13

39

Kentucky

27

11

25

18

81

A—5,586. Officials—Denise Brooks, Eric Brewton, Kelly Johnson.

Next game

Kentucky at Auburn

3 p.m. Sunday (SEC Network Plus)

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