LEXINGTON, Ky. – Senior guard Taylor Murray had 16 points, while freshman Rhyne Howard added 15 as the Kentucky women’s basketball team won its season opener, beating Alabama State 87-35 on Wednesday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky’s pressure defense, led by Murray’s six steals, was the biggest factor in the game. The Wildcats forced the Lady Hornets into 43 turnovers, and were able to score 51 points off the ASU mistakes. As a team, Kentucky had 23 steals, the most for a Wildcat team since November 13, 2013 when UK had 24 steals against Georgia Southern.
The win was Kentucky’s biggest since an 85-31 win over UNC-Asheville on March 19, 2016.
Freshman Blair Green scored 13 points in her collegiate debut, while senior Maci Morris had 11 points for the Cats. KeKe McKinney was solid for the Cats with seven points and seven rebounds, while Jaida Roper had eight points and a team-high six assists.
The Wildcats got off to a quick start, taking a 7-0 lead behind a pair of Murray baskets and a three-pointer by Howard. But Alabama State answered with a 7-2 run to cut the UK lead to 9-7 with 4:39 left in the first period. In fact, the run, in total, would be 14-6 and the Lady Hornets would grab their first and only lead, 14-13, with 1:55 remaining in the quarter.
Murray would add a basket in the lane with 30 seconds left in the period, and Kentucky would hold a 15-14 lead after 10 minutes of play. Murray led UK with six points in the quarter, as the Wildcats hit just six of 19 (31.6 percent) from the floor.
As they did in the first quarter, Kentucky started quickly in the second period. The Wildcats scored nine straight, fueled by four points from Murray and a three-pointer from McKinney, to take a 24-14 advantage. A 17-2 run, including back-to-back three-pointers from Morris, made it 32-16 Cats with 3:23 left in the first half.
Kentucky would take a 20-point lead with 1:32 left in the half on a pair of free throws by Green, and the Cats would lead 39-22 at the break. Kentucky forced Alabama State into 24 turnovers in the first half, including 15 in the second quarter. The Cats turned those 24 turnovers into 25 points.
Early in the third quarter, Kentucky led 45-26 before assembling a 13-1 run, including six points by Green, to take a 58-27 lead with 2:56 left in the quarter. The Cats would outscore the Lady Hornets 25-8 in the quarter, and would lead 64-30 heading to the final 10 minutes. Kentucky forced 11 more ASU turnovers in the third quarter and turned those into 15 points.
As they had done in the previous three quarters, Kentucky went on an early run to start the fourth period. The Wildcats scored the first 19 points of the fourth quarter, taking an 83-30 lead late in the game before settling for the 52-point victory.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, as the Wildcats host Southern University at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network+
- Kentucky used the starting combination of senior guard Taylor Murray, senior guard Maci Morris, freshman guard Rhyne Howard, sophomore forward KeKe McKinney and sophomore forward Tatyana Wyatt.
- Kentucky is now 1-0 this season when it uses this starting combination.
- The Wildcats took control of the game by outscoring the Lady Hornets 24-8 in the second quarter to take a 39-22 lead into the break at halftime.
- Kentucky started the quarter with a 17-2 run led by consecutive 3-pointers from Maci Morris.
- UK forced 15 turnovers in the second quarter and scored 19 points off those miscues. Kentucky had 10 steals in the second quarter alone.
- Conversely, UK limited its mistakes in the second stanza with only two turnovers after seven in the first quarter.
- The Lady Hornets had just five field-goal attempts in the second quarter.
- Kentucky went on a 12-0 run late in the third quarter to grab a 64-30 lead.
- The run was generated by incredible play from UK’s freshmen, which scored 11 straight points during the run.
- UK shot 52 percent (11-for-21) from the field in the third stanza.
- The Wildcats continued their strong defense as well forcing 11 turnovers and scoring 15 points off those miscues.
- The Wildcats put together a strong fourth quarter defensively to run away with the game allowing Alabama State just five points.
- ASU’s five points was just two off the school record for fewest points allowed in a game (3 points by Jackson State in 2015).
- Kentucky started the fourth quarter on a 19-0 run. The run was the second 10-0 run or better for Kentucky in the game.
- Both of Kentucky’s freshmen scored 13 or more points, which is the first time in program history that two freshmen scored 13 or more in their varsity debuts.
- Kentucky forced Alabama State into 43 turnovers, which is the fourth most turnovers forced in a game in program history.
- UK scored 51 points off those miscues.
- It was the first time UK forced 40 or more turnovers in a game since a school-record 49 against Arkansas Pine-Bluff on Dec. 11, 2011.
- UK had 23 steals in the game, which is the sixth most steals in a game in program history.
- It was the first time Kentucky had recorded 20 or more steals since 24 vs. Georgia Southern on Nov. 13, 2013.
- After allowing 14 points in the first quarter, Kentucky limited the Lady Hornets to single-digit points the next three quarters with eight in the second and the third and just five in the fourth.
- Kentucky played 11 players in the game with 10 scoring at least one points.
- Senior guard Taylor Murray scored a game-high 16 points adding five assists and six steals.
- Murray has now led UK in scoring 17 times in her career and in assists 43 times in her career.
- Freshman guard Rhyne Howard scored 15 points in the game, adding six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
- Howard’s 15 points were the fifth most in a player’s varsity debut in program history.
- Freshman guard Blair Green had 13 points in the game, going 5-of-10 from the field and 1-of-3 from long range.
- Green’s 13 points tied the seventh most in a player’s varsity debut in program history.
- Senior guard Maci Morris scored 11 points going 3-of-6 from long range.
- Morris now has a 3-pointer in 14 consecutive games dating back to last season.