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Maci Morris scores 21 but UK falls 74-70 to No. 16 South Carolina

Maci Morris (UK Athletics Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Maci Morris scored 21 points, but the 19th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team came up short, falling to No. 16 South Carolina 74-70 on Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum.

Morris, the senior from Bell County (Ky.) High School, connected on nine of her 18 shots from the floor, including three of eight from behind the arc. She added a season-high five assists and three blocked shots, which tied her career high.

Kentucky (17-5, 4-4 SEC) got 16 points from Rhyne Howard and 12 from Taylor Murray. Howard added three rebounds and a blocked shot, while Murray had five rebounds, five assists and two steals. With her 12 points, Murray moved into sole possession of 20th place on UK’s career scoring list. The senior from Odenton, Maryland, now has 1,223 points during her career in Lexington.

South Carolina (15-5, 7-1) outscored Kentucky 44-28 in the paint and 10-0 on fast break points.

Kentucky got off to a quick start, hitting its first three shots from the floor and taking an early 7-2 lead in the process. South Carolina scored the next four points, but Kentucky then went on a 7-2 run to lead 14-8 with 4:00 left in the first period. The Gamecocks made a pair of free throws before Kentucky scored six straight, all by Morris, to take a 20-10 lead. But South Carolina scored the last seven points of the period to cut Kentucky’s lead to 20-17 after one period. The Cats hit nine of their 16 field goal attempts (56.3 percent), while the Gamecocks connected on seven of 16 (43.8 percent).

South Carolina scored first in the second period, cutting Kentucky’s lead to one, 20-19. But Kentucky scored six of the game’s next eight points, on a pair of threes by Morris, to lead 26-21 with 6:56 left in the half. But South Carolina fought back with a 10-2 run to close the half, and the Gamecocks took a 31-28 lead into the break. Kentucky made only one of its last 10 shots in the period, and just three of 14 overall in the second quarter. Morris led all scorers with 14 points in the first half.

The Gamecocks carried that momentum into the second half, opening with an 8-2 run to take a 39-30 lead, forcing a UK timeout with 7:20 left in the third period. The Gamecocks would stretch the lead to 55-39 later in the third quarter, but Kentucky would score the last five points of the period to cut the lead to 55-44 with 10 minutes to play.

In the fourth quarter, South Carolina would lead 63-46, its biggest lead of the game. But the Wildcats would mount a comeback, using an 8-0 run to cut the lead to single digits, 66-57, with 4:39 to play. The Gamecocks scored the next four, but the Cats scored the next four to again get within single digits, 70-61. Kentucky would eventually cut the lead to five, 73-68, on a basket by Howard with eight seconds left in the game. After South Carolina missed two free throws, UK got a basket from KeKe McKinney to cut the lead to 73-70 with two seconds remaining, but the Cats would get no closer.

Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, hosting Florida at Rupp Arena. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky moves to 17-5 on the season and 4-4 in the league while South Carolina is now 16-4, 7-1 in the SEC.
    • The Wildcats will return to action Sunday vs. Florida at 2 p.m. ET inside Rupp Arena. The game will be televised on ESPNU while Darren Headrick will have the call on radio on the UK Sports Network.
  • Kentucky leads the all-time series in games played against South Carolina, 33-31.
    • UK owns a 20-10 mark in games played in Lexington.
    • South Carolina has won nine straight meetings in the series.
    • The two teams will meet against on Feb. 21 in Columbia.
  • UK is now 815-537 all-time in its 45 years as a program.
    • Matthew Mitchell is in his 12th year with the Wildcats and holds a 273-122 record. Mitchell is 303-151 overall in 14 years as a head coach.
  • Kentucky is ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 15 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25.
  • South Carolina is the seventh ranked opponent that Kentucky has played this season.
    • The Wildcats own a 3-4 record against ranked teams with wins against Missouri, South Florida and Tennessee and losses to Mississippi State and Louisville.
    • This concluded a three-game stretch of facing a ranked opponent each game for the Wildcats.


Team Notes

  • 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.
    • The Wildcats are 15-4 with those starting five this season.
  • South Carolina took a 31-28 lead into the break at halftime after the Wildcats lead for 17:38 in the first half.
    • The Gamecocks went on a 7-0 run to end the second quarter, keeping Kentucky scoreless for the final 4:13 of the period.
    • Kentucky scored just eight points in the second quarter, which tied its second fewest in a quarter this season.
    • UK shot just 3-of-14 from the field in the second quarter, while South Carolina went 6-of-13. UK made just one of its last 10 attempts from the field in the second quarter.
    • Morris scored six of Kentucky’s eight points in the second quarter, hitting two 3s.
  • After Kentucky took a 20-10 lead with 1:35 left in the first quarter, South Carolina went on a 40-15 run to build a double-digit lead over the next 18 minutes of play.
    • UK went just 5-of-27 from the field during that stretch for 18.5 percent.
    • Kentucky had a five-minute scoreless drought during that time leading to a 9-0 South Carolina run between the end of the second quarter and start of the third quarter.
  • Kentucky outscored South Carolina 26-19 in the fourth quarter to cut the Gamecocks lead to one possession in the final seconds before a South Carolina free throw sealed the win with 3 seconds remaining.
  • The Wildcats shot 38.9 percent from the field in the game and have shot less than 40 percent from the field in each of their last three games.
  • South Carolina had a 10-0 advantage in fast-break points in the game.
  • The Gamecocks outscored UK 44-28 in the paint.
    • The 44 points in the paint were the second most the Wildcats have surrendered in a game this season.


Player Notes

  • Senior guard Maci Morris scored a game-high 21 points with three 3s, five assists and three blocks.
    • Morris now has 1,562 career points, which ranks ninth most in program history. She needs 1 more point to tie Sara Potts for 8th all-time in school history in points scored.
    • Morris has 233 career 3-pointers made which ranks second in program history. She needs 38 more 3s to tie Sara Potts for most all-time.
    • Morris has hit at least one 3-pointer in 99 of 118 career games played.
  • Senior guard Taylor Murray scored 12 points with five assists and two steals. 
    • Murray now has 1,223 career points and ranks 20th all-time in points scored. She needs 95 more points to tie Bria Goss for 19th with 1,318. 
    • Murray has 407 career assists which ranks eighth most in program history. She needs one more to tie Makayla Epps for seventh.  
    • Murray has 255 career steals which ranks seventh most in program history. She needs 17 more steals to move into the top five in program history.
  • Sophomore forward KeKe McKinney scored six points with 10 rebounds and one block.
    • The 10 rebounds were a season high for McKinney.
    • McKinney had five offensive rebounds, which was one off her career best of six.
  • Freshman guard Rhyne Howard scored 16 points with three rebounds and hit two 3s.
    • Howard has scored 10 or more points in 17 games this season, including 15 or more in 13 games.

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