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Matthew Mitchell gets 300th win as Cats roll past Vanderbilt 77-55

Matthew Mitchell (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Rhyne Howard scored 16 points and dished out a career-high seven assists as the 16th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team topped Vanderbilt 77-55 on Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum in the SEC opener for both teams.

Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell earned his 300th career victory in the game, with 270 of those coming during his 12-year tenure in Lexington.

Maci Morris scored 14 points, including four-of-seven shooting from behind the arc. Morris moved into 14th place on Kentucky’s career scoring list, passing Tiffany Wait in Thursday’s game. The senior from Bell County (Ky.) High School now has 1,448 points during her four years in Lexington.

Kentucky’s defensive pressure was the story of the game, as the Wildcats forced 29 Vanderbilt turnovers, turning those into 30 points. Kentucky also held a big advantage in bench points, outscoring Vanderbilt 27-8.

Blair Green and KeKe McKinney each had nine points for the Wildcats, while Jaida Roper added eight points and five assists.

Kentucky (14-1, 1-0 SEC) hit six of its first seven shots from the floor, building a 14-6 lead early in the first quarter. Morris had eight early points, while Howard had six. Vanderbilt answered with a 9-1 run to cut the UK lead to 16-15 with 1:43 left in the period. But Kentucky was able to extend the lead back to six, 21-15, to end the period. The Commodores made all six of their field goal attempts in the quarter, overcoming eight turnovers that led to 10 UK points.

In the second quarter, Kentucky was again hot from the field, hitting five of its first eight shots. In the process, the Wildcats turned a four-point lead at the quarter break into a 16-point advantage, 37-21, with 2:20 left in the half. Kentucky would lead 40-24 after 20 minutes behind 11 points from Morris and eight from Howard. Vanderbilt would finish the first half with 16 turnovers, which led to 16 UK points. Kentucky turned the ball over only six times in the half, and Vandy scored five points off the UK miscues.

In the third period, Kentucky continued to reap the benefits of its full-court pressure defense. The Cats forced the Commodores into four early second-half turnovers and UK was able to turn this mistakes into an 8-2 run that produced a 49-26 lead with 7:24 left in the third.

The run continued, with Kentucky outscoring Vanderbilt 16-5 in the first five minutes of the second half, taking a 56-29 lead in the process. The Cats would eventually lead by 30, 65-35, in the third quarter, and UK would hold a 65-38 advantage after three periods. Blair Green had nine points in the third period to lead Kentucky.

In the fourth period, Kentucky would lead by 30 again, but Vandy ended the game on a 6-0 run to cut into UK’s final margin of victory.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky moves to 14-1 on the season while Vanderbilt is now 5-9.   
    • The Wildcats will return to action Sunday at No. 6/7 Mississippi State at 5 p.m. ET in Starkville, Miss.. The game will be televised on the SEC Network while Darren Headrick will have the call on radio on the UK Sports Network.
  • Thursday’s game concluded a five-game home stretch for the Wildcats.
  • Vanderbilt leads the all-time series in games played against Kentucky 28-25.
    • UK leads the series in games played in Lexington, 13-11.
    • The Wildcats have won 12 of the last 14 meetings while Matthew Mitchell is 13-5 all-time against Vanderbilt.
  • UK is now 812-533 all-time in program history.
    • Matthew Mitchell is in his 12th year with the Wildcats and holds a 270-118 record. Mitchell is 300-147 overall in 14 years as a head coach.
    • This was Coach Mitchell’s 300th career win as a head coach.
  • The Wildcats hold a 449-156 all-time record in Memorial Coliseum, including a 158-27 mark under Coach Mitchell.
  • UK is 18-19 all-time in SEC openers, including 24-13 in SEC home openers.
    • Kentucky is 9-3 in SEC openers under Matthew Mitchell.
  • Kentucky is ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 15 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25.
  • Kentucky’s 14-1 start is the second best under Mitchell. The Wildcats started 18-1 in 2012-13.


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.
    • Kentucky is now 13-1 this season with this starting combination.
  • The Wildcats grabbed an eight-point lead early in the game forcing a Vanderbilt time out with 6:03 to go in the first quarter. The Commodores would come out of the break on a 9-2 run to cut UK’s lead to one but Kentucky scored five straight points to end the quarter to grab a 21-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
  • Kentucky started the second quarter with an 11-4 run to grab its biggest lead of the game at 32-19 with 5:45 left in the first half.
    • Overall, after Vanderbilt had cut the lead to one Kentucky finished the first half on a 24-9 run to take a 16-point lead into halftime.
  • Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field in the first half with UK going 15-for-29 from the field, while Vanderbilt went 9-of-17. The Wildcats went 4-of-12 from 3 in the first half while Vanderbilt was 0-for-1.
    • UK forced Vandy into 16 turnovers in the first half and scored 16 points off those miscues.
    • Kentucky has scored 40 or more points in the first half of four of its last five games.
  • Kentucky forced Vanderbilt into a season-high 29 turnovers and scored 30 points off those miscues.
  • UK won the second-chance point battle, 12-4, and had a 27-8 edge in bench points.
  • Kentucky limited Vanderbilt to just nine points in the second quarter, which was 18th time this season UK has held an opponent to 10 points or less in a quarter.
  • UK scored 20 or more points in two quarters during the game and have now scored 20 or more points in 33 of its 60 quarters played this season.


Player Notes

  • Senior guard Maci Morris scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting including four 3-pointers.
    • Morris now has 1,448 career points, which ranks 14th most in program history. She needs one more point to tie Jennifer O’Neill for 13th all-time in school history in points scored.
    • Morris has 218 career 3-pointers made which ranks second in program history. She needs 53 more 3s to tie Sara Potts for most all-time.
    • Morris has hit at least one 3-pointer in 28 straight games.
  • Senior guard Taylor Murray scored seven points with five rebounds and five assists in the game.
    • Murray now has 1,165 career points and ranks 26th all-time in points scored. She needs five more points to tie Jocelyn Mills for 25th all-time.
    • Murray has 390 career assists which ranks ninth most in program history. She needs 110 more to tie Rita Adams for eighth.   
  • Freshman guard Rhyne Howard scored 16 points with four rebounds and seven assists.
    • Howard had led Kentucky in scoring eight times this season.
    • Howard’s seven assists were a career high and she has led UK in assists twice this season.
    • This was the 11th time this season that Howard has scored 15 or more points in a game.
  • Junior guard Jaida Roper scored eight points with five assists.
  • Freshman guard Blair Green scored nine points with two rebounds and two steals in the second half.
  • Sophomore forward KeKe McKinney scored nine points with three rebounds.


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