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Mississippi State’s size too much for Kentucky

Maci Morris scored a team-best 20 points with two 3’s, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals. (UK Athletics Photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Maci Morris scored 20 points and Rhyne Howard added 15, but it was not enough as the 16th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team lost to seventh-ranked Mississippi State 86-71 on Sunday at Humphrey Coliseum.

With her effort on Sunday, Morris moved into 13th place on Kentucky’s career scoring list, passing UK legend Jennifer O’Neill. The senior from Bell County (Ky.) High School now has 1,468 career points and needs only 20 points to move into the Top 10 on that prestigious list. Sunday’s game was the 17th time in her career that Morris has scored at least 20 points, and the fourth such game this season.

Mississippi State (14-1, 2-0 SEC) took advantage of its superior size in Sunday’s game, controlling the paint for most of the game. The Bulldogs had a 48-24 advantage on the boards, outscored Kentucky 25-12 in second-chance points, and scored 48 points in the paint compared to Kentucky’s 22.

Kentucky (14-2, 1-1) got on the board first on a Tatyana Wyatt layup. But Mississippi State scored the next seven points to lead 7-2 with 6:20 left in the first period. After Wyatt hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 7-5, MSU ran off 12 straight to take a 19-5 lead with 3:01 to go in the first. Kentucky would get a pair of free throws from Ogechi Anyagaligbo to end the run, but MSU scored the next seven points to lead 26-7. UK scored the final four points of the period, but the Wildcats trailed 26-11 after 10 minutes of play.

The Wildcats scored the first five points of the second quarter as Howard converted a jumper, then hit a three-pointer, cutting the lead to 26-16. The Cats would cut the lead to single digits when Morris made her first basket, cutting the lead to 31-22 with 4:31 left in the half. But MSU would score the next four, and the Bulldogs led 41-27 at the break. Howard and Wyatt led UK with five points apiece in the first 20 minutes.

In the third period, MSU maintained its double-digit lead. Kentucky got within 10, 59-49, on a jumper by Jaida Roper. But the Bulldogs scored the final five points of the period to lead 64-49 after three quarters.

Kentucky would get within 14 in the fourth quarter, as Morris hit a jumper to make it 76-62. But MSU scored seven straight to take their biggest lead of the game, 83-62. The Wildcats would not give up, mounting a 9-1 run to cut the lead to 84-71 with 48 seconds left, but Kentucky would get no closer.

Kentucky returns to action on Thursday, visiting Tennessee in SEC action. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky moves to 14-2 on the season and 1-1 in the league while Mississippi State is now 14-1 and 2-0 in the SEC.   
    • The Wildcats will return to action Thursday at No. 11/11 Tennessee at 7 p.m. ET in Knoxville, Tenn. The game will be televised on the SEC Network while Darren Headrick will have the call on radio on the UK Sports Network.
  • Kentucky leads the all-time series in games played against Mississippi State, 27-21. 
    • The series in games played in Starkville is tied 10-10.
    • Matthew Mitchell is 12-6 all-time against his alma mater.
  • UK is now 812-534 all-time in program history.
    • Matthew Mitchell is in his 12th year with the Wildcats and holds a 270-119 record. Mitchell is 300-148 overall in 14 years as a head coach.
  • Kentucky is ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 15 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25.
  • The Bulldogs were the third ranked foe UK has faced this season. UK has a win over then-No. 17 South Florida before a loss at No. 5/4 Louisville.
    • Both of Kentucky’s losses this season have come to top-10 teams on the road.


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 13-2 this season with this starting combination.
  • UK had four early turnovers leading to nine of the first 13 Mississippi State points coming off UK miscues in the first five minutes of the game.
    • The Bulldogs continued to thrive off UK turnovers in the first quarter forcing six turnovers and scoring 13 points off those.
    • Twenty of MSU’s 26 first-quarter points were scored in the point with the other six points coming off free throws.
    • A total of 14 fouls were called in the first quarter – seven on both teams.
    • UK shot just 3-of-14 from the field in the first quarter while MSU went 10-of-20.
  • UK outscored MSU 16-15 in the second quarter to shrink the Bulldogs lead to 41-27 at halftime.
    • Kentucky shot 6-of-13 from the field for 46.2 percent in the second period. State went 6-of-17 from the field.
  • Kentucky cut State’s lead to 10 points with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter but the Bulldogs scored the last five points of the period to get the lead back to 15 to start the fourth quarter.
  • UK forced Mississippi State into a season-high 24 turnovers and scored 28 points off those miscues.
    • State forced UK into 22 turnovers and scored 31 points off those miscues.
  • Kentucky went 14-of-16 from the free-throw line for 88 percent.
  • UK won the battle in steals with 15 compared to 11 from Mississippi State.
  • Kentucky is only the third team this season to score 70 or more points against Mississippi State.
    • The other two teams to accomplish the feat were top-10 ranked Oregon and top-20 ranked Marquette.


Player Notes

  • Senior guard Maci Morris scored a team-best 20 points with two 3s, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
    • Morris now has 1,468 career points, which ranks 13th most in program history. She needs 14 more point to tie Stacey Reed for 12th all-time in school history in points scored.
    • Morris has 220 career 3-pointers made which ranks second in program history. She needs 51 more 3s to tie Sara Potts for most all-time.
    • Morris has hit at least one 3-pointer in 29 straight games.
    • Has hit 21 consecutive free throws, including going 4-for-4 in the game.
      • That ranks ninth most in school history. 
    • The three blocks ties a career high.
  • Senior guard Taylor Murray scored six points with four assists, four points and four steals.
    • Murray now has 1,171 career points and ranks 25th all-time in points scored. She needs five more points to tie Patty Jo Hedges for 24th all-time.
    • Murray has 394 career assists which ranks ninth most in program history. She needs 106 more to tie Rita Adams for eighth.  
  • Freshman guard Rhyne Howard scored 15 points with six steals, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
    • This was the 12th time this season that Howard has scored 15 or more points in a game.
    • Howard has six or more steals in three games this season.

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