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Without Maci Morris, Cats score season-low 49 points, lose at home to Ole Miss

Rhyne Howard (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Playing without leading scorer Maci Morris, the 16th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team fell to visiting Ole Miss 55-49 on Sunday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum.

Freshman Rhyne Howard carried the offensive load in Morris’ absence, scoring 20 points for the Cats. It was the sixth time this season that Howard has scored at least 20 points in a game. Howard also led the Wildcats with 11 rebounds and tied for the team lead with four assists.

No other Kentucky player reached double figures in the game. Freshman Blair Green scored nine points in the contest, while Jaida Roper added seven.

Morris, the school’s No. 10 all-time scorer, missed the game with knee pain. The senior from Bell County (Ky.) High School averages 16.8 points per game on the season. Morris’ fellow senior Taylor Murray, who injured her knee at Tennessee on Thursday, played on Sunday, scoring two points in 35 minutes of action.

Both teams struggled offensively in the early going. The game was tied 4-4 when both teams went cold, resulting in a 3:59 scoring drought. Howard ended that stretch with a three-pointer, and later added a basket and free throw to give the Cats a 12-6 lead. That would be the score at the end of the first period. Each team committed six turnovers in the first 10 minutes, and the Cats held Ole Miss to just three of 12 shooting from the floor in the period.

Kentucky (15-3, 2-2 SEC) stretched its lead to 14-6 at the beginning of the second quarter on a jumper by Green. But Ole Miss would score nine of the game’s next 12 points to cut the UK advantage to 17-15 with 3:58 left in the period. The Cats would score the final four points of the half, taking a 21-15 advantage into the locker room, despite making just two of their 16 shots from the floor in the second period. Howard led Kentucky in points (six), rebounds (eight) and assists (two) in the first half.

In the third period, Kentucky grabbed an eight-point lead, 25-17. But Ole Miss rallied, mounting a 10-3 run to cut UK’s lead to 28-27 with 4:59 left in the quarter. Kentucky scored the next six points, including four in a row by KeKe McKinney, to lead 34-27, forcing an Ole Miss timeout with 2:03 left in the quarter. Ole Miss would score the next five points to cut the lead to two before Murray hit a pair of free throws, giving the Cats a 36-32 lead, which would be the score after the third quarter.

The Cats took a 38-32 lead early in the fourth quarter on a jumper by Green, but Ole Miss answered by scoring the next five points to get within one, 38-37, with 7:33 to play. Green responded for UK, hitting left-wing three-pointer to give the Cats a 41-37 advantage.

Ole Miss (7-11, 1-3) would score the next five points to take a 42-41 lead, their first lead since leading 4-2 in the first period. However, just over a minute later, Howard hit a shot from behind the arc, giving the Cats a 44-42 advantage. But again, Ole Miss had a response, scoring six in a row to lead 48-44 with 2:03 left in the game.

Howard brought the Cats within two, 48-46, on a basket with 1:41 to go. But Ole Miss would make five of its six free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

The Rebels got 28 points from Crystal Allen and 12 from La’Karis Salter in Sunday’s game.

No. 16/15 Kentucky 49, Ole Miss 55  – FINAL

Team Records and Series Notes

  • Kentucky moves to 15-3 on the season and 2-2 in the league while Ole Miss is now 7-11, 1-3 in the SEC.
    • The Wildcats will return to action Thursday at LSU at 7:30 p.m. ET in Baton Rouge, La. The game will be televised on the SEC Network+ while Darren Headrick will have the call on radio on the UK Sports Network.
  • Ole Miss leads the all-time series in games played against Kentucky, 23-18.
    • UK owns a 10-9 edge in games played in Lexington.
    • The win breaks a six-game winning streak the Wildcats had in the series in home games.
  • UK is now 813-535 all-time in its 45 years as a program.
    • Matthew Mitchell is in his 12th year with the Wildcats and holds a 271-120 record. Mitchell is 301-149 overall in 14 years as a head coach.
  • Kentucky is 11-1 at home this season.
    • The Wildcats hold a 450-157 all-time record in Memorial Coliseum, including a 159-28 mark under Matthew Mitchell.
  • Kentucky is ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today/Coaches Top 25.


Team Notes

  • Kentucky used the starting combination of junior guard Jaida Roper, junior guard Amanda Paschal, freshman guard Rhyne Howard, sophomore forward KeKe McKinney and sophomore forward Tatyana Wyatt.
    • Kentucky is 0-1 this season when using that starting combination. 
    • Today’s game broke a streak of 51 straight starts for senior guard Taylor Murray, who was available for the game but did not start with a bruised knee.
    • It was the fifth career start for Roper and the third career start for Paschal.
    • Maci Morris did not play in the game due to knee pain.
  • The Wildcats scored a season-low 21 points in the first half shooting 7-of-30 from the field for a season-low 23 percent from the field.
    • UK’s previous low for shooting in the first half was 27 percent against Virginia on Nov. 15.
    • Kentucky hit just one of its last 14 field-goal attempts in the first half. UK went without a field goal for the final 4:39 of the first half.
    • UK forced Ole Miss into 10 turnovers in the first half, but scored just three points off those miscues. The Wildcats turned the ball over 10 times in the first 20 minutes and Ole Miss scored six points off those errors.
  • Ole Miss scored 15 points in the first half, which tied a season low. The Rebels went 7-of-26 from the field in the first half.
    • Kentucky had not held an SEC opponent to 20 points or fewer in the first half since Florida scored just 18 last season in Gainesville on Jan. 11, 2018.
    • The Rebels missed their last seven shots of the first half and did not score the final 3:58 of the first half.
  • Kentucky got outscored 40-28 in the second half.
    • The Wildcats shot 29.4 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes.
  • UK’s point total of 49 points was its fewest this season while its 26.6 percent from the field was also a season-low percentage.
  • UK had 13 assists in the game and has recorded 10 or more assists in every game this season but one.
  • The Wildcats won the offensive rebounding battle, 12-8.


Player Notes

  • Senior guard Taylor Murray played 35 minutes and scored two points with five steals. 
    • Murray now has 1,182 career points and ranks tied for 22nd all-time in points scored. She needs five more to tie Maria Donhoff for 21st.
    • Murray has 395 career assists which ranks ninth most in program history. She needs five more to tie Rita Adams for eighth.  
  • Freshman guard Rhyne Howard scored a team-high 20 points with 11 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season.              
    • Howard hit five 3-pointers in the game and added four assists with one steal.
    • Howard has scored 20 or more points six times this season while she had led UK in scoring nine times.
    • This was the 10th time that Howard has led UK in rebounding.

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