You must forgive me.
In all my years as a rabid Kentucky basketball fan, I must confess that I have never attended a Kentucky women’s basketball game. I don’t really know why that was, but it happened.
However, with the Wildcats featuring mountain stars Maci Morris (pictured) and Blair Green, it just felt right to rectify the situation and enjoy Kentucky women’s basketball. Mission accomplished.
After watching the Cats dispatch the Lady Railsplitters of Lincoln Memorial University (my alma mater, by the way) 101-64 Friday night, Nov. 2, there are some things that every UK fan needs to know about this group of young ladies in blue and white. Let’s discuss.
First off, this group will play fast. The Cats love to get out and run at any and every opportunity, and they are at their best at that pace. UK can afford to play that way because they have multiple players who can initiate the break. But the break really gets amped up when senior point guard Taylor Murray has the ball. Murray, a preseason All-SEC selection, has great vision and instincts with the ball in her hands which leads to easy baskets and nice looks at the rim for the Cats.
That speed carries over to the defensive end as well. UK is at their best when they can force turnovers and score easy buckets off them. Against LMU, the Cats forced 31 turnovers and scored 41 points off them. After the game, coach Matthew Mitchell mentioned that good teams usually score a point for every forced turnover (a 1:1 ratio.) The Cats were plus 10 in that regard. A very nice stat for UK, indeed.
Second, the Wildcats have length and athleticism. Against LMU, UK played 10 players in the rotation for most of the contest. Of that group, five Cats were taller than six feet. That length allows the Cats to cover a lot of ground in both their man to man and zone press. It also doesn’t hurt that these ladies are also great athletes as well. That combination allows for some mistakes to be made on the defensive end but also be erased quickly without doing the Cats harm.
Last and probably most important, this team plays exceptionally hard every minute of the contest. Case in point. After LMU opened up the game with a 10-5 lead, the UK bench came in and seized their opportunity, outscoring the Splitters 22-2 to give UK a 27-12 advantage. The Cats out rebounded LMU 40-39 with 24 offensive rebounds, had 18 steals, and tallied 12 blocked shots. All three areas magnify their hustle and effort on the night.
Granted, these Cats are young experience wise. Other than its senior backcourt, Murray and Morris, the Kentucky roster is dominated by underclassmen. There will be nights when they will look like underclassmen; that happens to all teams. But with their effort and athleticism, the Cats should be in every game they play and be a joy to watch.
So don’t be like me. Go enjoy a Kentucky women’s game. You won’t be disappointed.
Shane Shackleford is a regional sportswriter in Speedwell, Tenn. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, his website Coach Shack’s Corner at www.coachshack50/wixsite.com/coachshackscorner, Facebook, or Twitter @shack_daddy_1.
UK Athletics Photo of Morris by Britney Howard