No. 16 Kentucky Faces Tough Road Test at No. 7 Mississippi State
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Looking to extend its five-game winning streak, the No. 16 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team travels to face No. 7 Mississippi State on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET inside Humphrey Coliseum for its second true road game of the season.
The game will be televised on the SEC Network with Courtney Lyle and Tamika Catchings on the call. The action can also be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. Darren Headrick will have the call on the UK Sports Network on 630 AM in Lexington. Live stats and free live audio will be available online at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky (14-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) started its league slate in style Thursday vs. Vanderbilt with a 77-55 win over the Commodores inside Memorial Coliseum. UK led by 30 points toward the end of the third quarter before VU outscored UK 17-12 in the fourth quarter. UK shot 49.2 percent from the field in the game paced by 16 points from Rhyne Howard and 14 points including four 3-pointers by Maci Morris. The Wildcats forced Vanderbilt into a season-high 29 turnovers and scored 30 points off those miscues. UK also had 12 second-chance points and had a 27-8 edge in bench points.
UK has been paced this season by Howard, who averages 17.5 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game with 41 assists, 32 steals and 14 blocks. Morris is averaging 15.9 points per game and has hit a team-best 41 3-pointers this season, while fellow senior Taylor Murray is averaging 13.6 points per game and leads Kentucky in assists with 63 and steals with 55. Junior guard Jaida Roper is averaging 8.9 points per game and is second on the team with 44 assists.
As a team, Kentucky ranks first in the nation in turnover margin at 11.2 while sitting fourth nationally and first in the SEC in turnovers forced per game at 24.2. The Wildcats are hitting 43.5 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from long range this season. The high percentage from long range ranks ninth nationally and first in the league, while UK’s 123 made 3s ranks 17th nationally and first in the SEC.
Mississippi State enters Sunday’s game with a 13-1 record and is coming off a strong showing in its SEC opener Thursday with a 93-69 win at Arkansas. The Bulldogs only loss came at highly ranked Oregon, 82-74, back in mid-December. MSU has wins this season over Virginia, Texas, Marquette and Washington. The Bulldogs are 7-0 at home this season and 6-1 away from Starkville.
As a team, Mississippi State is averaging 92.6 points per game and are allowing just 53.3 points per game, which is the top scoring margin in the nation. MSU is hitting 51.4 percent from the field this season, including 38.2 percent from long range. The Bulldogs have a +17.6 rebounding margin and a +8.1 turnover margin entering Sunday while forcing teams into 20.9 turnovers per game.
Individually, MSU is led by senior center Teaira McCowan who is averaging 16.6 points and 13.2 rebounds per game with a team-best 40 blocks. Graduate senior forward Anriel Howard is averaging 15.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game with 23 assists and 18 steals, while senior guard Jordan Danberry is averaging 13.1 points per game with 49 assists. Sophomore forward Chloe Bibby is the fourth player averaging double figures at 11.6 points per game with a team-best 28 3-pointers made. Senior guard Jazzmun Holmes leads the team with 74 assists with 27 steals.
Kentucky leads the all-time series 27-20 against Mississippi State, including a 10-9 mark in games played in Starkville. Coach Mitchell is 12-5 all-time against his alma mater. Prior to last season, UK had won 11 straight games in the series before the Bulldogs won all three meetings last season. The Bulldogs defeated UK in Starkville, 74-55, to start the series last season before a 85-63 win inside Memorial Coliseum. The two teams met in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament with State earning a 81-58 victory.
For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @KentuckyWBB on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, or Kentucky Women’s Basketball on Facebook.
UK ATHLETICS COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS
KENTUCKY PRE-MISSISSIPPI STATE NEWS CONFERENCE
JAN. 4, 2019
JOE CRAFT CENTER – LEXINGTON, KY.
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
“Well, tough game here. Mississippi State is off to a great start with their season and they had a big win versus Arkansas last night. We’ll have to do a great job of preparing today in our practice session, and we have three opportunities to practice before the game, and it’ll be really important to prepare well. But, we’ve been working hard on our defense and trying to be disruptive. That’s what we need to try to do and we need to try to push the tempo. I know Mississippi State likes that kind of a game, so we need to really dial in and do a good job in our preparation for the game on Sunday.”
On Mississippi State’s size…
“Yeah, we’ve got to hustle. We’ve got to hustle. When you have a deficiency in size, you’ve got to try to make up for it in different ways and hustle is that first spot. Then, we fortunately have been able to show some versatility this year, so we’ve got to try to play to our strengths and see if we can minimize the damage that their size can create. So, it’s got to be a team effort for us, we’ve got to really hustle.”
On our defense and if we plan to press…
“Listen, I’ll tell you, our press is a work in progress. We really, this year, tried to reestablish a press mentality. So, we’re certainly not flawless in that from that standpoint, but yeah, I think that we’re going to try to play with a Kentucky mentality and that is pressure, and that’s something Mississippi State has done real well with this year, too. So, we’ll see what happens there.”
On how the team reacts to road games…
“Well, we played well away from home in the Virgin Islands. But, I think it’s a real similar challenge as it was with Louisville, being one of the top teams in the country. They had a very energetic crowd that day and I’m sure the same will happen this weekend. So, it’s a tough atmosphere. It’s a tough place to play and you have to credit Mississippi State for creating a great home court atmosphere, it’ll be a big challenge. But, I’m glad that we have had something similar to that that we can talk about, because that Louisville game really got away from us in a short period of time. They did some damage and when we finally got the focus on playing good basketball from our standpoint, we were able to settle in and make some plays. So, that’s what we’ll be looking for.”
On where Kentucky is right now defensively, and what needs to be improved as we advance in conference play…
“Well, I do think that they have shown a commitment to hustle, and while we’re not perfect, we have been able to create turnovers. I wish it were better. I’ve seen it better. But, what I try to remind myself and my staff is that we’re constantly comparing the team we have right now to teams that have been doing it for a while and teams that are really veteran teams at this. So, you just have to think about our development in this particular style of defense, while we’ve had success years back, we don’t get any credit for that. This is brand new for this particular team, so I just really appreciate how much they’ve hustled and tried. That doesn’t always mean that it’s perfect, and that is why we keep practicing and trying to get better every day. But, you’ve got to stick to your fundamentals and you’ve got to make a full commitment to this style of play if you want to have any success. So, huge challenge to go on the road against the favorite in the conference to win. But, we’ve got to go turn it loose and play our style of basketball.”
On how key it is to keep our top three scorers, in Taylor Murray, Maci Morris and Rhyne Howard, going offensively…
“I think that is true for any basketball team. Everybody has got to fulfill their role and everybody’s role is important. Those three, their role is to score and they have shown that they can do that really well. So, it is very important that they fulfill their role and that doesn’t diminish anything that anyone else is doing. But, we’ve got to be clear on that. Maci has got to do a great job and play with poise and patience, and not forced shots and make the offense work for her. Rhyne has got to be aggressive and try to get to the rim as many times as she can and the same thing with Taylor. When those three are playing aggressive, it opens up the offense for the rest of us. When one player has the ball, what you’re doing is setting the other four players up, so it’ll be really important in this game. We’re going to have to score some points to win.”
On your 300th career win…
“Well, I’ve never given a lot of thought to that. But, when you mention it, it just makes me think of all the players and coaches and staff and administrators, and I started out with the 30 games at Morehead State. That was such an unbelievable time in my life and I think of President Andrews who hired me and Brian Hutchinson who hired me and gave me that opportunity, and then all those players. So, I still hear from some of them from time-to-time, so you think of those players. And then, in the 12 years at Kentucky, from where we started to where we’ve been able to get to, you just are grateful and my heart is full of gratitude and it motivates us to get going. It’s a lot more about the difference that we have hopefully made in people’s lives than the number 300. it makes me think of those things instead of anything statistical.”