After playing four of its last five games at home, the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team begins a difficult road stretch Thursday at 9 p.m. ET at No. 15 Missouri inside Mizzou Arena. The Wildcats, who are ending the regular season with four of their last six games on the road, will then turnaround and play at No. 2 and undefeated Mississippi State on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
The game will be broadcast live 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, in his first year with the program, will be calling the game on the UK Sports Radio Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Headrick’s call on 630AM WLAP. Live stats and free audio will be available online at ukathletics.com.
Kentucky (12-12, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) enters Thursday's game having won three of its last four after strong performances against Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn before falling in a heartbreaker to LSU. In its last four games, UK is averaging 72.5 points per game with a +12.8 margin of victory, limiting opponents to just 59.8 points per game. The Cats are hitting 50.2 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from 3 with a +3.0 turnover margin. In a losing effort, the Wildcats rallied from a 15-point deficit to fall just short against LSU, 72-70 inside Rupp Arena. UK shot 51.9 percent from the field in the game paced by 17 points from junior Maci Morris, who hit three 3s and scored 15 of her points in the second half. Fellow junior Taylor Murray had 16 points against LSU adding six assists.
Murray has been fantastic the past month scoring in double figures each of the last seven games averaging 17.3 points per game with 35 assists and 22 steals shooting 55.0 percent overall and 46.7 percent from 3. Morris leads Kentucky in scoring this season at 15.6 points per game. Murray ranks second at 11.8 points per game while senior post Alyssa Rice is third with 7.3 points per game and a team-best 6.6 rebounds per game.
Kentucky leads the all-time series in games played against Missouri, 6-2, including a 2-1 mark in games played in Columbia. UK is 5-1 against the Tigers since Mizzou joined the league. Missouri won the last meeting between the two teams 73-67 on Jan. 30, 2017 in Columbia. That win was the Tigers first against UK in Columbia as the Wildcats won the previous two 69-43 on Jan. 13, 2013 and 83-69 on Jan. 25, 2015. Matthew Mitchell is 5-1 against Missouri as the head coach of the Wildcats.
Missouri enters Thursday's game with a 18-5 overall record, including a 6-4 mark in SEC play. The Tigers are 9-2 at home, 5-2 in true road games and 4-1 in neutral-site games. Mizzou's conference losses have come at home to LSU and No. 2 Mississippi State and on the road at highly ranked South Carolina and Georgia. The Tigers recently ended a three-game losing streak with a 66-64 win against Florida at home on Monday. Prior to Monday's win, Missouri has lost three straight games against top competition at No. 20 Georgia, at No. 9 South Carolina and vs. No. 2 Mississippi State.
Junior forward Cierra Porter paced the Tigers against the Gators, scoring 27 points with eight rebounds, while redshirt senior Jordan Frericks had 18 points and junior guard Sophie Cunningham had 10 points and nine rebounds. Cunningham leads the Tigers in scoring this season by averaging 18 points per game with 5.2 rebounds adding 67 assists and 21 steals. Frericks is averaging 11.5 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game while Porter is the only other Tiger to average double figures with 10.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. As a team, the Tigers are averaging 70.1 points per game, hitting 45.8 percent from the field, 374. percent from 3 and out rebounding teams by 9.1 rebounds per game.
Kentucky and Missouri met twice last season with both teams protecting their home courts. UK won the battle in Lexington, 64-62, before the Tigers evened the season series with a 73-67 victory in Columbia. The Wildcats had to fend off a late Tiger's rally to win the game in Lexington. UK held a 58-42 edge with 8:01 left in the game before a 14-2 Missouri run eventually cut UK's lead down to 63-60 with 7.8 seconds remaining. UK would hit late free throws to seal the win. Makayla Epps scored 17 points in the game while Evelyn Akhator had 14 points and eight rebounds.
It was a back-and-forth battle in Columbia that featured 14 lead changes and 10 ties. UK held a one-point lead at halftime, but the Tigers outscored UK 18-14 in the third quarter and 25-22 in the fourth to earn the win. Sierra Michaelis had 19 points while Cunningham had 14 and nine rebounds and Porter had 17 points and seven rebounds, going 11-for-11 from the free-throw line. UK was paced by Murray, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds going 10-for-10 from the charity stripe. Epps had 20 points and Morris added 14.
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