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Losing Record Should Not Take Away From Maci Morris' Remarkable - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Losing Record Should Not Take Away From Maci Morris' Remarkable Season

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By LARRY VAUGHT

It has not been the season that Kentucky women’s basketball wanted, but don’t let that take away from what junior Maci Morris has done.

She is averaging 17.2 points per game and shooting 47 percent (69 of 147) from 3-point range and 83.7 percent (82 of 98) at the foul line. She's pulled off  3.5 rebounds per game and even blocked 16 shots.

But she's done a lot more:

— She became the first player since Kim Denkins in 1995-96 to have five straight games with 20 or more points and is the only player in the Southeastern Conference to have six straight games with 20 or more points after scoring 22 in Sunday's loss to Mississippi State (she also tied her career highs with three blocks and three steals in the game).

    She had 35 points in a loss at South Carolina to make her only the third UK player — Valerie Still and Makayla Epps are the other two — to score 35 or more points in a SEC game.

– She has led Kentucky in scoring 19 times this season 

— She went over 1,000 career points and now has 1,168, 26th on UK's all-time scoring list.  

Opponents obviously have tried to pay extra attention to Morris because she has been Kentucky’s only consistent scorer in what has been a 14-16 season going into Thursday's SEC Tournament game against Alabama. 

“You can hope Maci  doesn’t take more shots than 11,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said after his team lost to Kentucky.  “I thought she was brilliant tonight. I thought she just kind of let the game come to her and managed it. She didn't press. She didn't over shot hunt.”

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has not been surprised by what Morris — who came to UK from Bell County known more as a shooter than anything else — has done this season.


“I thought she would have a good offensive year. She’s really been so tough offensively. I think she still has growth on the defensive end and boxing out and rebounding and developing that part of her game. She still hasn’t hit her cap,” Mitchell said.

“She’s making that mid-range, semi-contested jumper that’s not a great shot for most players but for her right now it’s a great shot and she’s making it. It’s a really strong shot and it’s tough. She’s doing a good job in the 2-man job too so she’s playing well for us offensively. She’s really clicking on all cylinders.” ‘

“She’s such a hard worker, stays positive and wants to win, a competitor. She’s going to continue to grow and get better. I’m not surprised by that kid. She is a touch competitor. She came in here her freshman year and put some veterans on the bench and earned it. From day one, she’s been a competitor. I’m real proud of how much she’s progressed and how hard she’s worked. I think she’ll continue to get better.”


Morris knew going into the season she would have to carry more of a leadership role as well as a bigger scoring load. She didn’t back down from either.

“Just knowing that my team needs me to score pushed me,” the former Miss Basketball said. “I know that’s my main job and so I have to be efficient with that.”
But she’s also enjoyed seeing the progress freshmen teammates have made. 
”It makes me happy too, seeing them being successful. It’s been a lot of fun seeing them grow,” she said.
The same could be said for Mitchell as he’s seen her go from a rather shy freshman to a junior leader who goes out of her way to help lead teammates. Mitchell remembers a practice when Morris couldn’t participate because of a knee injury. 

“She talked the whole practice, and that is not something that has been natural, and that is something I appreciate more than she knows,”  Mitchell said.  “She’s worked hard at that, and it’s going to help her. It’s going to help her, it’s going to help her teammates and it’s going to help our program. 
“Maci is a great young woman who wants to win and wants to work hard to win. If she doesn’t know what to do, she’s going to be humble enough to say, ‘I don’t know what to do right here. You’re going to have to tell me.’ So, if you say, I need you to lead more, and she’s like I don’t really understand what you’re talking about, you’re going to have to lay that out for me. 
“A lot of kids will just be like I’ll lead more, and they won’t lead. That’s what I love about Maci is she’s never too proud to take coaching or never too proud to ask a question. That gives you an opportunity as a coach to say this is what we need from you, and I’ve told her we need to hear her voice. I think what she likes to do is just show up, work hard and wonder why everyone else isn’t working as hard as she is. 
“People are looking at her because of how hard she is working. They view her as a leader, so she has to fulfill that role for us, and she has.”
Fans have noticed.
Jerry Johns in the senior minister at First Christian Church in Winchester and a Kentucky women’s fan. 
“Not the season we wanted but we’ve had the opportunity to watch Maci Morris bud into a legitimate star. She just plays her heart out each game,” he said.
Terry Brown watched Morris play with her injured knee against Georgia. 
“You could tell she was going off just will and ‘want to.’ It was also apparent that her teammates fed off that,” Brown said.

That’s why other fans have used words like admirable and courageous to describe her play this season when she really has done everything anyone could have ever wanted and more to will her team to win time after time.

 

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