LEXINGTON, Ky. – Taylor Murray scored 21 points and Tatyana Wyatt added 11 as the 15th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team topped No. 25 Missouri 52-41 on Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky’s two leading scorers, Rhyne Howard and Maci Morris, were both held to season lows in the game, each scoring just four points. Howard’s previous season low was six against Tennessee, while Morris’ previous season low was eight against USF. But the Cats got enough scoring from Murray, Wyatt and others, combined with outstanding defense, to bring home a victory.
Kentucky (17-3, 4-2 SEC), hit only 19 of 54 (35.2 percent) of its shots in the game, including just three of 14 (21.4 percent) from behind the arc. But the Wildcats’ defense held Missouri to 13-of-39 shooting (33.3 percent). The Tigers did manage to hit seven of 19 (36.8 percent) from behind the arc, but made only six of 20 (30 percent) of their two-point shots.
The Cats forced Missouri into 20 turnovers, and turned those into 21 points. Kentucky turned the ball over 13 times, but Missouri scored just eight points off those miscues. Kentucky won the battle of the boards, 37-25, and the Cats had 17 second-chance points, compared to three for the Tigers. Kentucky also held a huge advantage, 26-8, on points in the paint.
Missouri (15-6, 4-3) got off to a quick start, taking a 7-2 lead on a pair of three-pointers and a free throw. Meanwhile, Kentucky was cold from the field, hitting only one of its first seven field goal attempts. The Tigers would take a 12-6 lead, but the Cats scored four in a row, on baskets by Ogechi Anyagaligbo and Blair Green, to cut the lead to 12-10 after one period. Kentucky hit just four of its 15 shots (26.7 percent) from the floor in the quarter, while Missouri made four of 10.
Kentucky went scoreless until the 5:30 mark in the second quarter. Although the Wildcats struggled to get the ball in the basket, so did the Tigers, but Missouri was able to advance the lead to as many as seven, 21-14, before Kentucky scored four in a row to cut the lead to three, 21-18. That would be the score after 20 minutes of play. Morris led the Wildcats with four points while Jaida Roper had three, as the Cats hit just seven of 25 from the floor, and only one of eight from behind the arc.
With Kentucky struggling on offense, Murray took things into her own hands in the third period, scoring six points in the first 45 seconds of the second half. The senior from Odenton, Maryland, hit her first five shots from the field in the quarter and scored 12 of Kentucky’s first 13 second-half points, as the Cats turned a three-point halftime deficit into an eight-point advantage, on a Green basket, with 4:08 left in the period. Kentucky would stretch the lead to nine, 34-25, before settling for a 36-28 lead after three periods.
In the fourth quarter, Missouri got closer, cutting UK’s advantage to six, 36-30, before the Cats mounted a 7-2 run to take their first double-digit lead of the game, 43-32, with 6:35 to play. The Tigers would eventually cut the lead to five, 45-40, after an 8-2 run. But Kentucky would not allow Missouri to get any closer.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, visiting Texas A&M in College Station. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.
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.