Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Mike Siroky's SEC Report: The Top of the Conference Had a Perfect Week

By Mike Siroky

The best of Southeastern Conference of women’s basketball  – those ranked by the Associated Press – had its lowest-ranked team beaten by a Top 10 team and the other unranked undefeated team also lost, meaning  there are five teams with one loss.

 But the three main players had an undefeated week, one of them setting a national record by shutting out an opponent for an entire quarter. The highest-rated team embarrassed a strong ACC foe.

 No. 5 South Carolina

So how do you respond to a first loss by another Top 10 team?

Truth is, SC should whomp everyone else until the middle of next month when Tennessee visits and they will be at home and favored then. They ae in no danger of falling out of the Top 5 nationally.

Two weeks ago, we presented the idea A’ja Wilson should just be given league player of the year now, that no other person is even in consideration.

So to win it again after a loss is just reinforcement. There is no reason considering anyone else. 

Call it the Wilson Award this season and let others contend for No. 2 from now on. She will be an All-American again. She also leads the SEC on the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s 25-player watch list for the Wade Trophy, the oldest national player of the year award in college women’s basketball.

 She is on the early 2018 Citizen Naismith Player of the Year Trophy watch list. It starts with 50 and has a mid-season cut.

The Gamecocks started this run at home with two more in the immediate quest of sweeping the Carolinas, win your neighborhood, win your conference and the national picture is secure. 

It is also important for good teams to not forget those programs which were willing to play them before they got good. The smaller programs also are enhanced by playing in an arena at least once per season with a real crowd.

So it was when Western Carolina visited with 12,020 witnesses, the best women’s basketball draw in the world.

Wilson scored 29 and Alexis Jennings  19 in the expected 101-43 pummeling. The Gamecocks fell behind 2-0, then broke off a 17-0 run Wilson and Jennings combined to score the  first eight.

 Wilson has scored 33, 17, 34 and 29 points in four games. She was pulled with five minutes remaining, avoiding another 30-point party. She hit 13- of-19 from the field with seven rebounds.

 “With what took place at the end of last season, I just think she grew her wings to be in this position now,” said coach Dawn Staley.

“She has worked on her game over the summer, specifically her ball-handling and when you are able to handle the ball you are able to do a lot of things. That was the area she most improved … she understands that she plays a big role in our success and what better way than what she did in the national championship. She saw that, and I think she gained confidence in knowing she can take over basketball games.”

It is SC’s biggest margin since 2014 and the first 100 this season. The 58 team percent from the field is a season best. The 66 points in the paint is the best since 2013. They doubled up on rebounds, 45-22.

It is coach Dawn Staely's  400th career win; 228 at SC.

Then in came No. 14  Duke, fresh off a home upset of No. 8 Ohio State.

Duke used to be the best team in the ACC and its coach, Joanne McCallie,  who, in the long ago and far away was once the most popular replacement anywhere else. Not anymore. 

Notre Dame has made Duke an ACC afterthought and McCallie never grew into that national level coach. The Dookies are a nice Sweet 16 team every year, not unlike DePaul, but never ever expected to win the thing anymore. For instance, they lost their second NCAA game at home as a No. 2 seed in last season’s elimination.

Two redshirt seniors lead them, Lexie Brown (20 points per outing), and Rebecca Greenwell, (16.5.) The point is a Maryland transfer, Lexie Brown.

SC had been beaten by Duke last season. This season, SC was without Spann, who wrenched a knee in practice.

It started back and forth.

 The big two for Duke did not start well. Both coaches were working the refs. 

One early discussion by Staley was followed by an immediate traveling call against the visitors, for instance. 

There was pressure defense on both sides. Carolina went on an 8-0 run and it was 12-7. The best crowd for women’s hoops in the world, 13.054, created a playoff atmosphere. 

To amp up the crowd, Staley had the legendary Debbie Ryan at courtside. That is her former coach at Virginia, where they made three Final Fours. She is also a seven-year pancreatic cancer survivor.

SC continued a 12-2 run to 12-2 and led 16-11. McCallie called a timeout to refocus the defense. They immediately caused a shot clock expiration. Then got a turnover as another one loomed. 

SC was missing Spann, a 55 percent 3 shooter, Duke was defending Wilson hard. 

Another Duke transfer was keying it. The quarter ended 18-13. Brown had three, Greenwell -two. Wilson and Jennings had six each.

SC pushed it to 29-18 in the second quarter and maintained it to a 37-27 half. Wilson had 13 and Jennings 12. Brown had 11. It was the largest lead of the game. Wilson had scored the final basket at the buzzer.

“They’re doing what they are expected to do,” said Staley. “You can only do what you can do. We have to limit clean open shots and especially shots after a miss.”

They extended the lead to 51-35 with five minutes left in the third before Duke called a harassed time out.

 SC scored again immediately. It was over. Staley had won the SEC/ACC coaching challenge, even down one starter. SC won each quarter. The lead was 20 with 83 seconds left. It ended that way, 72-52.

SC won rebounds, 40-26. Wilson had 11, Jennings 10. Each had a double/double, Wilson with 18 and Jennings 21.

“When we give up as many points as we have given up, defense is definitely stressed,” Staley said. “We really concentrated on our live ball turnovers and just defending those and not giving up second chance points. I thought we took care of it for the most part.”

SC plays College of Charleston this week.  They are chronologically the first to eight wins.

No. 6 Mississippi State

Even moving up one spot in the national rankings, this team is just worried about its ownself.

They moved to 8-0 with two wins. The ‘Dawgs are the top 3 shooting team in America.

Victoria Vivians, Morgan William and Teaira McCowan were each named to the early Naismith trophy watch list. Vivians and William are also on Wade list.

They eased into the lead in a home game at Jackson, Miss., against the Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette, 10-4, McCowan establishing herself with six points and five rebounds. The rout was on after a first-quarter defensive single digit effort.

It was 56-23 at the half and lotsa players were going to get time.

Louisiana was only hitting 37 percent from the field, the home team 51 percent. Best so far was McCowan, already at her double/double, 19 points and 12 rebounds, seven defensive. Brianna Schaefer had 10 points with three 3s.

Jazzmun Holmes, the best sixth player in the league so far, had scored eight off the bench.

Another defensive lockdown – an 18-4 fourth – made it a 94-37 wipeout, little rage and less drama.

 McCowan finished with a career-best 31 points, 20 rebounds (10th in program history for a single game), four blocks and  three steals in 26 minutes. 

Yes, that is more than a point a minute. 

 Vivians scored 16, though on low-percentage shooting., but 7-of-8 from the line Holmes and Chloe  Bibby each scored 13, Bibby with seven rebounds They won rebounds, 59-34.

The crowd of 3,578  approved.

“Really proud of the crowd,” Schaefer said. “I want to say thanks for our fans. They made it a great experience. Our kids came out and played really well. “There were a lot of numbers in there that added up to playing well.”

“Coaches have been harping they need more from me,” McCowan said. “When they ask that of you, you have to buy in. There have been some open looks and I have taken advantage of them. When we share the basketball, we can score points.”

“This was a great experience for our team,” Schaefer said. “The long line (for autographs) after the game is what made this worthwhile. To see these players being asked for autographs and pictures, it's special. We have been wanting to bring (Vivians) back to this building for a game. I am glad we were able to do that.”

 She is from Carthage, about an hour away. She won her two state high school basketball titles in the same arena.

They started December with Oklahoma State, the first of four at their real home In StarkVegas . Oklahoma State was a one-loss team. Mississippi State entered with Vivians ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring (18.4), McCowan right behind her ninth  (17.0) and second in rebounds (11.7), fourth in field goal percentage (63.1) and fifth in blocks (2.3).

It was going to be tough from the start. Mississippi State  needed every one of the 5,138 to pull this out.

 It ended 79-76. Schaefer was not happy with his team’s energy and was made about defense at the half, even though they lead 44-31.Obviously outscored in the second half, they survived a 19-17 fourth. They only ht 34 percent from the field in the second half, 9-of-26.

 They did hit on17-of-22 free throws then. Oklahoma State was awarded 12 free throws and hit nine. The home team truly escaped.

Vivians scored 30, 7-of-7 from the line. Ro Johnson scored 18, also 7-of-7 from the line. McCowan had 11 rebounds, 10 defensive.

MSU started the fourth up by seven, but it took eight minutes for anyone to score. It went back and forth. Two late 3s was countered inbetween by two free throws by Morgan William for the final.

“I was proud of our resilience today. I just thought Oklahoma State was tough,” Schaefer said. “I just thought the reason we won the game was because of our toughness.”

At 8-0, they have a week off to figure things out until Arkansas-Little Rock visits.

No. 12 Tennessee

Coach Holly Warlick is having a stress-free season for the first time in years. Who outside of the program knew eliminating two divas not by graduation could so clear toxicity.

The Vols are also 8-0 after two more home challenges. Mercedes Russell is also on the Wade List and joins Jamie Nared on the early Naismith list.

Rennia Davis won the league’s Freshman of the Year weekly honors and is most likely to win the season honor.

The Lady Vols moved up one position in the AP poll and took two at home.

Against CentraL Arkansas, the Lady Vols accomplished a first in the storied program and  a first in the nation, by shutting the opponent out, 17-0 in the fourth after starting with a 22-8 first of a 77-34 win. 

The Sugar Bears actually didn’t score for part of the third, an 11 minute, four second time span. The 10-point third --and therefore second half – is also a program record. The women’s game went to a four-quarter template from simply two halves, in 2015. Central had scored 106 in its previous game.

The 7,311 who were there can swear they saw the impossible happen.

Russell scored 19  with 10 rebounds in 27 minutes.

“It's definitely huge for us,” Russell said. “We've been emphasizing (defense) in practice lately more and more because we know every night we're not going to shoot as well as we usually do, so we can always rely on our defense. I think tonight we did a really good job.”

“Tennessee was just doing what they wanted to, when they wanted to, how they wanted to,” Central Arkansas coach Sandra Rushing said.

Tennessee has its second 7-0 start in Holly Warlick's six seasons as coach. The + started 10-0 in 2013-14 and went on to finish 29-6 with a loss in the NCAA regional semifinals.

At 6 -6, Russell capitalized on her height advantage over a Central Arkansas team that didn't play anyone taller than 6-2. Anastasia Hayes added 14 points and Meme Jackson 11, all in the first half.  Jackson hadn’t hit double figures this season.

“(I'm) just being more aggressive,” Jackson said. “Holly, she always tells me to attack the basket more and stop settling for 3's. Today I just tried to attack the basket.”

“It was a great team effort and our shot selection was outstanding,” Warlick said. Last season, she had many frustrations about shot selection. This team gets it.

“They’re understanding what’s important. They are actually listening and taking it in. We worked a lot on it . I know it helped.

“It’s just effort and heart.”

“I think our goal is just to improve and get better every single game on both ends of the court, both offensively and defensively,’ said Russell, “but defense is our first priority. We've been emphasizing (defense) more and more in practice, because every night we're not going to shoot as well as we usually do. We can always rely on our defense.”

Tennessee had an expected easier time to move to 8-0, because the opponent was Alabama State and so the 104-51 runaway was enjoyed by the second-best fan base in women’s basketball, 8804. State has only won once in eight tries.

Tennessee had no turnovers in the first half.

Russell dominated, one of six in double figures, 22, 8-of-10 from the floor, in the 30-12 first. 

Warlick said, even in a blowout, Russell needs more minutes. For example, a lack of concentration led to an early second foul.

“I trust Mercedes,” Warlick said. “Her second foul was not very smart. We talked about that. She needs to get up and down. We need to establish a presence with her on the inside.  She is a smart player. She knows. I think she figures out what she can and can't do, so I trust her.”

Following a theme she started last season, Warlick said, “It's about us. We want to get better every game. We want to get better every practice. We set team goals. I had them set individual goals. We are just trying to get better every game. We don't look ahead. We learn from what we have done. This team does not look ahead, and they don't lose focus. I was really proud of them today. They did a great job at staying focused, and I think they played hard. That's hard to do.”

She also has these fabulous freshmen to work in.

“We didn't press as much as we usually do,” Warlick observed.  “We had two solid quarters to work on our zone defense. I am going to take advantage and focus on us getting better at what we have not done well (in the past). We have not worked a lot on our zone defense. I have great film for our players to watch. The turnovers, I'm really proud of us only having four turnovers. We didn't lose focus.

“We keep talking about when we don't have our starters in and how it doesn't mean we aren't going to coach any less. We are going to put these young ladies through the same stuff as the people who start. We just continue to coach them like it is the beginning of the game. I think it's important, because when the games are close we are going to need some of these kids. They are going to be ready.”

 ”On our non-conference schedule we try to schedule teams that have won their conference, and they are competitive.”

Russell was surprised by the reinsertion with two fouls.

“That normally doesn't happen to me. I didn't think I was going to go in until the third quarter, but they put me back in in the second quarter, and they just old me not to foul. So I just tried my best not to, and luckily I didn't.

“I think we definitely take every game seriously, especially tonight. We knew it was really important for us to work on ourselves offensively and defensively. But every single game, we know the other team is going to give us their best shot, so we have to play our best no matter what.

“I'm definitely loving the guards. Evina (Westbrook) is a terrific passer. Her drive-and-kick game is incredible, so I have to have my hands up and be ready at all times.”

 Westbrook was concentrating so much she did not realize the lack of turnovers.

“I don't think really anyone knew until halftime when coach told us that we hadn't had any so far,” Westbrook said. “Definitely in the second half we made it a goal to keep it at as low of an amount as possible. Four total for the game was pretty huge for us. We average a lot (of turnovers), so especially in games like this, we focus on ourselves a lot, so it was good for us to lower our turnover count.

“As a freshman, I still get excited about playing in this gym. I feel like it's a lot of people every game, but they tell me it's not as much as some games. I think sometimes we may take advantage of it a little bit, just because we're used to it, but we love our fans at the same time.”

The homestand continues this week with Troy and a major challenge in No. 2 Texas in a clash of two of the mainstay programs from the AIAW days.

No. 18 Texas A&M

The Aggies advanced one spot the second week in a row. Danni Williams is on the Naismith nominee list.They split at home and looked terrible.

They have not lost at home after two more wins. But the second was dicey.

Williams again provided the starting spurt, hitting 3-of-4 (2of-3 3s) and 2-of-3 from the line in the 21-15 start against Prairie View A&M before 2,815 witnesses. Then Khaalia Hillsman hit 4­-of-7 to take the scoring load. It was 49-37 at the break.

The Aggies moved to 5-1 with a 98-70 finish. More players were used and freshman Chennedy Carter  scored the last for the starters with five minutes to go. 

She hit all four free throws and finished with a dozen, one of four in double figures led by Hillsman’s 20. They won rebounds, 52-36. Anriel Howard had 11, six defensive. She leads the league in rebounds. It seems every Aggie knows her role right now.

“Our starters were not playing 30 minutes in this game,” said coach Gary Blair, “so I played a lot of people. It got a little bit sloppy, but it was getting sloppy with my first group in there earlier. 

“When I went to the double low post in the second quarter, I was tired of seeing jump shots and I wanted to see us pound the ball. We finally got into the set I wanted. I thought (Caylinne) Martin was very active in there today. She needs to shoot her free throws better, but she has got to be able to come and give us big time minutes. 

“She plays hard and is physical but sometimes her and Emer (Nichols) do not know our offense. They have got to be able to recognize the sets that we are in. We will just use that as a  x learning experience.

“I was able to rest and get Khaalia  off early because we wanted to make sure she got the looks tomorrow. We are going to see 40 minutes of zone and by a well-coached team in Rice. 

“We better be able to hit some outside shots tomorrow because we will probably have a lot of them. They will squeeze Khaalia pretty good in there. We need to get to the offensive boards. We had Anriel there today, but she had trouble finishing tonight. She has had a good year. 

“Let’s just say it was an off night for her. But even when you have an off night you get 11 rebounds in 19 minutes, the kid just knows how to hustle.”

He had praise for another overlooked Aggie.

“A kid that’s unnoticed that’s playing very well for us right now is Jasmine Lumpkin,” he said. “She’s just doing the little things, not trying to overshoot or anything like that. But all of the sudden, there’s another good ball game back-to-back. Four assists, two turnovers, and those were in the first two minutes. She’s starting to play good, solid ball like a senior should right now.”

Hillsman is working on her own technical game.

“Definitely my shot selection,” she said. “The guards do a good job of giving me the ball in good spots. This game, I really focused on not taking jump hooks so much because those are not falling for me right now. I think that two of my misses came from jump hooks so I have tried to go baseline more. 

“We definitely started way slower than we are supposed to. We sometimes play down to our opponents and that is not how we want to come out. We definitely have to change that. If we come out against Rice on a slow start, they are too good to do that against. So, I think we have to stop underestimating our opponents.” 

They welcomed in Rice in the first back-to-back night since 2005 for the Aggies.

Rice took it to A&M early, a 25-17 quarter advantage. After all, both sides were 5-1.Howard was the surprise scorer with 10  first-quarter points.

A&M pulled ahead with a minute  left in the half. 

Howard only scored one basket in the quarter but Williams hit two 3s (at a terrible percentage) and had eight. Hillsman had scored six and, overall, the team was hitting more shots than they missed. It was 36-33 at the break. A&M had put a single-digit defensive effort on Rice with a 19-8 quarter.

Despite that, it was tight through the third as Rice rallied with a 22-18 third.

Defense seemed at a premium. Rice had four in double figures.  Howard had 17 and Williams 14. Here came the stretch. A&M was down 62-57. 

Williams hit a 3. They exchanged layups. Nobody scored for a minute and 03, though Williams had four rebounds. Two Carter free throws tied it with six minutes left. Thirty seconds later she hit a jumper. Then she stole the ball. The rookie was not afraid. She was fouled and hit two more from the line.

After a Rice score, Lumpkin got a rebound and passed it to Carter who fed Howard for a jumper. Rice hit a 3 and got the ball back. Three minutes left, Rice down by one.

Carter stole, but muffed the layup. A&M recovered the ball and Williams hit a jumper. Rice missed a layup. Ninety seconds left and Hillsman blocked a shot, Lumpkin with the defensive rebound.

Howard made a jumper, was fouled but missed the free throw.

Trailing by seven, Rice called a timeout, scored off the inbound and fouled the rookie to stop the clock.


Carter hit them both. Lumpkin stole the ball, was fouled and hit a free throw. Howard took a rebound, was fouled and hit them both. Rice hit a 3 off a timeout inbounds but there was not enough time left with an eight-point deficit. Two inconsequential free throws left it 82-76.

Howard scored a season-best 23 (10-of-13 from the field) with 13 rebounds (nine offensive)  and two assists. Williams scored 19 and Carter 17 (7-of-8 from the line).  Rice battled beautifully.

“(If) we are on the road, we lose this game,” Blair said “Thank heavens our fans did not give up on us. Sometimes we were giving up on ourselves. 

“Our defense was horrible the whole night. We made a couple of plays or they turned it over in crucial time and it really hurt them in the last quarter. Whether we were in man or we were in zone, we didn't understand switching; we didn't understand how to guard a 3-point shooter. 

“Three games in four days, did that have something to do with it? 

It wasn't our legs; it was our decision making and when you have poor decision making on offense and defense. All that was, was a bump 2-3 zone.  

Khaalia touched the ball one time in the second half. 3-for-5 and she didn't even shoot. She has got to learn to move and get herself open and we have to be able to feed the ball. But there is no excuse for no good shot attempts in the first half.”

But, in the survival of the fourth quarter:

“Chennedy [Carter] made some plays; she made some tough shots and got fouls but give her credit, it wasn't her best night,” Schaefer said. 

“ She knows it and that is why she was on the bench in the second quarter. But the kid responded in the second half and made some pretty good things on the offensive end. 

“She was just like everyone else on the defensive end. She gave up as many as she scored. This was not a good effort and give Rice a lot of credit. They run their offense as well as anyone that we have faced this year. 

“We have to go to the drawing board. We will take tomorrow off. We have got two days of prep to get ready for West Virginia who has had a week to get ready for us. If we are going to bring Top10 teams in here we have got to be able to play up to the standards of Top 10 and we didn't do it when we had Oregon in here so we get one more chance. That is on us.”

 Howard said she was focused.

“Yesterday wasn't my shooting night. I just came in with more focus. I knew that this team was really good and that I had to help my team out to get the win.

“It helps us get a little spark for the next game. Yes this game is finished and we are on to the next, but this helps us try to find ourselves offensively and defensively. We were pretty good for the most part there tonight.”

 Williams also said it was an in-game adjustment.

I don't think we were talking and in the first half we weren't moving it well. Even in the third quarter when they got all those threes we weren't communicating very well. That's on us we knew that they were good three-point shooters and we have to get better at that.

“I think for us it's mental and trying to play with energy and effort from the start through the finish. At times we showed it and the crowd was exciting and we put it on for the fans when we were getting after it. But we don't have that same type of energy throughout the game. If we want to compete with these top-10 programs that's something we need to focus on.”

They finished with the best Big 12 team  – so far -- of that conference, undefeated No. 11 West Virginia (they beat Texas Tech of the Big 12 last week) at home. West Virginia is the defending Big 12 conference tournament champs. A&M had won four straight.

It was not a good start.

They pulled it to 30-28 at the half. Carter stole an inbound under her own basket and Lumpkin hit a layup on a Williams feed. That was all the scoring in the final three minute. Mountaineers had yet to be awarded a free throw. WVA had won both quarters.

A&M tried its hardest, spreading shots, contesting on defense but West Virginia had an answer even when they fell behind for a possession. Four breakaways put them back up by six.

The visitors were ahead by 10 heading into the fourth. 

The Aggies went more than three minutes without a point.

 It was still a 10-point deficit with a little less than eight minutes left. Then a real problem. Carter fouled on a 3, it was her fourth and the deficit was 12. 

Looked like the Big 12 was going to win this part of the challenge. Williams was 0-for-7. The team was hitting 32 percent from the floor. Neither bench had scored.

The deficit was 13 within six minutes. It was 16 within four. A&M had no answer. Defense was particularly wanting for A&M– the second-best crowd in America —a cameo courtside appearance by new football coach Jimbo Fisher did not rally the crowd.

The Mountaineers won their first road game, 70-56. evening the SEC/Big 12 Challenge at five each. 

The Aggies were 24 points under their scoring average. They have lost to the only two ranked teams they played. 

Carter scored 20, but Williams, for instance, only had two free throws. She will not win the Naismith.

“If I ever thought a team was ready to play, it was tonight, but I was wrong,” Blair said.

“ When Danni was in the game, they played us man for man. When Danni went out, they’d zone us. We didn’t have any consistency on getting the ball in. Our entry passes were nonexistent; that’s why there were 17 turnovers. When they have 21 assists and 13 turnovers, we gave 10 assists to 17. 

We were very selfish at times on throwing the ball inside or making the correct pass. Danni has carried us for two years. When she has an off night like this we’ve got other kids on scholarship who’ve got to be able to step up and make better decisions and better plays. 

“The missed layups right before half when we got back into the ballgame down 10, we just hustled and hustled and got back into the thing, I thought it was ours for the taking. We opened up the third quarter and force a turnover, then we start making one out of two free throws from a team shooting 78 percent. When you shoot 14 percent in the third quarter and as bad at free throws, we just kept fighting from behind and they kept executing, and we just didn’t do it.”

 ”They’re a veteran team and their best player wasn’t playing. That scares you right there. They have a chance to be an Elite Eight team when she gets back and they get a transfer eligible. I think they’re a very good basketball team. They do a pretty good job of not fouling. We couldn’t get to the free throw line, and when we did we couldn’t make it -- 12 out of 21.”

Carter said: “Obviously, you’re going to have nights like that. I just kept shooting, kept moving the ball, kept getting my teammates involved. We couldn’t get anything going, but it started falling at the end. It was a little bit too late but hopefully, next game we’re going to try to get better and make better decisions.”


No. 20 Kentucky

The Kats moved into the Top 20 just in time for a trip to No. 9 Baylor.

The Bears may only have 10 players, but they didn’t need depth in the toughest draw of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. Baylor was a top seed in last season’s NCAA tournament and was passed by the real top seed, Mississippi State, in the Regional final.

It was an example of the seeding committee awarding an unwatchably rude women’s coach a top seed over a team coached by a man, yet reality evened things out.

They are still better than Kentucky, 90-63 this season for the Kats’ first loss in seven tries. It got so bad, they only scored six in the third quarter and no team so far has won with a single-digit quarter. 

They went 0-13 from the floor in the quarter after already trailing by a lot at half, 49-34. It is the first ranked team they had played.

Maci Morris had a game and season-high 22 points, one of four in double figures. They did try to rally with 11-of-19 3s (58 percent). But the Wildcats shot only 32 percent overall after making 8-of-40 inside the arc.

“The snowball just got too big rolling down the hill. We couldn't stop it,” coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We're going to have a very good team. We weren't ready to beat Baylor tonight. But my spirits are buoyed because of the way the players show up every day and work and what they're capable of doing.

“I think as the score started to separate, we -- like a lot of teams do -- panicked trying to get it all back quickly,” Mitchell said. “But, that's all the things you learn from that. We just defensively aren't sophisticated enough to try to take something away.”

They welcomed Tennessee Tech to start their December games. The Golden Eagles are in an unsuccessful rebuild, with seven new players under former Vanderbilt assistant Kim Rosamund, a former Ole Miss player and assistant there. UK started a string of five games in 11 days.

Tennessee Tech was just the comeback the 7-1 Kats needed.

Morris scored 16 in the 82-54 walkover before 4,564 fans. She played 17 minutes, hit 6-of-7 from the field, including both 3s. A dozen players scored for UK.  In the third, They had blown it open to a 31-point lead.

 ”We are a work in progress,” said Mitchell.

“We said (after Baylor) in the locker room, if we let that get us down or we were negative, if we did anything besides just learn the lessons and just make that game about the lessons learned and areas to improve. If we would do that we were going to have a positive experience.”

 Taylor Murray said,“Everyday Coach Mitchell talks about (rebounding). I’m not the get-back person, but my other job is to go down and get the ball. If they’re not boxing me out, then that’s my other opportunity. But just for us to get an extra possession, to get another shot clock, if we can get another good shot. Just go to the glass, if they don’t box me out I’m going to go get that rebound.”

 Morris said, “We knew Baylor was a great team. We don’t like to focus on the negatives so we focus on the positives.  We knew we had to come back and beat Tennessee Tech. They gave us a good game, they played hard.

 “We knew we had to focus, clean up a few things here and there like we always do after games. We really don’t want to dwell on the negative aspects of games unless we’re trying to clean up some things. 

 “To me, just knowing the game; how to read screens and cuts. For me to make smart passes, my teammates have to make smart cuts. So, Taylor’s my backdoor option and I have to make sure I get it to her. Just knowing when I can shoot, just playing smart and knowing where different things fit in.”

UK plays Evansville at home and at Florida Gulf Coast this week.


Trend: Vivians surpassed 1,900 career points.


For the second straight season, Missouri , a ranked team, has declined to participate in our coverage.


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