UK women’s hoops readies for undefeated Mississippi State
LEXINGTON, Ky. – After scoring 48 second-half points while shooting 66.7 percent from the field in Thursday’s quarterfinal win against eighth-seeded Alabama, the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team will make their ninth straight appearance in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament when it squares off against top-seed and No. 2-ranked Mississippi State on Friday at 1 p.m. ET inside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Every game of the tournament will be televised nationally with the first three rounds on SEC Network, while the semifinals will be on ESPNU and the championship on ESPN. The Kentucky-Mississippi State game will be broadcast live on the SEC Network with Courtney Lyle, Tamika Catchings and Steffi Sorensen 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.
For the first time since 2012, the tournament is being played at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Two first-round games were played Wednesday while four second-round games were played Thursday. Four quarterfinal matchups will be played Friday before Semifinal Saturday begins at 5 p.m. ET with the championship game to be played Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Kentucky, which earned the ninth-seed, is 35-38 all-time in the SEC Tournament and has won at least one game in the event in each of the last nine years. Kentucky is 5-2 against Mississippi State all-time in the SEC Tournament, including 2-0 under Matthew Mitchell. The Wildcats are 15-12 all-time in the quarterfinals of the tournament. This is the second time UK and Mississippi State have met in the quarterfinals of the event with UK winning both of the previous meetings, defeating Miss. State 106-82 in 1981 and 76-67 in 2015.
Junior guard Maci Morris scored 18 second-half points, while fellow junior guard Taylor Murray added 18 for the game and UK shot an impressive 66.6 percent from the field in the second half to earn a come-from-behind win against Alabama in the second round of the SEC Tournament on Thursday. Morris also led Kentucky with seven rebounds and six assists in the game. After trailing by as many as nine in the third quarter, UK used an 10-0 run to take a 48-46 lead with 35 seconds left in the period. UK never looked back, outscoring the Tide 21-16 in the fourth quarter to seal the win. With UK up 67-62 with under a minute to play, the Wildcats drained the shot clock with Morris hitting a big 3 late in the clock to all but seal the win.
Mississippi State ended the regular season 30-0 for the first perfect regular season by an SEC team since Tennessee in 1998. The Bulldogs are the regular-season conference champions and the No. 1 seed. MSU is coming off an 71-64 win over Kentucky in the regular-season finale last Sunday in Lexington. Five Bulldogs scored in double figures in the game with Teaira McCown leading the way with 20 points and 20 rebounds, adding five blocks. Victoria Vivians scored 18 points with 10 rebounds and five assists, while Roshunda Johnson hit three 3s and scored 15 points. Blair Schaefer had 12 points with four 3s, while Chloe Bibby had 10 points and two rebounds. The Bulldogs shot 52.2 percent from the field, outrebounded UK 40-23, had 23 points off turnovers and 20 second-chance points.
Vivians is averaging a team-best 19.7 points per game, adding 6.0 rebounds per game. McCowan is averaging a double-double at 18.7 ppg/13.5 rpg, while Johnson has hit 62 3-pointers and is averaging 11.9 points per game. Blair Schaefer leads the team with 81 made 3s averaging 9.8 points per game.
UK leads the all-time series against Mississippi St. 27-19, including a 5-1 mark in neutral-site games. The Bulldogs won both meetings this season against the Wildcats, defeating UK 74-55 in Starkville and 85-63 in Lexington. Prior to this season, UK had won 11 straight against the Bulldogs. Mitchell is 12-3 all-time against Mississippi State as a head coach.