Coach Matthew Mitchell’s Cats started the 2018-19 season off with 2 blowout wins in Memorial Coliseum (87-35 over Alabama State, then 91-41 over Southern). But Thursday night, the Cats faced a stronger challenge as they had their first of two games this season in Rupp Arena. Their opponent, the ACC’s Virginia Cavaliers, had only played one game thus far (a loss to #6 Mississippi State, 72-44), but boasted a 6’9″ center in Felicia Aiyeotan.
In the first half, the Cats struggled from time to time trying to get the ball inside coupled with not having much luck shooting from the outside (10-37 for 27%). Their defense, however, was more than sufficient as they forced the Cavaliers into 18 turnovers (32 for the game). By the time the horn sounded to end the half, the Cats found themselves leading by a single point (21-20).
When the second half began, it was clear Kentucky wasn’t going to let up at all with their defensive energy. It didn’t take long for them to force Virginia into 10 more turnovers and turned that 1-point lead into a comfortable 13-point lead (44-31) by the time the 3rd quarter ended.
The fourth quarter brought no big surprises, though it was a little sloppier than the 3rd. But sloppy or not, the Cats remained perfect on the season as they won by a final score of 63-51.
Mitchell’s team had very balanced scoring with 3 players in double-digits (Rhyne Howard and Jaida Roper with 11 each, and Taylor Murray with 12). Virginia beat the Cats on the boards (41-33) and had more assists (16-9). But the Cavs didn’t come close the challenging the Cats when it came to heart and hustle.
On this cold wintry night, that’s all the 4,989 fans in attendance could have asked for.
Next game: Sunday 2 pm versus High Point
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