Cats Count on Hot Shooting to Overcome EMU

Glance at the box score and you’d think Kentucky would be in trouble.

The Wildcats committed 11 more turnovers than visiting Eastern Michigan and had 10 fewer offensive rebounds, falling short in two areas that have been hallmarks of their success under Matthew Mitchell.

Nonetheless, UK came out with an 89-67 victory.

“It was a difficult game,” Matthew Mitchell said. “I’m really happy we won. Really happy we won because it could have gone the other way.”

In spite of trailing in the early minutes of the second half, the Cats (5-0) came out with a fairly lopsided win behind a 59.6-percent shooting performance, their best since 2007. UK shot a blistering 62.1 percent in the second half and made 9 of 17 from 3-point range for the game.

“They’ll have to shoot real well if we play defense the way we did today,” said Mitchell, who was displeased with his team’s approach to a noon game on the day before Thanksgiving.

The Cats have been somewhat of an offensive juggernaut so far this season, scoring an average of 95.7 points over their last three outings. They’ve responded well to a primarily offensive focus on Mitchell’s part over the last week of practice, able to overcome a lack of consistent energy on the other end of the floor against Eastern Michigan.

“I think that we’re just a good team and we were able to make some shots,” said Janee Thompson, who had 16 points and 10 assists. “There were little spurts where we had good energy and focus and that’s why were able to get the lead. But we gotta be able to do that throughout the entire game.”

UK put the game away on the strength of a 24-4 run in the third period, which included a 3 by Maci Morris, a player Mitchell said was “hot as a firecracker” at halftime. Morris scored 17 points and made 5-of-6 3-point tries overall.

“I thought Maci was fantastic today,” Mitchell said. “Great, great job. She was a real zone buster today and we need some of that right now because we just couldn’t—again, you have to give a lot of credit to Eastern Michigan. It was another look that we have not seen.”

All five of Morris’ 3s came on assists from Thompson or Makayla Epps.

“I want to give them the assist,” Morris said. “If I’m wide open, they’re wanting that assist and I’m like, ‘I gotta make this.’ ”

Epps, however, revealed Morris had another thing motivating her on Wednesday. Her Bell County High School teammates were in town to watch her from her native Pineville, Ky.

“She does it for the mountains, I’m telling you right now,” Epps said. “She put on a shooting clinic and the mountains were in the stands today.”

Morris was able to help carry her new team to victory in front of her former teammates, but Mitchell knows the effort UK delivered on Wednesday won’t be enough to win consistently. That’s why the Cats will be going back to work.

“I told them they made a mistake today and what you do with a mistake,” Mitchell said. “You get honest with yourself and figure out where you went wrong and vow not to do it again and bounce back from the mistake.”