Freshman Morris Improving Overall Game
Kentucky freshman guard Maci Morris, who hails from Pineville, Ky., grew up rooting for the Big Blue. However, she had never played in legendary Rupp Arena until Thursday night.
But after her team beat arch rival Louisville 72-54, playing in Rupp is an experience that Morris will likely never forget.
“It was amazing,” Morris said of playing at the home of the UK men’s team. “The fans were amazing. The arena is way bigger obviously, but the atmosphere just got the adrenaline rushing even more.”
Morris scored only eight points in the game, but her contributions went beyond the scoring column. Specifically, it was Morris’ defensive effort on Louisville leading scorer Mariya Moore that made a huge difference in the game.
Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell was impressed with Morris’ effort on Thursday.
“She just answered a challenge,” Mitchell said. “I got after her at Northern Kentucky and I was very honest with her. There was no question in my mind that Louisville was coming after her and was going to pick on her, and it happened. She needed to know that it was going to happen and her team needed to know it.”
Morris responded to the challenge, holding Louisville’s Moore to a season-low seven points, more than eight points below her average.
“She hustled and battled and gave supreme effort,” Mitchell said of his standout freshman. “She played as hard as she could play last night.”
Morris, who was named after former Kentucky All-American Kyle Macy, is having a solid start to her UK career. Through eight games, she is averaging 10 points per game while shooting a sizzling 44.7 percent from three-point range.
Both Morris and her head coach are enjoying her fast start, but they also know that there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“She has a long way to go, she knows that, I know it, but you have faith in that kid because she will meet the challenge,” Mitchell said. “She will be a great player here because she loves Kentucky, she loves being here, she loves her teammates and she’s a battler.”
Morris agrees. “My defense has gotten better, but I still have a lot to improve on with that,” she said. “I need to be smart offensively and defensively. I need to know where to be in my positioning.”
There will be no rest for Morris and her teammates after Thursday’s big win over their arch rivals. The Wildcats hit the road to face a tough Middle Tennessee team on Sunday in Murfreesboro. And Morris will see her defense challenged once again.
“If she thinks she’s arrived, she hasn’t,” Mitchell said. “When we got to Middle Tennessee, she’ll be on their top scorer (Brea Edwards), who is one of the best three-point shooters in the country. She’ll have to meet that challenge again. She’s just got to stay with it.”
But as she showed on in Thursday’s win over Louisville, Morris is up to the challenge. And while continues to be a solid outside shooter, it’s her overall game that continues to improve.