WBI is a likely option for the young Cats


Junior guard Maci Morris dribbles up the court during the game against Auburn on Thursday, February 1, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Roman West

Kentucky fell to Mississippi State for the third time of the season in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament, and the loss effectively eliminated the Cats for the NCAA Tournament and the WNIT.

Kentucky’s only hope for the WNIT is if Alabama, the team Kentucky beat in the second round, is given an at-large big to the NCAA Tournament. That would leave Kentucky as the automatic qualifier to the WNIT since they have the conference’s best remaining record not in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky is not eligible for an at-large bid because they finished the season under .500. However, don’t hold your breath waiting for Alabama’s (17-15, 7-9) name to be called on Selection Monday on March 12.

That leaves the Women’s Basketball Invitation for the Cats. The WBI is a 16-team, single-elimination tournament for teams that weren’t selected for either the NCAA or WNIT.

Head coach Matthew Mitchell wants to play in the postseason to help develop his young, rebuilding Kentucky team. The team does have several key players returning to next year’s squad.

Junior guard Maci Morris was a second team All-SEC selection this year and averaged 17.3 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the floor. Morris also shot 47.5 percent from deep and 85 percent from the free throw line.

Another junior guard, Taylor Murray, will also be returning next season. Murray was selected to the All-SEC Defensive Team this season while averaging 11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this season.

One of the young players Mitchell hopes the postseason experience will help develop is freshman post Dorie Harrison. Harrison played in all 32 games this season, starting in eight.

She only played 540 minutes this season, but her per-36 stats leap off the page. She averaged 14.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.

The postseason run will be the end of three UK players’ careers: Alyssa Rice, Makenzie Cann and Jessica Hardin.

Rice is the only one of the four seniors who played all four seasons at Kentucky. Rice started all 32 games this season, averaging 6.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Rice was named SEC Scholar Athlete this season as well.

Cann transferred to Kentucky after playing her first season at Cincinnati. In her time at Kentucky, Cann averaged 6.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Hardin, a former Kentucky high school standout who played at Bellarmine her freshman season before transferring to UK to focus on academics, was injured for most of her time at UK. She only saw action in 29 games in her career, averaging 2.2. points per game.

The Cats won’t have to wait much longer to see where they’ll be playing in the postseason. The WBI allows the higher seeded team to play its games at home, so the Cats may get to see more action at Memorial Coliseum before season’s end. The WBI bracket will be released on March 12.