UK ends regular season with loss to Mississippi State

Junior Maci Morris makes a three during the game against Mississippi State on Saturday, February 24, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Roman West

The Kentucky women’s basketball team (14-16, 6-10) lost its final game of the regular season before heading to the SEC Tournament to defending national runner-up and No. 2 ranked Mississippi State (30-0, 16-0) by a score of 85-63.

The Cats were led once again by Maci Morris, who finished the game with 22 points, leading all scorers.

“[Morris] has command of her game,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “She has a total package offensively.”

Mississippi State’s leading scorer was Teaira McCowan, who finished the game with 20 points and 20 rebounds.

The game began with Jessica Hardin making her first career start for the Cats on senior day. Kentucky gave their best effort early, leading by as many as six with 6:30 to go in the first quarter. A 14-4 run by the Bulldogs, which saw four consecutive threes fall, evaporated UK’s lead.

Morris finished the first quarter with 10 points, enough to keep the Cats in it to that point.

McCowan made the final field goal of the quarter, a layup with 42 seconds left, which would be the beginning of a 15-2 run for the Bulldogs that lasted well into the second period. The 6-7 McCowan grabbed her 10th rebound of the game with 4:50 left in the second period for her 22nd double-double of the season.

Kentucky was held scoreless over the last 2:56 of the half, allowing Mississippi State to open a 15-point halftime lead.

Coming out of the break, the Cats couldn’t cut into the Bulldog lead in the third quarter. Every time Kentucky would get a steal or a stop on defense, Mississippi State had an answer on the other end. Even when Kentucky had made six of its final eight shots of the third quarter, they couldn’t cut into the lead because Mississippi State made nine of their last 11 and went 10-for-13 from the field for the quarter.

After Amanda Paschal made a layup just over a minute into the fourth quarter, Kentucky couldn’t connect on a field goal for over three minutes until Morris drove to the bucket to make a tough layup. That put Morris at 20 points for the sixth consecutive game.

With 2:42 remaining, Hardin checked back in to finish her career at Memorial Coliseum. She got on the scoreboard with a layup with 1:22 remaining and Memorial Coliseum erupted for her and fellow senior Alyssa Rice as they checked out for the final time.

“I was really proud of both of our seniors,” Mitchell said. “Alyssa battled on the boards, she had some nice plays and good box outs. Jess played with a lot of energy and I was so happy to see her get a bucket.”

Kentucky will head to Nashville for the SEC Tournament that begins Wednesday. The Cats will play Alabama at 1 p.m. on Thursday. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.