Cats overcome slow start to get seventh win of the season

The No. 15 UK women’s basketball team escaped Memorial Coliseum with a win Friday evening; as they were tested by the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, but secured a 61-48 win.

The Raiders, who are a strong three-point shooting team, let their presence be known early, hitting 6 threes in the first half. Middle Tennessee’s leading scorer, Ty Petty made five of those threes, and also dished out three assists.

The hot three-point shooting from Middle Tennessee meant that UK spent most of the first half playing catch-up. To make matters worse, Makayla Epps picked up two fouls early and spent the entire second quarter on the bench.

Freshman Jaida Roper would come off the bench in Epps’ place and lead the Cats on a second quarter surge that eventually gave the Cats the lead at halftime. Roper would contribute seven points and two rebounds in the first half.

“Jaida Roper had her best game of the year,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “She just came in and made some really aggressive plays that I think was able to give our team some confidence.”

The Cats did a better job defensively in the second half, holding Middle Tennessee to 0-6 from three-point land after the hot start. The Raiders would finish the half shooting 22 percent from the floor.

With the defense finding its rhythm, normally the Cats open up massive leads with a combo of strong defense and an offense that consistently puts up points, but tonight was not the case.

The Cats would start the third on a 7-2 run, and finish the quarter with a 10-point lead, but did little to nothing to extend that lead in the fourth as the Cats shot 26 percent from the floor in the quarter.

Luckily for UK, the defense stayed tough and limited Middle Tennessee to just seven points in the fourth quarter, which helped UK maintain that double-digit lead and hold on for the win.

Taylor Murray led the way for the Cats, scoring a team-high 16 points to go along with seven rebounds and three assists. Murray was just one rebound shy of tying her career high at eight.

“We couldn’t keep Murray off the boards, she’d [Murray] go get put-backs or get tips or whatever and keep the ball alive, that’s just tough on us,” Middle Tennessee head coach Rick Insell said.

The Cats will now get ready to face the Arizona State Sun Devils on Dec. 11 at Rupp Arena. Tipoff for the game is scheduled for 1 p.m.

“It’s gotten cold outside so if you need a good, nice warm place Sunday afternoon, Rupp Arena will be on fire,” Mitchell said.