LEXINGTON, Ky. – Senior guard Taylor Murray had 16 points, while freshman Rhyne Howard added 15 as the Kentucky women's basketball team won its season opener, beating Alabama State 87-35 on Wednesday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky's pressure defense, led by Murray's six steals, was the biggest factor in the game. The Wildcats forced the Lady Hornets into 43 turnovers, and were able to score 51 points off the ASU mistakes. As a team, Kentucky had 23 steals, the most for a Wildcat team since November 13, 2013 when UK had 24 steals against Georgia Southern.
The win was Kentucky's biggest since an 85-31 win over UNC-Asheville on March 19, 2016.
Freshman Blair Green scored 13 points in her collegiate debut, while senior Maci Morris had 11 points for the Cats. KeKe McKinney was solid for the Cats with seven points and seven rebounds, while Jaida Roper had eight points and a team-high six assists.
The Wildcats got off to a quick start, taking a 7-0 lead behind a pair of Murray baskets and a three-pointer by Howard. But Alabama State answered with a 7-2 run to cut the UK lead to 9-7 with 4:39 left in the first period. In fact, the run, in total, would be 14-6 and the Lady Hornets would grab their first and only lead, 14-13, with 1:55 remaining in the quarter.
Murray would add a basket in the lane with 30 seconds left in the period, and Kentucky would hold a 15-14 lead after 10 minutes of play. Murray led UK with six points in the quarter, as the Wildcats hit just six of 19 (31.6 percent) from the floor.
As they did in the first quarter, Kentucky started quickly in the second period. The Wildcats scored nine straight, fueled by four points from Murray and a three-pointer from McKinney, to take a 24-14 advantage. A 17-2 run, including back-to-back three-pointers from Morris, made it 32-16 Cats with 3:23 left in the first half.
Kentucky would take a 20-point lead with 1:32 left in the half on a pair of free throws by Green, and the Cats would lead 39-22 at the break. Kentucky forced Alabama State into 24 turnovers in the first half, including 15 in the second quarter. The Cats turned those 24 turnovers into 25 points.
Early in the third quarter, Kentucky led 45-26 before assembling a 13-1 run, including six points by Green, to take a 58-27 lead with 2:56 left in the quarter. The Cats would outscore the Lady Hornets 25-8 in the quarter, and would lead 64-30 heading to the final 10 minutes. Kentucky forced 11 more ASU turnovers in the third quarter and turned those into 15 points.
As they had done in the previous three quarters, Kentucky went on an early run to start the fourth period. The Wildcats scored the first 19 points of the fourth quarter, taking an 83-30 lead late in the game before settling for the 52-point victory.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, as the Wildcats host Southern University at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network+.