LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sophomore Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) recorded her fourth career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds but it wouldn’t be enough to help the Kentucky women’s basketball team overcome a poor shooting night in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats fell to Michigan, 70-60, in their season opener Saturday in front of 3,836 fans.
The Wildcats (0-1) struggled offensively from the start, missing two shots and committing three turnovers in their first five possessions. UK’s first basket was a three-pointer by Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) almost six minutes into the game. Despite early foul trouble to key players, the Wildcats managed to trail just five points (31-26) with 2:15 left in the half. However, Michigan guard Veronica Hicks nailed a layup and 6-6 center Krista Phillips sank a three-pointer to push the lead to nine at halftime. UK hit just 9-of-37 shots in the first half (24.3 percent), including 2-of-8 from the three three-point line (25.0 percent) in falling behind 36-37 at the break.
“It was a very poor performance for us today and not the way that you want to start the season,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We had a lot of areas that were exposed and give Michigan a lot of credit defensively because our shooting performance was not good today. We have to find a way to become a better scoring and shooting team. It was very disappointing today.”
Despite pulling within single digits several times, UK couldn’t find its groove in the second half either, hitting 15-of-38 from the floor and 0-of-8 from beyond the arc. The Cats pulled to within nine points (53-44) after a jumper by junior Brittany Edelen (Springfield, Ky.) with 8:46 left in the game. Michigan freshman Courtney Boylan thwarted the Cats’ comeback by scoring eight consecutive points, including back-to-back three-pointers, giving the Wolverines a 17-point lead. UM would hold on for the 70-60 win.
“We didn’t shoot very well today,” Mitchell said. “As a coach, what you have to do is try to find some better areas on the floor for your players to be more effective. As a player, at some point, you have make lay-ups, stay focused and finish. We have worked on that in practice. Other than that, you have to find some courage inside of you as a guard and make some shots. I thought that we got some open looks today but we had a miserable performance.”
The Cats’ 32.0 percent clip for the game was the lowest shooting percentage since netting 31.3 percent vs. No. 7 LSU last season in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. On the other side, the Wolverines were able to hit 50.0 percent (23-of-46) of their shots and 19-of-23 (82.6 percent) from the free-throw line.
Following Dunlap in the scoring column was fellow sophomore Catina Bett (Gadsden, Ala.) with eight points while junior Lydia Watkins (Hopkinsville, Ky.) added seven points and a team high-tying six rebounds. Senior Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio), who averaged 21.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in exhibition play, finished with four points and six rebounds in just 15 minutes of action due to foul trouble.
One of Kentucky’s bright spots was rebounding. The Wildcats outrebounded Michigan 44-34, including grabbing 25 offensive rebounds compared to UM’s seven. UK also outscored the Wolverines 42-30 in points in the paint. Turnovers plagued both squads with 21 miscues each.
UK is now 27-8 all-time in season openers and 31-4 all-time in home openers. UK is 1-3 all-time against Michigan.