Prog­no­sis on Mur­ray’s knee in­jury ap­pears promis­ing

Lexington Herald-Leader - - Sports - BY JARED PECK [email protected]­ald-leader.com

Af­ter a his­toric win in Knoxville, Ken­tucky women’s bas­ket­ball got some great news about in­jured se­nior point guard Tay­lor Mur­ray on Fri­day.

The knee in­jury suf­fered at the end of the first half Thurs­day night is not se­ri­ous and her abil­ity to play will be as­sessed “day-to-day.” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell called the in­jury a patella bone bruise.

“She’s a tough, tough kid,” Mitchell said at the team’s press con­fer­ence Fri­day. “We would not be the team we are right now with­out Tay­lor Mur­ray . ... It’s a bruise and we’re thank­ful that it’s not lig­a­ments.”

Mur­ray, who leads the team in as­sists and steals and is third in scor­ing with a 12.9 points per game av­er­age, went fly­ing to the floor on a hard foul by Ten­nessee’s Ren­nia Davis as Mur­ray tried to fin­ish a fast break with a layup with less than a minute left in the sec­ond pe­riod. Mur­ray landed awk­wardly with her left kneecap ap­pear­ing to ab­sorb most of the im­pact. She was taken di­rectly to the locker room and sat on the bench with an ice pack on her knee for the en­tire sec­ond half.

Fri­day, she smiled as she walked past re­porters gath­ered for the press con­fer­ence, fa­vor­ing the left knee with a slightly stiff-legged limp. Mitchell said she would be on

the sta­tion­ary bike at Fri­day’s prac­tice to get her mov­ing.

Also heart­en­ing, Mitchell said, was the grit Ken­tucky showed in get­ting the pro­gram’s fourth win ever in Knoxville against the Lady Vols.

The Cats took con­trol at the out­set, lead­ing by as many as 17 points in the first half and 16 in the sec­ond half, but saw the mar­gin trimmed to just two points in the game’s fi­nal min­utes with Mur­ray out and its other team lead­ers, Maci Morris (27 points) and Rhyne Howard (six points, five re­bounds) on the bench af­ter foul­ing out. Howard fouled out with more than seven min­utes left. Morris fouled out with just over four min­utes left.

“We were just try­ing to hang on there at the end, and we did more than that,” Mitchell said. “We were coura­geous and had the courage to go and make some­thing hap­pen.”

With Ten­nessee gaining mo­men­tum, Mitchell cred­ited Ogechi Anya­galigbo and Amanda Paschal for mak­ing big plays down the stretch. Anya­galigbo scored 13 points, in­clud­ing a calm­ing 15footer as Ten­nessee edged closer in the fourth pe­riod. Paschal hus­tled af­ter her own miss and got a steal of what looked like a Ten­nessee de­fen­sive re­bound with 1:23 left that helped set up the big­gest play of the game.

The ball worked to sopho­more backup point guard Jaida Roper who nailed a deep three­p­ointer from the left wing as the shot clock wound down and the game clock read 55 sec­onds left.

“Jaida’s three was the real dag­ger, I think, in the game and it was a tough shot con­tested by their cen­ter,” Mitchell said.

Sun­day, Ken­tucky re­turns to face Mis­sis­sippi in Me­mo­rial Coli­seum at 1 p.m. Ole Miss boasts one of the league’s top scor­ers in Crys­tal Allen (18.3 ppg). Mitchell will also be look­ing to get his team work­ing harder on the boards af­ter get­ting out­re­bounded 50-32 by Ten­nessee.

“We have a lot of con­fi­dence that we are good enough to win games, but we also un­der­stand that you can’t ex­pect to win a lot of games get­ting out­re­bounded and dom­i­nated on the boards like we did yes­ter­day,” he said.

Howard, the team’s lead­ing scorer, will also be look­ing to get back on track af­ter she was lim­ited by foul trou­ble Thurs­day to a sea­son-low 14 min­utes. She was held more than 10 points below her av­er­age by the Lady Vols.

“We won the game by two points. She scored six and was our lead­ing re­bounder and she made one of the most in­cred­i­ble hus­tle plays that saved two points for us, so, my mes­sage to her was ‘you played great last night. You’re fine,’” Mitchell said. “’The rea­son you foul is you’re stand­ing straight up, and you’re not us­ing proper tech­nique. It’s as sim­ple as that. You’re not a bad player. You’re not a bad per­son. You’re just not us­ing proper tech­nique. ... She’s al­ready an in­cred­i­ble player and she will learn from these ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Tay­lor Mur­ray

BRYAN WOOLSTON AP

Ken­tucky’s Tay­lor Mur­ray, right, the Cats’ start­ing point guard, is “day-to-day” with a patella bone bruise. Mur­ray leads the team in as­sists and steals.

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