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Morris shines despite UK’s struggles this season

Morris shines despite UK’s struggles this season

Vic Schaefer thought Mississippi State had a good defensive plan to stop Maci Morris, Kentucky’s leading scorer. He felt like the Bulldogs, who finished Southeastern Conference play unbeaten and are considered the team to beat for the national title, made Morris work for any shot she got.

Yet in Sunday’s regular-season final, Morris still went 8-for-15 from the field and had 22 points for Kentucky. It was her sixth straight game with 20 or more points, something no other UK player had ever done.

“She’s such a great player,” said Schaefer. “She’s added now not just the 3-point range and big range, but she’s added the off-the-bounce piece. She’s really developed herself into a complete player.

“She’s very difficult to defend. She’s smart. She knows that if you’re here, she can do this. If you’re here, she’ll do this. She’s a very smart, heady player. She’s highly skilled. (Kentucky coach) Matthew (Mitchell) does a lot of runs, a lot of good stuff for her. Her teammates understand their role in trying to help her get open and allow her to be successful.”

Kentucky has a losing record going into Thursday’s SEC Tournament game in Nashville against Alabama, but Morris is averaging 17.2 points per game and shooting 47 percent (69 of 147) from 3-point range and 83.7 percent (82 of 98) at the foul line. She’s pulled off 3.5 rebounds per game and even blocked 16 shots. She had 35 points against South Carolina, making her only the third UK player ever to score 35 or more in an SEC game. She also led UK in scoring 19 times – and played the second half of the season with a bruised knee.

“She has command of her game, she has command of her ball handling, and she can go right or left so you can’t force her one way or another. She can make plays off the bounce with both hands and that’s very, very important,” Michell said. “She’s a great 3-point shooter. So, you can’t make a mistake at the 3-point line or she’ll make you pay. She’s got a midrange game and she makes free throws. She can play out of the on-ball screen. She just has a total package offensively, skill-wise, and what rounds that out is accurate shooting. She’s a very, very good offensive player.”

She’s worked to become a better leader and also understands the role her teammates have played in her success.

One thing that has surprised her, though, is how fast three years have gone by at Kentucky. She’s already 26th on the UK all-time scoring list with 1,068 points, but says realizing her junior season is almost over is hard to comprehend.

Kentucky lost to UCLA in the 1975 title game when Robey, James Lee, Jack Givens and Mike Phillips were freshmen. They were eliminated in the Elite Eight in 1977 by North Carolina when the Tar Heels used the four-corners offense after getting a lead.

One of the stars already in Georgia’s 2019 football recruiting class is five-star receiver Dominick Blaylock of Walton High School in Marietta, Ga. The 6-0, 175-pound Blaylock is the nation’s No. 2 receiver and No. 10 prospect overall in the 2019 class in the rankings. His first scholarship offer came from South Carolina when he was in the eighth grade.

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