No. 9 Kentucky 82, Morehead St. 48

Morehead State coach Tom Hodges made a fashion statement.

Kentucky opted to make one with its defense.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats swarmed the Eagles in the second half,

pulling away for an 82-48 victory in the season opener on

Friday.

Victoria Dunlap and A’Dia Mathies scored 18 points apiece and

Kentucky overwhelmed the overmatched Eagles over the final 20

minutes.

Chynna Bozeman led Morehead State with 16 points and Ashar

Harris added 12 rebounds, but the Eagles withered under Kentucky’s

relentless pressure.

”It was not a masterpiece by any means,” Kentucky coach

Matthew Mitchell said.

Maybe, but Hodges’ eye-popping attire might be. The 28-year-old

first-year head coach turned heads with an arresting

diamond-patterned suit of blue, white and gold and matching white

shoes.

The wardrobe was provided by LoudMouth Golf, the company that

outfits golfer John Daly. Hodges did it to bring attention to his

team, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Kentucky is looking to make headlines in a more traditional

way.

The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA regional finals last year and

began the season with the highest preseason ranking in school

history, even if they didn’t exactly look like a top-10 team in the

opening 20 minutes against the Eagles.

Morehead State hung around as Kentucky missed shots and

opportunities to put the game away. The Wildcats led just 27-20 at

the break, but Mitchell didn’t lose his cool during halftime. With

a team featuring a handful of freshmen expected to make major

contributions, he didn’t want to damage their fragile

confidence.

”Nobody wanted it to be 27-20, they wanted it to be 50-20,”

Mitchell said.

It almost was, eventually. The Wildcats put together an 18-0 run

early in the second half to take control. They did it with defense.

Morehead State turned it over 36 times, leading to 40 Kentucky

points, and shot just 28 percent from the floor.

”We focused more on our defensive fundamentals,” Mathies said.

”We turned around and stepped up.”

The lead kept blossoming, growing to as large as 36 in the

second half. Hodges said it looked like there were ”eight or

nine” Wildcats on the floor at one time.

”Their defensive tenacity and intensity, especially in the

second half was really the difference in the game,” he said.

”They were forcing us into awkward decisions and some bad

spots.”

It wasn’t all good news for Kentucky.

Junior guard Keyla Snowden went down with a right leg injury in

the first half. Mitchell said it’s too early to tell how long

Snowden will be out, adding the injury didn’t look

”terrible.”

Her absence further depletes Kentucky’s backcourt. The Wildcats

are already playing without senior point guard Amber Smith, who is

out indefinitely after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in

her right knee over the summer.

Mitchell experimented at the point with freshman Maegan

Conwright and junior Crystal Riley. He wasn’t exactly pleased with

either player’s performance, but isn’t ready to panic either.

Kentucky plays at Miami (Ohio) on Sunday.