No. 9 Kentucky opens with 82-48 win over Morehead

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)—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.

Updated Friday, Nov 12, 2010

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Morehead St.
Chynna Bozeman Chynna Bozeman
5-15,  16 Pts
5 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Kentucky
Victoria Dunlap Victoria Dunlap
4-16,  18 Pts
9 Rebs, 3 Assists

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Rebounds
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Friday, Nov 12