Kentucky finds weary Haven of victory during 72-62 win over misfiring Indiana All-Stars

OWENSBORO – BNL’s Karsyn Norman finds an open teammate during the Indiana All-Stars clash with Kentucky on Friday night. Kentucky won the series opener 72-62.

By Justin Sokeland

OWENSBORO, Ky. – Indiana brought rocks to a border fight. Shot ‘em, too. That was not the weapon of choice, nor of success. Miss after miss added up, and Kentucky found a weary Haven of refuge when pressured, as the Hoosiers suffered a disappointing loss in the All-Star series opener.

With their Miss Basketball showing little fatigue after playing in the KHSAA softball state finals earlier in the day, the Kentuckians took advantage of Indiana’s contagious shooting virus and coughed-up turnovers for victory in the first game of the annual home-and-home series. After enough concrete misfires to repave the highway back to Indianapolis, Indiana can’t wait to get back home again.

Haven Ford, not exactly fresh after her 2 1/2 car shuttle from Lexington to Owensboro, scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, earning game MVP honors as Kentucky smacked Indiana 72-62 on Friday night. Kentucky will seek its first series sweep since 2012 when the rivals collide again on Saturday night in Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

And after a dismal offensive performance, Indiana is thankful that tomorrow is another day.

The Hoosiers never led, trailed by as many as 19 points in the first half, and only showed their expected identity during a 9-0 close to the third quarter than got them back within comeback range. But another prolonged scoring drought allowed Kentucky to pull away to a safe 15-point lead.

Indiana’s struggles were obvious. The shooting percentage was barely enough (29.1 percent) for a good baseball batting average. Indiana was also 4 of 21 from long range. Other than Miss Basketball Laila Hull, who totaled 22 points and 12 boards, the Hoosiers were dazed and confused, finishing with 22 turnovers.

Bedford North Lawrence’s Karsyn Norman, a starter who played a game-high 36 1/2 minutes, had 2 points, 5 assists and 4 steals, but she was not immune from the offensive issues that plagued just about everyone in the Indiana uniforms.

“We weren’t going at them physically or aggressively enough,” Indiana coach Kristi Ulrich summarized. “And we had a lot of easy ones that just didn’t fall. Making more easy shots is definitely key. We need to be more aggressive out of the gate, go at them.“

OWENSBORO – Indiana Miss Basketball Laila Hull drives against Kentucky’s Haven Ford. Hull had 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Indiana could use the excuse of a mega-long bus ride to the western region of their southern neighbor, but Ford would have laughed at that. After her Rowan County softball squad fell to defending state champion Ballard in the state semifinal, she was ushered across the state (taking a nap and switching mental gears from starting shortstop to deluxe point guard). She didn’t get a hit during the day, but she was a hit that night. She had 14 points in the first half as Kentucky powered to a 41-25 lead at intermission, and her rebound-coast-layup early in the fourth helped shift momentum back after Indiana had somehow scrambled with 54-48.

“I looked at today as a win-win situation,” said Ford, a Murray State basketball recruit who was prepared to stay and play on the diamond if Rowan had won. But she had her basketball gear in the car, just in case. She also had a gear that Indiana couldn’t match.

“She’s extremely heady,” Ulrich said. “Very smart, very savvy with the ball, high basketball IQ.”

Indiana’s lone highlight spurt came late in the third, courtesy of Hull. After Columbus East’s Saige Stahl converted a rebound basket, Hull dropped a 12-footer in the lane and buried a trey from the corner to create the six-point deficit. That’s as close as Indiana had been since the first period. And it would get no closer.

OWENSBORO – Indiana’s RaShunda Jones attacks the Kentucky defense. Jones totaled 10 points.

Love Mays had an offensive rebound bucket, Ford waded into traffic for another second-chance basket, and Mays scored on a layup as Indiana went the first five minutes of the fourth locked in another scoreless funk. And that one was fatal.

“We refocused, we pulled the momentum back from them,” Kentucky coach Pete Fraley said.

“They took the momentum away from us,” Ulrich said. “We stopped moving the ball around. We didn’t do enough. We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds, gave them two or three opportunities.”

Whitney Lind had 15 points and 11 boards, Mays finished with 14 points, and JaKayla Thompson added 11 for Kentucky, which still trails the historic series 52-41.

RaShunda Jones had 10 points for Indiana, but Hull was the only Hoosier who played at a high level.

“We kind of challenged her,” Ulrich said. “We needed her to be Miss Basketball, and she hit a number of big shots.”

OWENSBORO – Indiana’s Amber Tretter fades for jumper. Indiana shot a dismal 29.1 percent.

Indiana just never found its footing after hitting only 3 of 20 shots in the first quarter and 9 of 40 in the first half. Fraley, who scouted the Indiana loss to the Junior team during the scrimmage on Wednesday at Cathedral, pointed to Kentucky’s backcourt advantage.

“Our guards put a lot of pressure on them,” Fraley said. “We’re really quick, and we don’t give an open look.”

Indiana now has to win the rematch to avoid a dubious distinction. Only one All-Star team (2012) has gone winless during the week of scrimmages against the Juniors and the border clashes with Kentucky.

“We want to play with a big sense of pride,” Ulrich said. “We have to do better in certain areas. We have to clean some things up.”

In the boys game, Kentucky escaped with a tense 94-90 triumph.

Kentucky (minus Mr. Basketball Reed Sheppard) exploded to an immediate 14-0 lead, and owned a 75-58 lead with 7:49 left, but the Hoosiers stormed back with a remarkable late blast, taking their first lead at 80-79 with a 17-0 run. But a banked 3-pointer by Kentucky’s Marcus Eaves for an 86-82 advantage was the turning point as Kentucky held on.

Teagan Moore, the game MVP, paced Kentucky with 31 points while Kenyon Goodin added 14. Markus Burton, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, had 33 points while Bloomington North’s J.Q. Roberts added 16.