UK women's notes: Epps shakes off auto accident to shine

jsmith3@herald-leader.comDecember 15, 2013 

Makayla Epps talked calmly and quietly about being grateful to be able to play with her Kentucky teammates on Sunday.

Sailing up over a row of chairs next to the court trying to get to a loose ball, she didn't show the signs of a college freshman that had been in a traumatic car accident the night before.

"Somebody ran into me, but I'm here," Epps said after UK topped East Tennessee State 73-56 in Memorial Coliseum.

"That's the best thing. Nothing terrible happened. I'm here. I got the opportunity to play. ... I didn't think I'd get to play today. Real grateful to get out there with my teammates."

Epps was on the Bluegrass Parkway coming back from a funeral and lost control of her car, Coach Matthew Mitchell explained after the win.

The freshman Kentucky Miss Basketball from Marion County, flipped her car several times, he said.

"We're thankful to God that she walked away from what could've been a bad, bad situation," Mitchell said, recounting getting the call he received about her accident on Saturday evening.

Epps said she was evaluated after the accident and was diagnosed with a neck strain, but she was able to make big plays despite the injury.

The big plays included diving for loose balls on many occasions — including that leap over the row of courtside seats — and a near-collision with the press row table and a UK cheerleader.

"She made some great hustle plays," Mitchell said. "Those were at a premium today because we were having a hard time getting the crowd going and Makayla really made some good hustle plays that got the crowd excited."

The freshman guard, who has been playing the power forward spot for Kentucky while senior DeNesha Stallworth is out after having her knee scoped, finished with eight points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist.

One of those steals came with less than 15 seconds to play in the first half and led to an easy layup for her.

"It was a good lesson for her as a freshman to be able to come out and really make an impact on the game when she certainly was still a little bit shaken from her wreck," he said. "I was proud of her for being able to play."

Turnover issues?

Turnovers are supposed to be something UK forces, not something the Cats commit.

In the last four seasons, UK has ranked in the top five nationally in turnover margin, including finishing second in that category last season, forcing 23.7 a game while only committing 15.5.

This season, the Cats are still forcing their fair share (25.5), but they're also committing an uncharacteristically high (for them anyway) 17.7 a game.

Kentucky had 18 against ETSU on Sunday, which had Mitchell concerned about ball security overall.

"We've got to be able to get some practice time," he said. "I'm really excited to have five or six good days of practice here where we can try to sharpen up on some things. I'm hoping we can get our turnover numbers way, way down."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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