Kentucky Sports

UK women overtake South Florida late to win Paradise Jam title

The University of Kentucky women's basketball team showed off its trophy after winning the Paradise Jam Island Tournament at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on Saturday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The University of Kentucky women's basketball team showed off its trophy after winning the Paradise Jam Island Tournament at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands on Saturday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)

The University of Kentucky women's basketball team found two victories in Paradise.

And the Wildcats, the only nationally ranked team in the four-team, round-robin event, had to earn every bit of those.

For the third night in a row, UK went down to the wire, pulling out a 61-57 victory over South Florida in the Paradise Jam Island Tournament at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Ninth-ranked Kentucky, which lost 77-71 to Illinois on Thanksgiving night then bounced back to beat Oklahoma 92-88 in overtime on Friday, trailed South Florida every second Saturday before tying and pushing ahead deep into the second half.

The Bulls (5-2) jumped to a 6-0 lead to open the game and were still in front 29-26 at halftime. Their lead held up until 6:09 remained when UK tied it at 49 on a layup by Jennifer O'Neill.

The Cats took their first lead moments later when O'Neill drove and dished to Janee Thompson, who swished an 18-footer to make it 51-49 with 5:32 to play.

Kentucky (6-1) extended its advantage to 53-49 before South Florida fought back to tie 55-55 with 1:35 left.

A full-court drive and bucket by Makayla Epps put Kentucky in front for good, 57-55, with 30 seconds left.

A free throw by Thompson and a pair of foul shots by Bria Goss pushed the Cats to safety at 60-55 in the closing seconds.

O'Neill led Kentucky with 17 points. Thompson added 15 and Goss finished with 10.

Epps, who hit career highs with 20 points against Illinois and 29 versus Oklahoma, ended up with 12 Saturday despite not scoring her first until the final minute of the opening half. The sophomore from Marion County was named tournament MVP.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments