UK Women's Basketball

Freshman Epps filling in for injured UK star Stallworth

Kentucky's Makayla Epps had a career-high 10 points and six rebounds in a 96-85 win over DePaul on Thursday night.
Kentucky's Makayla Epps had a career-high 10 points and six rebounds in a 96-85 win over DePaul on Thursday night. AP

It's exam week at Kentucky, which means lots of long hours and late nights hunched over books.

Freshman Makayla Epps has been doing more than her share of cramming the past few weeks, trying to get up to speed on the Cats' offense from nearly every angle.

The combo guard, who mostly ran the point during her long career at Marion County, has been shifted down to the power forward spot to make up for the monthlong absence of senior DeNesha Stallworth.

The 5-foot-10 freshman, who is averaging 5.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists, scoffed a bit at her coaches when they said this summer that she might be asked to play nearly every position on the floor.

They weren't kidding.

"Her basketball IQ helps a ton," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell explained. "Makayla can legitimately play the 1, 2, 3, 4 and it helps us so much that she's smart and can figure things out. You don't have a lot of players like that."

While Epps acknowledged that so many years of playing basketball has increased her basketball intellect, she's still had to do a ton of studying for this new position.

Most UK players are given the playbook on their iPads. Epps specifically asked for a hard copy.

"I've been studying it like crazy," Epps said. "I can draw on it. It helps me visualize better because I'll be able to go over the same play three or four times and mark on it and make my own comments on there."

After her career highs of 10 points and six rebounds at DePaul on Thursday night, Epps drew plenty of comments from coaches and teammates.

"It was tough for her not knowing the plays, but she played through that and she played very, very hard on both ends of the court tonight," senior forward Samarie Walker said.

A couple of times, Walker was the beneficiary of Epps' basketball intellect. With point guard passing skills, Epps was able to find Walker from the high post for easy baskets.

"We haven't had a chance for her to learn the whole playbook at the four and put on top of that, she's a freshman," Mitchell said. "So we've tried to play to her strengths."

At only 5-foot-8, Epps is considerably smaller than opponents' power forwards, but she's compact and powerful, able to put a body on bigger players.

"She's so strong she can get down in there and play taller players early and try to keep them out of the paint," Mitchell said.

But more importantly, he said, "she's a matchup nightmare" for the bigger players to try and stop.

"I thought DePaul had to go small to stay with her because she's so talented offensively," he said. "If she can continue to improve her defense, she can be a real weapon at the four."

Epps didn't mind playing that power forward spot much once she realized she could get around the player guarding her.

"I'm adjusting pretty well to it and I'm liking playing the four," she said. "It's just a very different position, different than what I'm used to doing, but I enjoyed it."


Sunday

East Tennessee State at No. 5 Kentucky

When: 2 p.m.

TV: WKYT-27.2, Fox Sports South

Radio: WLAP-AM 630

Records: East Tennessee State 2-5, Kentucky 10-0

Series: Tied 1-1

Last meeting: East Tennessee State won 59-50 on Dec. 12, 2008, in Memorial Coliseum.


Lineups

KENTUCKY

Starters — Bria Goss, 5-10, Jr., G (10.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Sr. (12.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, So., PG; (10.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.5 apg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Sr., F (10.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, Jr., F (6.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg).

Key reserves — Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, Jr., G (14.4 ppg, 3.5 apg, 1.7 rpg); Linnae Harper, 5-8, Fr., G (6.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Makayla Epps, 5-10, Fr., G (3.7 ppg, 2.7 apg); Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Sr., G (6.2 ppg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, Jr. (2.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg).

EAST TENNESSEE STATE

Starters — Chandler Christopher, 5-8, So., G (8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.1 apg); Brianna McQueen, 5-3, So., G (12.2 ppg, 4.7 apg); Cara Bowling, 5-8, Jr., G (13.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg); Serena Clark, 6-2, Jr., F (12.3 ppg, 12.1 rpg); Maria Bond, 5-10, Jr., F (8.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg).

Key reserves — Shamauria Bridges, 5-7, Fr., G (6.3 ppg); Shawn Randall, 5-8, Sr., G (3.3 ppg); Tiana Burley, 6-3, Jr., C (5.1 ppg).


UK Scores, schedule

Home games in capital lettersAll times p.m. and Eastern

Date Opponent Result

Nov. 8 At Marist W, 75-61

Nov. 10 At Wagner W, 96-57

Nov. 13 GEORGIA SOUTHERN W, 103-38

Nov. 17 CENTRAL MICHIGAN W, 96-74

Nov. 21 LIPSCOMB W, 116-49

Nov. 24At Middle Tennessee St.W, 84-72

Nov. 27 BRADLEY W, 117-77

Dec. 1 LOUISVILLE W, 69-64

Dec. 6 a-Baylor W, 133-130 (4OT)

Dec. 12 At DePaul W, 96-85

Date Opponent Time

Dec. 15 EAST TENNESSEE STATE 2

Dec. 22 b-DUKE 3

Dec. 29 GRAMBLING STATE 2

Jan. 2 At Alabama 8

Jan. 5 FLORIDA 3

Jan. 9 At South Carolina 7

Jan. 12 MISSOURI 5

Jan. 19 At Auburn 2

Jan. 23 ALABAMA 7

Jan. 26 ARKANSAS 1

Jan. 30 At Georgia 9

Feb. 2 LSU Noon

Feb. 9 At Florida Noon

Feb. 13 MISSISSIPPI 7

Feb. 16 At Tennessee 1

Feb. 20 SOUTH CAROLINA 7

Feb. 23 At Texas A&M 2

Feb. 27 At Mississippi State 8

Mar. 2 VANDERBILT 4

Mar. 5-9 d-SEC Tournament TBA

a-At AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas; b-At Rupp Arena; c-At Duluth, Ga.

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