UK Women's Basketball

Akhator gives UK women’s hoops reason to give thanks

Kentucky forward Evelyn Akhator (13) grabs an offensive rebound during the first half against Jackson State Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky forward Evelyn Akhator (13) grabs an offensive rebound during the first half against Jackson State Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 in Lexington, Ky.

The first thing Matthew Mitchell saw when he checked his phone Thanksgiving morning was a text from Evelyn Akhator.

“I’m thankful to be here,” it said simply.

It’s one illustration of the kind of person she is, Mitchell said of the forward from Nigeria that came to Kentucky via Chipola Junior College.

“She’s one of the best human beings we’ve signed here since I’ve been here in nine years,” the head coach continued. “She’s incredibly caring about her teammates. She connects well with people. She has an incredible appreciation for being at Kentucky.”

And the No. 12 Cats have plenty of reasons to be thankful for Akhator, too.

Kentucky outscored Jackson State 44-2 in the paint.

Last season’s Junior College Player of the Year has been a double-double machine for unbeaten Kentucky, leading UK in rebounds in all but one game and leading it in scoring twice in the first six games.

Akhator did it again on Sunday in a 92-24 drubbing of Jackson State in Memorial Coliseum, the Cats’ largest victory over an opponent since 2013.

The 6-foot-3 junior had a career-high 20 points and 13 rebounds in the victory, which was win No. 200 at Kentucky for Mitchell.

“I’m really thankful,” she reiterated in the post-game news conference. “I really love it here, so I’m really grateful not just to him but to my teammates. They really love me and I love them, too.”

Akhator was part of a UK group that outscored the Tigers 44-2 in the paint while outrebounding them 50-32.

In the first half, Kentucky (6-0) used a 31-2 run to put the game away early, including seven straight from Akhator.

She’s been a welcome addition for Kentucky, which will play Northern Kentucky on Wednesday.

“Evelyn’s a great player and a great person,” said senior guard Janee Thompson, one of UK’s four other players in double figures with 15 points to go with seven assists. “She’s a lot of fun to be around, and I think that’s everyone really.”

The caring and sharing showed up again on the Cats’ stat sheet with assists on 22 of the Cats’ 33 made baskets. So far this season, UK has an assist on 64.8 percent of its field goals compared to just 40.8 percent a season ago.

15.6 percentshooting from the field for Jackson State

Freshman guard Taylor Murray had a career-best 13 points, six rebounds and three steals. Makayla Epps added 12 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Alexis Jennings was one rebound short of a double-double with 10 points and nine boards.

Kentucky, which held outmanned Jackson State to 15.6 percent shooting from the field including 4.2 percent in the second half, forced 37 turnovers and turned them into 42 points.

The Tigers’ 24 points was one point off tying the school record for fewest points allowed by the Cats, when UK permitted just 23 points in a win over Alcorn State in 2012.

And yet, Mitchell still wants more from Kentucky.

“Our team came out lacking intensity defensively and that’s something we need to fix,” he said. “We just don’t have a real sharp edge to us when we start the game.”

He also was displeased with UK’s early turnovers, including seven in the first quarter. The Cats finished with 16 for the game.

“It’s funny we had less turnovers against Colorado last Sunday than we did this Sunday,” he said. “I just think there’s a lack of mental sharpness there in the first period that we have to correct because we will never be the kind of team that can turn it on and off.”

At halftime before he even arrived in the locker room, Kentucky’s players were discussing their own unhappiness with ball security in the first half.

“That’s just something that we’ve got to try to correct through learning from film and working through those mistakes in practice,” Thompson said.

No. 12 KENTUCKY 92, JACKSON ST. 24

JACK. ST.

Min

FG-A

FT-A

TR

A

PF

PT

Z Williams

18

0-5

0-0

2

0

1

0

Robinson

28

0-4

0-0

3

2

2

0

Wiggins

24

3-15

3-4

4

0

2

11

Bile

26

2-5

0-0

5

0

3

4

Adams

15

0-4

2-2

2

0

2

2

D Williams

12

1-1

0-0

0

0

0

2

Riddles

18

0-1

0-0

2

1

1

0

Payne

8

0-0

0-0

1

0

2

0

Nailer

8

1-4

2-2

2

0

0

4

Woodson

3

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Causey

15

0-3

0-0

1

1

2

0

Evans

3

0-1

0-0

0

0

0

0

Bell

18

0-2

0-0

4

0

3

0

Shelton

4

0-0

1-2

1

0

1

1

Totals

200

7-45

8-10

32

4

19

24

Percentages: FG .156, FT .800. Three-point Goals: 2-11, .182 (Wiggins 2-10, Nailer 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 3 (Adams 3). Turnovers: 37 (Wiggins 9, D. Williams 5, Bile 5, Nailer 4, Payne 2, Woodson 2, Robinson 2, Z. Williams 2, Bell 2, Adams 2, Causey, Riddles). Steals: 9 (Z. Williams 2, Bile 2, Nailer, Bell, Riddles, Adams, Robinson). Technical fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

TR

A

PF

PT

Thompson

23

5-10

2-2

3

7

0

15

Morris

29

3-13

0-0

1

3

0

7

Akhator

24

7-11

6-8

13

0

0

20

Epps

29

5-11

1-1

5

9

0

12

Jennings

26

3-8

4-6

9

1

2

10

Camara

18

2-3

2-2

4

0

1

6

Jakubcova

13

0-2

3-6

2

0

0

3

Goodin-

Rogers

12

2-5

0-0

2

0

2

6

Murray

26

6-12

0-0

6

2

3

13

Totals

200

33-75

18-25

50

22

8

92

Percentages: FG .440, FT .720. Three-point goals: 8-25, .320 (Thompson 3-5, Goodin-Rogers 2-5, Epps 1-2, Murray 1-5, Morris 1-8). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 6 (Jakubcova 2, Jennings 2, Akhator, Morris). Turnovers: 16 (Camara 4, Jennings 3, Epps 2, Thompson 2, Jakubcova 2, Akhator 2, Goodin-Rogers). Steals: 9 (Murray 3, Thompson 2, Jennings 2, Morris, Akhator). Technical fouls: None.

Jackson St.

10

7

4

3

24

Kentucky

17

30

26

19

92

A—5,010. Officials—Luis Gonzalez, Meadow Overstreet, Eric Baker.

Next game

Kentucky at Northern Ky.

7 p.m. Wednesday

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