UK Women's Basketball

Women’s college basketball: Ailing Janee Thompson helps No. 11 Kentucky stay unbeaten

Kentucky Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell high fiving his team during a timeout as Kentucky defeated Northern Kentucky 84-65.
Kentucky Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell high fiving his team during a timeout as Kentucky defeated Northern Kentucky 84-65. Herald-Leader

Janee Thompson woke up Monday night with knots in her stomach.

Not the sort brought on by a big exam or nerves about an upcoming big game.

It was a stomach virus, and it was bad.

“I was in the hospital all day and missed practice,” Kentucky’s senior guard said of how she spent her Tuesday.

A few rounds of intravenous fluids and other treatments had her back at shootaround on Wednesday before the No. 11 Cats’ game at Northern Kentucky.

But even in the minutes before the game at BB&T Arena, Coach Matthew Mitchell wasn’t sure how much the senior would be able to contribute.

His answer: A lot.

Thompson was the remedy to some first half ailments for Kentucky, which used a big third quarter to come back and beat NKU 84-65.

“She just battled; she was fantastic,” Mitchell said of Thompson, who scored a game-high 21 points and tossed out seven assists.

“Her shooting in the second half those were pivotal moments. … We just needed a lift. Our team needed a lift of confidence, and the way she’s shooting the ball really settles everybody down, puts everybody at ease. She played a whale of a game.”

Kentucky needed a whale of a game from someone on the perimeter as NKU packed it in down low and tried to limit UK’s touches in the post.

The Norse shook off a 9-0 start by the Cats and stormed back to grab a 41-37 lead at the half, which they extended to six points early in the third quarter. That’s when UK responded with 11 unanswered points to reclaim the lead for good.

“Our team really responded with much more poise, much more patience and a lot more toughness in the second half,” said Mitchell, whose Cats shot 62.1 percent in that half and 55.2 percent for the game. They had just four turnovers after the break after coughing it up nine times in the first half.

“We changed our mentality at the half,” said Makayla Epps, who had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the win and helped UK improve to an unbeaten 7-0 with a rivalry game against Louisville at Rupp Arena looming next week.

“NKU gave us their best shot in the second quarter,” Epps said. “They were hitting us with all the haymakers they possibly had.”

So the Cats hit back with a one-two punch of their own in Thompson and Epps.

The Kentucky defense helped, too, holding the Norse to 25 percent three-point shooting in the second half after they connected on 8 of 15 in the first.

“Played a great first half,” Northern Coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “Shots were falling in the first half, but it was tough to sustain. And that’s what you’ve got to do against a team that’s as big, as athletic, that’s as physical and as tough to score on around the rim as they are.”

The Norse (5-2) were led by Sarah Kinch’s 16 points. Rianna Gayheart addded 14 points.

Evelyn Akhator paced Kentucky with 13 points and five rebounds. Taylor Murray added eight points and seven rebounds for UK, which won the board battle 37-26.

“I thought we showed some resilience in this game, some ability to fight through adversity,” Mitchell said. “Really proud of our players. Excited to get this one.”

He was especially proud of Thompson for her big game on a bad stomach.

“Told her she needed to get a stomach virus more often,” he half joked.

That’s not in Thompson’s plans for the future.

“He just said that because I made some shots today,” she laughed, crediting the team trainer for getting her back in time.

“Hopefully I can do that again without getting sick. Hopefully I never have to feel that way again. It was terrible.”

▪ UK forward Alyssa Rice, who has missed the start of the season with a stress reaction in her right foot, was able to participate in shoot-around on Wednesday afternoon and pre-game warmups.

“That was a big step forward for her,” Mitchell said of the sophomore, who was in uniform but did not play. He said she’s expected to return to full practices early next week.

No. 11 KENTUCKY 84, NORTHERN KENTUCKY 65

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Akhator

29

6-9

1-2

5

1

4

13

Jennings

31

3-8

0-0

8

0

2

6

Thompson

33

6-9

6-7

3

7

2

21

Morris

21

3-6

2-2

3

1

2

9

Epps

39

7-14

1-2

7

5

1

16

Camara

17

4-5

0-0

1

0

4

8

Jakubcova

10

1-3

1-3

0

0

2

3

Murray

20

2-4

4-4

7

3

3

8

Totals

200

32-58

15-20

37

17

20

84

Percentages: FG .552, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 5-12, .417 (Thompson 3-4, Morris 1-4, Epps 1-4). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 3 (Akhator 3). Turnovers: 13 (Thompson 5, Akhator 4, Morris 2, Camara, Epps). Steals: 10 (Akhator 3, Murray 3, Jennings 2, Morris, Epps). Technical Fouls: None.

N. KY.

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Uetrecht

34

3-10

0-0

4

3

0

8

Glick

16

1-3

2-2

2

1

0

4

Franson

26

0-7

6-8

2

1

4

6

Ch Roush

28

3-12

0-0

3

4

1

7

Wiegman

21

1-2

0-0

3

2

3

3

Davis

5

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Sanders

1

0-0

2-2

0

0

0

2

Terry

15

2-5

1-2

4

1

1

5

Gayheart

29

5-6

0-1

4

1

3

14

Kinch

25

6-9

1-2

0

1

3

16

Totals

200

21-54

12-17

26

14

15

65

Percentages: FG .389, FT .706. 3-Point Goals: 11-27, .407 (Gayheart 4-5, Kinch 3-3, Uetrecht 2-7, Wiegman 1-2, Ch. Roush 1-7, Terry 0-1, Franson 0-1, Glick 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 2 (Uetrecht 2). Turnovers: 18 (Gayheart 5, Wiegman 4, Glick 4, Kinch 2, Uetrecht, Terry, Ch. Roush). Steals: 8 (Uetrecht 2, Ch. Roush 2, Terry, Glick, Davis, Wiegman). Technical Fouls: None.

Kentucky

24

13

24

23

84

N. Kentucky

17

24

11

13

65

A—4,084. Officials—Brad Maxey, Royce Blevins, Marla Gearhart.

Next game

Louisville at Kentucky

Dec. 10, 7 p.m. (SEC Network)

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