UK Women's Basketball

Kentucky’s Makayla Epps helps Cats cruise by Cardinals 72-54

Kentucky guard Makayla Epps (25) went in for a first-half layup on a fast break for two of her 25 points against Louisville on Thursday.
Kentucky guard Makayla Epps (25) went in for a first-half layup on a fast break for two of her 25 points against Louisville on Thursday. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

On a night when Kentucky’s Makayla Epps scored 24 points and made big play after big play, the guard said she had the “time of my life” just watching her teammates do the same.

“To see a game like this where everybody played the way they did tonight, we played a really solid game,” said Epps, whose UK team remained unbeaten with a 72-54 victory over rival Louisville at Rupp Arena. “A really solid Kentucky game.”

Sure, Epps made 10 of 11 shots and added four rebounds, four assists and three steals to help the Cats to their fifth straight win over the Cardinals, but she was more excited for everyone else.

“I had the night I had, but honestly, even if I hadn’t scored, I had the time of my life regardless,” Epps said. “My teammates were making big plays.”

Epps was one of four players in double figures, including 14 points and eight rebounds from Alexis Jennings, who gave UK some key baskets in the fourth quarter when Louisville cut into the Cats’ big lead.

“I’ve been struggling with my confidence a little bit, but once I got out there and got going and my teammates got me the ball, I was just happy to finish for them,” said Jennings, who took open 12- to 15-foot jumpers to help UK extend its advantage when Louisville got close to cutting it to single digits a couple of times.

The Cats, who have one of the nation’s most productive offenses this season, shot 51.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range.

“We allow kids to get confidence in shooting and it’s a snowball, and that’s exactly what it was,” said Louisville Coach Jeff Walz, who met with his team for almost an hour after the loss.

I’m as excited to see what we can become as I have been in a long time.

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell

The game was a good barometer for a Kentucky team that improved to 8-0 for just the sixth time in program history, Coach Matthew Mitchell said.

“I’m as excited to see what we can become as I have been in a long time,” he said after the victory on Thursday night. “I’m really excited to see what this team can finish up and do.”

The fact that all players contributed and did their jobs has him excited about the future.

“We still have a lot of growth,” he said. “We are not going to get full of ourselves. We are going to stay humble and hungry and just really work at becoming the best team we can be.”

Taylor Murray came off the UK bench to add 11 points and four rebounds; Janee Thompson added 10 points.

Despite discussions the day before about massive arenas with tiny baskets, Kentucky got off to a scorching start, making its first four shots and grabbing a 9-2 lead.

But then four turnovers in four minutes helped the Cardinals play their way back into it, pulling within three points, 17-14, early in the second quarter.

Louisville had its own ball security issues, with five in a five-minute span.

Coupled with a 1-for-7 shooting slump, things went downhill quickly for the Cardinals and UK used on a 12-3 run — fueled by six points from Epps — to end the first half up 39-22.

Epps had a monster first half, hitting seven of her eight shot attempts for 15 points to go with three rebounds, two assists and two steals (no turnovers).

The Cats, who had as many points in the second quarter as Louisville had in the first half, shot 53.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. Louisville made just 28 percent from field.

Louisville made six of its first nine shots out of the locker room and cut the lead to 10 points before Epps came back in to score seven straight and give UK a 54-41 edge going into the fourth quarter.

Briahanna Jackson led the Cardinals (3-5) with 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

No. 8 KENTUCKY 72, LOUISVILLE 54

LOUISVILLE

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Hines-Allen

35

8-17

0-0

7

2

4

16

Moore

37

2-7

3-4

2

5

2

7

Walton

32

2-5

0-0

2

1

4

4

Cole

23

0-2

0-0

2

2

3

0

Jackson

38

5-15

7-10

8

1

3

18

Fuehring

5

0-1

0-0

0

0

0

0

Carter

7

0-0

2-2

1

0

0

2

Durr

23

3-8

0-0

0

1

2

7

Totals

200

20-55

12-16

27

12

18

54

Percentages: FG .364, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 2-11, .182 (Durr 1-1, Jackson 1-5, Cole 0-1, Moore 0-4). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 4 (Durr 2, Hines-Allen 2). Turnovers: 14 (Moore 3, Jackson 3, Hines-Allen 3, Cole 2, Walton 2, Durr). Steals: 4 (Jackson 4). Technical Fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Jennings

28

7-11

0-0

8

1

3

14

Akhator

38

2-5

1-6

9

0

2

5

Thompson

34

3-12

2-2

1

3

0

10

Morris

29

3-7

0-0

2

0

2

8

Epps

34

10-11

3-4

4

4

2

24

Camara

6

0-0

0-0

0

1

3

0

Jakubcova

3

0-1

0-0

2

0

1

0

Murray

24

4-9

2-2

4

1

1

11

Rice

4

0-0

0-0

1

0

1

0

Totals

200

29-56

8-14

36

10

15

72

Percentages: FG .518, FT .571. 3-Point Goals: 6-14, .429 (Morris 2-3, Thompson 2-5, Epps 1-2, Murray 1-4). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 5 (Jennings 2, Akhator 2, Morris). Turnovers: 18 (Murray 6, Thompson 4, Akhator 3, Epps 2, Camara 2, Jennings). Steals: 5 (Epps 3, Murray, Morris). Technical Fouls: None.

Louisville

11

11

19

13

54

Kentucky

17

22

15

18

72

A—14,425. Officials—Denise Brooks, Beverly Roberts, Brian Enterline.

Next game

Kentucky at Middle Tennessee

Sunday, 3 p.m.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments