UK Women's Basketball

Kentucky moves to 10-0 with win over Duke

UK’s Janee Thompson celebrated a three-point shot against Duke. She made 3-of-4 from beyond the arc en route to finishing with 17 points.
UK’s Janee Thompson celebrated a three-point shot against Duke. She made 3-of-4 from beyond the arc en route to finishing with 17 points. Herald-Leader

It was finals week at Kentucky.

The eighth-ranked Cats had one last big exam before going home for the holiday break and it was a doozy in No. 13 Duke on Sunday night.

Despite the sporadic practice schedule and the distractions, though, Kentucky aced its final exam with a 71-61 victory in front of 17,150 at Rupp Arena, the fourth-largest crowd for a women’s basketball game in program history.

“Oustanding victory,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I give them an ‘A’ on their final exam. It was really good.”

The Cats improved to 10-0 for only the fourth time in program history and could match the program’s best start at 11-0 with a win next week over Tennessee State at Memorial Coliseum.

As impressive as UK’s offensive stats were in its final exam, Mitchell later credited a “great, great performance” by the Cats’ defense with the win.

“This was their last final they needed to take and we really tried to prepare hard for a very good Duke team,” said Mitchell, whose team held Duke to 35.3 percent shooting in the second half. “You see the result. We were really able to affect them with our defense.”

Kentucky’s offense wasn’t half bad either, especially early in the game when the Cats scored at will in the paint, getting their first 16 points in the lane.

“We were horrendous defensively inside,” Duke Coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “You wouldn’t expect them to be able to capitalize like that against our players.”

The undersized UK team outscored the Devils 38-34 in the paint behind 18 points and six rebounds for Evelyn Akhator.

She was almost unstoppable. It was almost automatic that every time we gave her the ball she was able to score.

Janee Thompson on Evelyn Akhator

“My teammates, they really believed in me,” the national Junior College Player of the Year said. “I didn’t want to let them down. I had to do well in the paint.”

UK senior guard Janee Thompson, who had 17 points in the victory, said Akhator was key to the Cats’ fast start. She had 12 of UK’s first 16 points before sitting the final nine minutes of the first half with two fouls.

“She was almost unstoppable,” Thompson said of Akhator. “It was almost automatic that every time we gave her the ball she was able to score.”

That automatic scoring left McCallie fuming.

“Our post defense was horrible to start,” she said of Duke, which allowed Kentucky to shoot 50 percent in the first half and 48.3 percent for the game, the highest percentage yielded by the Devils this season.

“We just let people catch the ball on the block and turn and shoot, and that gave Kentucky a lot of confidence when they were scoring inside.”

Kentucky expanded its lead to 11 points early in the second quarter on a Maci Morris 15-footer before Duke came roaring back with a 12-2 run to pull within a point, 26-25, on a putback six minutes before the break.

The Cats responded, though, and went into the locker room with a 38-30 advantage.

My assist game is what got me flowing tonight.

Makayla Epps

Duke (9-3) cut the Cats’ lead again to five points with eight minutes to go before Epps did her part to carry the scoring load. Despite playing the full 40 minutes, Epps managed 17 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

“My assist game is what got me flowing tonight,” the junior said. “I wasn’t overly aggressive or looking to score early. I was dishing the ball early.”

Morris added nine points and three rebounds in the victory and the guard teamed up with fellow freshman Taylor Murray to shut down the Devils’ second-leading scorer, Rebecca Greenwell.

The sophomore and former Owensboro Catholic star was held without a field goal for the first time in her career and finished with one point on 0-for-6.

“They are battlers and they are smart,” Mitchell said of Morris and Murray. “We had a game plan to try to make it tough on Becca. She’s a very, very good player.”

The Blue Devils were paced by Azura Stevens’ 17 points and five rebounds. Freshman Crystal Primm added a career-best 15 points.

No. 8 KENTUCKY 71, No. 13 DUKE 61

DUKE

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Stevens

32

6-15

5-5

5

2

4

17

Chidom

20

4-5

0-0

7

1

4

8

Belton

15

1-5

0-0

2

0

3

2

Lambert

24

1-8

4-6

3

0

2

7

Greenwell

38

0-6

1-2

3

2

2

1

Gorecki

16

1-5

0-0

3

0

0

2

Salvadores

32

3-9

2-3

4

2

3

9

Primm

23

6-7

3-4

4

1

1

15

Mathias

0

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Team

   

7

   

Totals

200

22-60

15-20

38

8

19

61

Percentages: FG .367, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 2-13, .154 (Salvadores 1-2, Lambert 1-3, Stevens 0-2, Greenwell 0-3, Gorecki 0-3). Team Rebounds: 7. Blocked Shots: 6 (Stevens 3, Chidom 2, Greenwell). Turnovers: 17 (Stevens 4, Salvadores 3, Greenwell 3, Lambert 2, Belton 2, Primm, Chidom). Steals: 4 (Greenwell, Gorecki, Belton, Stevens). Technical Fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Jennings

27

1-3

0-0

2

0

3

2

Akhator

24

8-14

2-2

6

0

3

18

Thompson

36

7-12

0-0

2

2

2

17

Morris

24

4-11

0-0

3

1

1

9

Epps

40

4-7

8-9

4

8

1

17

Camara

20

2-6

0-0

3

0

3

4

Jakubcova

2

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Murray

22

2-5

0-0

1

2

2

4

Rice

5

0-0

0-0

1

0

2

0

Team

   

6

   

Totals

200

28-58

10-11

28

13

17

71

Percentages: FG .483, FT .909. 3-Point Goals: 5-9, .556 (Thompson 3-4, Epps 1-1, Morris 1-4). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 1 (Camara). Turnovers: 13 (Camara 4, Thompson 3, Epps 2, Akhator, Murray, Rice). Steals: 6 (Akhator 2, Jennings, Morris, Camara, Thompson). Technical Fouls: None.

Duke

13

17

17

14

61

Kentucky

22

16

19

14

71

A—17,150. Officials—Dee Kantner, Bob Trammell, Carla Fountain.

Next game

Tennessee State at Kentucky

When: Dec. 28, 7 p.m.

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