UK Women's Basketball

Auburn women hand No. 7 Kentucky first loss of season

Auburn guard Brandy Montgomery (10) celebrated after her team’s come-from-behind 66-61 victory over Kentucky on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Auburn, Ala.
Auburn guard Brandy Montgomery (10) celebrated after her team’s come-from-behind 66-61 victory over Kentucky on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. Associated Press

As Kentucky’s 17-point lead started to fade away, Matthew Mitchell yelled “poise” over and over again from the Cats’ bench.

No matter how much the coach called for it, it never came and seventh-ranked Kentucky suffered its first loss of the season 66-61 in Auburn Arena on Sunday.

UK, one of the top offensive teams in the country, was held to season lows in points, field-goal percentage and three-point field-goal percentage. Kentucky turned the ball over a season-high 26 times against the Auburn press.

“We haven’t seen a press all year and had some freshmen out there and it was a different look for them, made them play more timid,” said junior guard Makayla Epps, who led UK with 20 points and six rebounds. “Not going to lie, I was timid at times.”

Epps was one of three UK players with five turnovers in the loss, which ended Kentucky’s hopes of starting the season with a school-best 12 straight victories.

“We played with tremendous lack of focus, did not follow the game plan as far as breaking the press,” Mitchell said. “We got real lackadaisical and I thought that really fueled Auburn’s confidence.”

They really played harder than we did today. It was evident they wanted to win worse than we did. That’s a disappointment for us, but a real credit to them.

Matthew Mitchell

Auburn (11-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), which made just two of its first 15 shots, allowed Kentucky to run up a 30-13 lead in the second quarter.

But the Tigers regained their swagger in the second half, shooting 71.4 percent in the fourth quarter behind Tra’cee Tanner and Brandy Montgomery.

“Coaches kept telling us to attack them, attack them,” said Montgomery, whose 27 points included two free throws that extended the lead to three with 13 seconds to play. “That’s what we did and it worked.”

Tanner scored all of her 17 points in the second half and added 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. After her first-half struggles, Tanner said she just calmed down.

Tanner said coaches told her to “be patient. They can’t really guard you.”

Three quick buckets for the Tigers and seven straight misses for UK to start the second half helped Auburn get within 33-30 after trailing 32-23 at the half.

Kentucky (11-1, 0-1) struggled in the third quarter, making just three of 12 shots. Eight straight points for Tanner helped get Auburn within three, 43-40, going into the fourth quarter.

And that’s when the Tigers took over. It was their first win over a top-10 team since 2010 and perhaps their most significant win since 1997 when they knocked off No. 6 Florida in the SEC Tournament.

“Have to give Auburn so much credit,” Mitchell said of the Tigers, who scored 27 points off UK miscues. “They really played harder than we did today. It was evident they wanted to win worse than we did. That’s a disappointment for us, but a real credit to them.”

Auburn scored the second-most points of any UK opponent this season despite not making a single three-pointer (0-for-12). The Cats, who came into the game the nation’s third-best three-point shooting team, made just one of 12 on Sunday.

“I don’t think any word describes this afternoon except effort,” Auburn Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. “Every possession, offensively, defensively, I just thought we played with great effort and with an intensity on the defensive end.”

Kentucky got 12 points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals from Evelyn Akhator, who was limited to 20 minutes because of foul trouble. Alexis Jennings added 10 points, 11 rebounds and three steals for the Cats, who won the rebounding battle 40-35.

As UK was grabbing that 17-point lead early, everything was going right. And then it wasn’t.

“I did not do a very good job helping them through the adversity,” Mitchell said. “We could never get their minds back and their spirit back. Once it started rolling downhill on us, we just didn’t bounce back.”

With Alabama coming to Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, UK has just a few days to figure out how to do just that.

Said Mitchell: “We’re trying to teach our team to be a resilient bunch and this is a great, great opportunity for us to bounce back from a tough defeat.”

AUBURN 66,

No. 7 KENTUCKY 61

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Thompson

35

3-8

1-2

2

2

1

8

Morris

28

0-7

2-2

1

1

2

2

Akhator

20

5-9

2-4

11

0

4

12

Epps

37

8-17

4-4

6

2

3

20

Jennings

31

4-10

2-2

11

1

5

10

Camara

13

1-1

0-0

1

0

4

2

Jakubcova

3

0-0

0-0

0

0

1

0

Murray

20

1-6

1-2

1

1

3

3

Rice

13

1-1

2-4

4

0

2

4

Totals

200

23-59

14-20

40

7

25

61

Percentages: FG .390, FT .700. Three-point goals: 1-12, .083 (Thompson 1-5, Murray 0-2, Morris 0-2, Epps 0-3). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 4 (Akhator 3, Rice). Turnovers: 26 (Morris 5, Murray 5, Epps 5, Jennings 3, Jakubcova 2, Thompson 2, Rice 2, Akhator, Camara). Steals: 16 (Murray 4, Epps 3, Akhator 3, Thompson 3, Jennings 3). Technical fouls: None.

AUBURN

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Montgomery

38

11-19

5-5

7

1

0

27

Frerking

31

5-12

5-6

4

1

4

15

Ja Jones

14

1-2

0-0

0

0

3

2

McKay

34

0-13

0-2

4

3

2

0

Tanner

35

6-9

5-5

10

1

2

17

Sanders

27

1-3

0-0

2

2

4

2

Garvin

6

0-1

0-0

0

0

0

0

Je Jones

5

0-0

1-2

2

0

2

1

Capers

4

0-0

2-4

0

0

0

2

Dieng

6

0-2

0-0

0

1

1

0

Totals

200

24-61

18-24

34

9

18

66

Percentages: FG .393, FT .750. Three-point Goals: 0-12, .000 (Garvin 0-1, Montgomery 0-3, Frerking 0-3, McKay 0-5). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 3 (Tanner 2, Dieng). Turnovers: 23 (Tanner 6, Montgomery 5, Ja. Jones 3, McKay 3, Frerking 2, Garvin, Sanders, Capers, Dieng). Steals: 12 (Sanders 4, Frerking 2, Montgomery 2, Ja. Jones, McKay, Tanner, Dieng). Technical fouls: None.

Kentucky

17

15

11

18

61

Auburn

7

16

17

26

66

A—2,677. Officials—Scott Yarbrough, Laura Morris, Eric Koch.

Next game

Alabama at Kentucky

7 p.m. Thursday

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