UK Women's Basketball

Kentucky rebounds from loss, tops Alabama 73-48

Aggressive mentality puts UK women's basketball back on track

Kentucky improved to 1-1 in the SEC with a 73-48 win over Alabama on Thursday night.
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Kentucky improved to 1-1 in the SEC with a 73-48 win over Alabama on Thursday night.

There’s no better remedy for a bad loss than a big win.

Kentucky went into Thursday night’s game with heads hanging and egos bruised after suffering their first loss of the season Sunday.

“We were a lot more fragile mentally than I thought we were,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I just thought that we lost a lot of confidence from Sunday, and I told them we couldn’t let one bad performance carry on.”

So instead of sulking about that loss, in which Kentucky grabbed a 17-point lead and then gave it away in the second half, the No. 10 Cats went back to work, taking their frustrations out on Alabama 73-48 on Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum.

It was a rout in every way, with UK outrebounding the Crimson Tide 45-30, and outscoring them 30-10 in the paint and 18-2 on second-chance points.

“I don’t think they liked what happened to them at Auburn and I thought they responded with an exclamation point,” said Alabama Coach Kristy Curry, whose team had its worst shooting performance of the season at 30.4 percent, which translated into its fewest points of the season as well.

The points of emphasis in the days leading up to Thursday night’s game were simple for UK: defensive intensity and rebounding tenacity.

“You could really see what we worked on, trying to make sure Alabama didn’t score in the paint,” Mitchell said. “If you let them get paint points, they’re very, very dangerous.”

And in the process of making sure to focus on those things, the Cats found the offensive prowess that turned them into one of the nation’s highest powered offenses in the games leading up to league play.

Evelyn Akhator was one of five UK players in double figures with a career-best 21 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Alexis Jennings added 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Cats, who shot a blistering 72.7 percent during the third quarter.

“Evelyn did a really good job of making herself present on offense,” senior guard Janee Thompson said. “I think a lot of times when we were struggling to score, she would pop open in the paint and get some layups or get fouled.”

For the game, Kentucky (12-1, 1-1) shot 43.5 percent, including 55.2 percent in the second half.

“We were shaken by that, and I thought the first half you really saw us kind of panic and there was no flow,” Mitchell said. “I just told them, ‘You’re a very good offensive team. … Let’s turn it loose and get some stops and get in transition.”

It was during the third quarter that Kentucky’s offense looked like its old self, with seven assists on eight made baskets. Four of those makes were from freshman Maci Morris, who had 10 points in the win despite attending her grandfather’s funeral in the morning.

Mitchell’s instructions at halftime were simple — and Kentucky followed them exactly.

“At halftime, he was like, ‘just keep your foot down. You know, don’t let up,’” Jennings said. “And I think that’s just what we did. We just stayed together and we were able to finish the game.”

Makayla Epps had 10 points, six rebounds and five assists. Thompson added 10 points and seven assists for Kentucky, which has topped the Tide in 11 of their plast 13 meetings.

Alabama (12-3, 1-1) was led by Karyla Middlebrook’s 12 points. Hannah Cook added 10.

▪ Thompson, who missed much of last season rehabbing a knee injury, had a scare Thursday night when she went down clutching her leg. But she said it was just a bruised quadriceps muscle after she took a knee to it. “I’ll be fine,” she said.

No. 10 KENTUCKY 73, ALABAMA 48

ALABAMA

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Bolton

17

3-8

0-0

5

0

4

6

Hegstetter

37

1-8

2-2

8

2

3

5

Cook

24

4-8

0-2

4

1

3

10

Knight

20

1-6

4-6

2

1

4

7

Middlebrook

30

5-11

0-0

4

2

4

12

Magee

13

0-2

0-0

0

1

0

0

Carter

11

2-5

0-0

1

0

0

4

Hayden

25

1-8

0-0

2

1

3

3

Wade

9

0-0

0-0

1

0

2

0

Martinez

14

0-0

1-2

1

0

0

1

Totals

200

17-56

7-12

30

8

23

48

Percentages: FG .304, FT .583. 3-Point Goals: 7-23, .304 (Cook 2-4, Middlebrook 2-4, Hayden 1-1, Knight 1-3, Hegstetter 1-5, Magee 0-1, Carter 0-2, Bolton 0-3). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 4 (Bolton 2, Wade, Hegstetter). Turnovers: 15 (Hayden 3, Knight 3, Middlebrook 2, Wade 2, Hegstetter 2, Cook, Bolton, Carter). Steals: 5 (Knight 3, Hegstetter, Cook). Technical Fouls: None.

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Jennings

27

3-9

6-6

10

0

4

12

Akhator

29

8-13

5-7

8

0

0

21

Thompson

34

3-8

2-2

2

7

1

10

Morris

21

4-7

0-0

0

0

2

10

Epps

39

5-14

0-1

6

5

2

10

Camara

15

1-4

0-0

5

0

4

2

Murray

21

2-4

0-0

6

2

2

4

Rice

14

1-3

2-2

4

2

2

4

Totals

200

27-62

15-18

45

16

17

73

Percentages: FG .435, FT .833. 3-Point Goals: 4-11, .364 (Morris 2-4, Thompson 2-5, Epps 0-2). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 6 (Akhator 3, Morris, Camara, Thompson). Turnovers: 16 (Epps 4, Morris 3, Camara 3, Thompson 2, Murray, Jennings, Rice). Steals: 4 (Murray 3, Jennings). Technical Fouls: None.

Alabama

9

10

14

15

48

Kentucky

15

14

22

22

73

A—4,792. Officials—Sue Blauch, Troy Winders, Greg Small.

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