UK Women's Basketball

UK women’s basketball ends three-game losing skid

Kentucky guard Makayla Epps (25) drives to the basket against LSU during the first half Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016 in Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky guard Makayla Epps (25) drives to the basket against LSU during the first half Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Herald-Leader

Even when things are going well for Kentucky, it can’t seem to keep that going.

Trying to end a three-game losing streak, the No. 18 Cats raced out to a 25-point advantage only to limp to the finish line just ahead of Louisiana State, 70-58 at Memorial Coliseum.

“We cannot seem to stand success,” Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the Cats, who made 61 percent of their shots going into the fourth quarter when things started to come undone.

“When we get a big lead, it just seems that we don’t value defensive possessions the way we need to,” he said. “They just started doing whatever they wanted there in the fourth quarter.”

Kentucky, which never trailed in Sunday’s game, saw its 25-point lead dwindle down to just 10 points with 1:13 to play.

... As we’ve done often this year, if our offense is not working, then we don’t play as hard on defense.

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell

When shots didn’t fall in the fourth quarter, Mitchell saw shoulders sag and the confidence built out of a strong three quarters fade quickly.

“We started turning over and as we’ve done often this year, if our offense is not working, then we don’t play as hard on defense,” the coach said. “And that’s disappointing.”

There were bright spots for the Cats (16-6, 5-6 Southeastern Conference). After a difficult game at South Carolina, senior Janee Thompson had 16 points and tied her career best with 10 assists versus the Tigers.

Of the Cats’ 14 made baskets in the first half, 11 were assisted. Thompson was responsible for six of those assists to go with her seven points.

“She had a great game and she really showed some great leadership and some great fire,” Mitchell said.

Thompson was quick to credit her teammates for making the shots to get her the assists.

“They gave me all the confidence in the world today to go out and play hard and play my game, because I only have a few games left,” the senior guard said. “They were really just behind me the entire time.”

Maci Morris added 14 points and Alexis Jennings pitched in 11 points and five rebounds for Kentucky.

At the start, UK raced out to a 9-2 lead and extended it to as many as 16 points in the first quarter using a 14-2 run while holding the Tigers without a point for 3:53.

Kentucky led 26-10 after one quarter, the most points scored in a an opening quarter in SEC play this season.

Kentucky got careless with the ball in the second quarter, with six miscues in the first five minutes, which let LSU make a mini 9-2 run and pull within eight points 30-22 on a Hill jumper late.

Hill was one of three Tigers (8-16, 2-9) in double figures with 17 points and five rebounds. Alexis Hyder added 16 points and a game-best 15 boards.

UK ended the half on a high note, though, scoring seven unanswered to make it 37-22 at the break, the Cats’ largest halftime lead in league play this season.

Louisiana State,which lost its fourth straight, missed eight of its first nine shots of the second half and UK ran away with it, going up by 25 points, 25-50 on a free throw by Jennings.

In the third quarter, the Cats shot 72.7 percent and held the Tigers to 27.8 percent.

But that lead wasn’t safe.

“The kids play hard and they guard and they don’t quit,” Tigers Coach Nikki Fargas said. “They play to the very end of the buzzer. We wish that we could play that type of style of ball the entire game, but when you’re playing six players it’s kind of hard to bring that.”

No matter how ugly the fourth quarter got, Kentucky was happy to get the win, snapping a three-game losing streak. The Cats’ 54 percent shooting was their second-highest in league play. They held LSU to 37.3 percent shooting.

“I do think that we feel pretty good,” Jennings said. “I think a part of us just wants to do better. Try to work towards extending leads when we have them and not let down so much.”

Kentucky gets some needed down time this week with a bye on Thursday before heading to Vanderbilt on Sunday to try to avenge a 71-69 loss to the Commodores at the end of January.

UK needs to take advantage of the rest, Thompson said: “We get two days to get our feet under us and then we have to come back and work hard in practice and get it together.”

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

No. 18 KENTUCKY 70, LSU 58

LSU

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

PT

Norton

39

2-8

1-2

4

1

4

5

Bethel

32

5-10

0-2

6

3

4

10

Rhodes

28

2-7

0-0

3

2

4

4

Hill

39

7-13

2-4

5

0

2

17

Hyder

32

4-11

8-9

15

3

4

16

Pedersen

27

1-9

1-2

2

2

4

3

Fareo

3

1-1

1-2

0

0

2

3

Totals

200

22-59

13-21

37

11

24

58

Percentages: FG .373, FT .619.

Three-point goals: 1-3, .333 (Hill 1-3).

Team rebounds: 2.

Blocked shots: 2 (Hyder 2).

Turnovers: 14 (Hill 4, Norton 4, Hyder 3, Rhodes, Bethel, Pedersen).

Steals: 6 (Hyder 2, Norton 2, Bethel, Pedersen).

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

PT

Camara

33

3-4

1-2

3

0

3

7

Thompson

38

6-11

1-3

2

10

2

16

Morris

27

6-10

1-2

3

1

4

14

Akhator

15

4-5

1-3

5

1

5

9

Epps

35

2-9

0-2

3

5

1

5

Jakubcova

4

0-0

0-0

0

0

1

0

Murray

12

0-2

2-2

2

0

0

2

Jennings

31

4-6

3-4

5

0

3

11

Rice

5

2-3

2-5

1

0

4

6

Totals

200

27-50

11-23

28

17

23

70

Percentages: FG .540, FT .478.

Three-point goals: 5-14, .357 (Thompson 3-5, Epps 1-4, Morris 1-4, Murray 0-1).

Team rebounds: 4.

Blocked shots: 3 (Jakubcova, Camara, Rice).

Turnovers: 15 (Jennings 4, Camara 4, Epps 3, Morris, Murray, Thompson, Rice).

Steals: 5 (Murray 2, Morris, Thompson, Akhator).

LSU

10

12

14

22

58

Kentucky

26

11

21

12

70

A—6,110. Officials—Brian Hall, Metta Roberts, Eric Baker.

Next game

Kentucky at Vanderbilt

4 p.m. Sunday (SEC Network)

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