Men's Basketball

UK women's basketball: Sluggish start too much for Cats to overcome

Kentucky's Azia Bishop worked between Illinois' Chatrice White (32) and Brittany Carter (20) to put up a shot during UK's opening game in the Paradise Jam Island Tournament on Thursday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky's Azia Bishop worked between Illinois' Chatrice White (32) and Brittany Carter (20) to put up a shot during UK's opening game in the Paradise Jam Island Tournament on Thursday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)

The University of Kentucky women's basketball team found that paradise is not all it's cracked up to be on Thanksgiving night.

The ninth-ranked Wildcats got off to a sluggish start and never fully recovered in losing for the first time this season, 77-71, to the University of Illinois in their first of three games in the Paradise Jam Island Tournament in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

Illinois bolted to a 17-5 lead in Thursday's opening six minutes.

The Wildcats rallied to knot things at 18 by the 10-minute mark, but UK was never able to keep the Fighting Illini away from the basket. Illinois (5-0) repeatedly worked inside for buckets against Kentucky and rebuilt its lead back to 12 at 57-45 with 8:40 left in the game.

Kentucky charged from behind again, trimming Illinois' lead to 68-65 on a basket by Makayla Epps with 1:57 to play.

The Wildcats kept the pressure on and had a chance to cut the advantage to two, but Azia Bishop missed a pair of free throws with 15.3 seconds to play that left the score 73-69.

Epps led the Wildcats with 20 points off the bench, a career high for the sophomore.

UK's last loss to an unranked team at a neutral site was against LSU, 72-61, on March 3, 2012 in the SEC Tournament.

The Wildcats (4-1) have two games remaining in the Paradise Jam. UK plays Oklahoma at 6 p.m. EST on Friday and takes on South Florida at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday.

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