Slow starts have plagued the UK Hoops team early in the young season. That was not the case tonight against the Morehead State Eagles.
Kentucky’s offense looked more fluid than it has all season in the opening minutes and a lot of that has to do with the return of junior guard. Makayla Epps, who recorded the second triple-double in program history during the game. The Marion County native’s pinpoint passing on the fast break led to several easy Wildcat baskets. The Cats’ offensive explosion continued the rest of the night and five players finished in double figures.
The Eagles hung around for most of the 1st quarter, but a 7-0 run sparked by an Evelyn Akhator layup over the last two minutes of the opening stanza gave Kentucky a comfortable lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the game on their way to a 112-57 win over head coach Matthew Mitchell’s old team. Akhator provided a scary moment late in the 3rd quarter when she was hobbled with a right ankle injury. She did not return to the game.
Ever since her return from suspension Makayla Epps has been on fire. On Sunday against Arizona State Epps 2nd half explosion keyed the comeback in the Wildcats; overtime win.
Tonight Epps turned in the program’s first triple-double since the late 1980’s. Epps started the game 3-of-13 from the field but had eight first-half assists. Matthew Mitchell said that that is what he wants Epps to do when her shot is not falling.
Epps found her shooting stroke in the 2nd half, scoring 16 of her 21 points on 8-of-21 shooting. She finished the game with 11 rebounds and 12 assists. After the game, Epps said that Mitchell has also instructed her to crash the offensive boards which is a bit unusual since she is not a natural rebounder.
Of course, Epps said that she is going to give her father, former men’s star Anthony Epps, grief since he never recorded a triple-double.
Mitchell said he was disappointed in Jennings’ level of effort in the 1st half since several Morehead State players beat her to loose balls.
That had to be the only thing that Mitchell could find fault in because Jennings played a tremendous game. The junior forward recorded a double-double with a game-high 28 points on 12-of-21 shootings and 13 rebounds.
Senior point guard Janee Thompson was one assist away from recording a double-double, which would have been the first points/assists double-double in program history.
After struggling with her shot during the first two games of the season, Thompson hit 4-of-7 three-pointers and finished with 22 points, nine assists and five rebounds.
Thompson said after that game that she feels great on the court despite not being fully healed from her horrific leg injury from last season. She also said that the injury has changed the way she prepares for games.
Kentucky’s defense was stout again tonight. The Cats’ held Morehead State to 26 percent shooting and forced the Eagles into 26 turnovers.
Akhator’s Ankle Not Serious
As stated earlier, junior forward Evelyn Akhator injured her right ankle late in the 3rd quarter and did not return to the game. In his postgame comments, Mitchell revealed that the injury was not severe and Akhator should be able to practice tomorrow.
Depth was will be an issue for Kentucky all season long and the Cats’ cannot afford to get into foul trouble like they did tonight. Maci Morris fouled out of the game and three other players (Akhator, Camara and Murray) were close to fouling out as well.
Kentucky also has to take better care of the ball. This was the third game in a row they’ve given the ball away over 15 times, and not handling the ball better will cost them against better teams.