For the second game in a row, the UK Hoops team got off to a hot start but once again the opposing team took the 'Cats' best punch on the chin and fought back.
However, unlike in the Northern Kentucky game, the Wildcats landed another knockout shot in the 2nd quarter that sent the archrival Louisville to the canvass for the rest of the half.
Kentucky used a 12-2 run and held the Cardinals to one basket over the last 5:55 of the 2nd half to extend their lead to double digits, 39-22, at the break.
Makayla Epps started hot, scoring nine of her team’s first 14 points, and finished the half with 15.
Three-point shooting was the real difference maker in the opening 20 minutes. Kentucky hit 5-of-10 treys and held the Cardinals without one.
The Cards finally found their shooting touch in 3rd quarter and hit five of their first seven shots to trim UK’s lead to ten, 47-37, with 3:19 to play in the period.
After a Kentucky timeout, Makayla Epps rose to the occasion for the second time in the game. The junior guard went on an individual 7-0 run to swing the momentum back to UK, who led 54-41 going in the 4th.
Louisville never seriously threatened again and Kentucky won going away 72-54.
The Lebanon native put together another impressive stat sheet: 24 points (on 10-of-11 shooting), four rebounds and four assists.
What was more impressive was her steadying influence when her team needed her the most. With the rest of team struggling to score in the 1st quarter, Epps took charge and scored the majority of UK’s first baskets. When Louisville threatened again in the 3rd, Epps took over again and scored three timely baskets to put the Cards back on the defensive.
With Evelyn Akhator struggling on offense, Alexis Jennings stepped up and provided the bulk of Kentucky’s scoring in the paint.
Jennings showcased an arsenal of low-post moves on her way to a 14 point (7-of-11 shooting) and eight rebound performance.
If Jennings and Akhator can both start playing well consistently at the same time the Cats will have a lethal tandem in the paint.
On an off night for the rest of the bench, Taylor Murray provided a spark like she has all season.
Murray scored 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting and snagged four rebounds in addition to one assist.
The only downside to Murray’s performance was a team-high six turnovers.
1st Half Three-Point Defense
Besides turnovers, 1st half perimeter defense has been the bane of the UK Hoops team. Against Louisville, the 'Cats put forth their best effort of the season and shut the Cardinals out from beyond the arc in the 1st half and held them to 2-for-11 for the game.
The Rupp Arena Crowd
The Big Blue Nation was a late arriving crowd tonight but more than made up for their tardiness. All night long the Rupp Arena crowd was loud and gave tremendous support to Matthew Mitchell’s team.
The ladies in Blue and White are usually a solid free throw shooting team but struggled from the charity stripe against the Cards, shooting an atrocious 6-of-14.
Turnovers are Kentucky’s consistent struggle so far this season. Louisville forced 16 UK turnovers and converted them into 13 points.
Bench Play (Besides Taylor Murray)
With the departure of Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, the already thin UK bench got shorter coming into the game, and with the exception of Taylor Murray, UK’s subs were a non-factor in the game and did not record a single basket. Hopefully this an aberration for the normally solid reserves.