Coming off an upset win over 14th ranked Miami on Friday night, the Kentucky Hoops team looked sluggish at times against mid-major power the Albany Great Danes. A hot start and career game from Evelyn Akhator and great defense pushed Kentucky out to an early lead they never relinquished on their way to a 70-46 win at Memorial Coliseum this evening.
Below are the takeaways from a mixed effort from the now 2-0 Wildcats.
1) For the second game in a row, Makayla Epps appeared hobbled. The senior admitted after Friday night’s win over Miami that tendonitis in her knees is causing her some discomfort, and she was in obvious pain against Albany. The senior’s trademark explosiveness appeared a step slower, and she grimaced, moving slowly up the court on several occasions. Playing two games in a row obviously does not help inflamed joints, and while this may be an aberration later in the year, Epps tender knees have limited her play. She didn’t hit a field goal until late in the final quarter. With the team struggling to find an offensive identity outside of her and Evelyn Akhator, this may well be another stone that will upend Kentucky at some point this season. Epps finished with eight points, six assists, and two rebounds.
2) However, for the second game in a row, Evelyn Akhator came up big. The Nigerian-born forward paced Kentucky offensively in the first half for the second consecutive game, scoring 9 of Kentucky’s first 19 points. Akhator shot the ball efficiently, 10-of-15 (66 percent) from the field and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line to finish the night with a career-high 28 points to go along with 13 rebounds, four blocks, and a single steal.
3) At one point in the third quarter, Kentucky went 6:40 seconds without a field goal. The almost quarter-long-drought symbolized a night when Matthew Mitchell’s team struggled to find the basket. The Wildcats shot 22-of-58 from the field, good for 38 percent, and hit a paltry 5-of-16 from deep for 26 percent. Thankfully for the Cats the Great Danes only managed to hit 17 of their 67 shots.
4) Kentucky is still searching for another scoring threat outside of Epps and Akhator. Sophomore Maci Morris is the most likely candidate, but so far this season shooting struggles have done her in. Morris finished the game with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor with two of her baskets being triples. To her credit, Morris has shown a newfound aggressiveness on offense and is putting the ball on the floor more and is only struggling to hit her shot. Transfer Mackenzie Cann has a sweet touch from beyond the arc and is a skilled penetrator, but against Albany, she shot only 1-of-5 from three (2-of-6 overall, 3-for-3 free throws) for eight points.
5) Kentucky’s defense was solid yet again. In addition to the Great Danes shooting woes, the Cats forced them to turn the ball over 15 times to the tune of 17 points going the other way. With overall length and the skilled hands of Taylor Murray, UK has the potential to suffocate opponents with a 2-3 Zone as the year wears on.
6) Albany snatched 16 offensive rebounds to the Cats 13. With the size of Akhator and Alyssa Rice down low, Kentucky should never give up so many second chances against a smaller team. One has to think that Matthew Mitchell will make this a point of emphasis in practice next week.