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Takeaways from UK Hoops’ 80-57 Triumph Over Samford

UK’s defense was stout as the Cats notched a quality Sunday win.

Britney Howard - UK Athletics

The Samford Bulldogs came into Memorial Coliseum as heavy underdogs but during majority the first ten minutes they played the 20th ranked Kentucky Wildcats like top dogs.

A 7-0 run to end the quarter by UK, a prolonged pointless stretch in the second quarter and a balanced Kentucky scoring attack soon had the visitors down by double digits, including a twenty-four point deficit at half-time.

However, despite playing Kentucky even for most of the second half, the Bulldogs could not cut the margin anymore and fell to UK, 80-57.

Makayla Epps lead all scorers with 20 points to go along with five rebounds, and two assists. Evelyn Akhator recorded her fifth double-double of the season, 15 points, and 13 boards. Taylor Murray scored in double figures for the third consecutive game, this time notching 15 points and five rebounds. Mackenzie Cann scored 12 points off the bench.

Kentucky’s length rattled the Bulldogs on the perimeter. Samford did an admirable job keeping pace with UK for much of the opening ten minutes, but as the clock bleed into the second quarter, their shots started leveling off kilter as they could not handle Kentucky’s long-armed guards. After several prolonged droughts in their previous outing, Kentucky’s defense ensured a role-reversal against Samford. The Bulldogs failed to register a single field goal over the last seven minutes of the first-half and Kentucky took advantage with a 19-3 run to end the half up 41-17. Hannah Nicols mercifully ended the Bulldogs’ famine times early in the second half with a jumper.

The defensive intensity waned in the third quarter. Samford successfully drove and scored on the Cats on several occasions. They outscored Kentucky 25-22 in the quarter and shot 75 percent from the field. The Bulldogs hot shooting got their shooting percentage as high as 45 percent in the second half after shooting below 30 percent in the first half. Matthew Mitchell’s team looked to be in a fog defensively, being out of place and quickly rotating over.

For the first time at home, Kentucky got a balanced scoring effort in the first-half. Previous games saw huge halves from the likes of Evelyn Akhator and Taylor Murray saved Kentucky from the pitfalls of an overall sluggish start. Five Wildcats managed to score five or points in the half. Makayla Epps and Murray put in eight apiece while Jessica Hardin, Mackenzie Cann, Akhator each scored seven points. Four Wildcats (Epps, Akhator, Murray, and Cann) finished the game in double figures. For Kentucky to manage a solid campaign over the course of the season, they need to share the load on offense consistently.

Kentucky shot a spartan 20 percent (2-of-10) from behind the three-point line. Normally, a stat like that is a cause for concern, especially against teams in SEC play, but the Cats did what they needed to do to offset their faulty three-point bombing. Kentucky converted 25-of-42 shots inside the arc, good for 59 percent. They also bested Samford on points in the paint, 34 to 14. UK also got to the free throw line 31 times and sank 24 for 77 percent. On the opposite end, Kentucky’s three-point defense was suspect, Samford hit 10 of their 24 treys (42 percent), though most of those came in the first quarter and later in the game when the outcome was well