In what has become a tradition in the SEC Women's Tournament, Kentucky faces Tennessee yet again tonight in Little Rock. The last time these teams tangled in the tourney, the game was decided by a single point. (And a bad call or two but hey, water=bridge.) Tonight's version of the Border War has the Isabelle Harrison-less Lady Volunteers vs. the "Makayla Epps is my hero!" Wildcats.
I truly have no idea what we can expect to see tonight. Tennessee has lost their leading scorer and yet has barely skipped a beat. Thanks to the efforts of Ariel Massengale, Cierra Burdick, Bashara Graves and Nia Moore, the Vols just keep on rolling, completely destroying Georgia yesterday in a 75-41 rout. Burdick scored 6 points to become the fourth senior on the squad to join the 1000 point club this year. Massengale became just the third player UT history to be in the 1000 point club AND have +500 assists. Overall UT hit 54% of their shots and held UGA to 27%.
The sense of incredulity watching the Vols right now must be what it was like for other SEC teams after Alex Poythress went down and the Cats somehow got stronger. You think it's not possible and yet, it is.
For the Cats, all I can say is: this tournament and this season will be determined by a combination of our seniors and Makayla Epps. Jennifer O'Neil has been on an absolute tear in Little Rock, giving UK a combined 37 points in 2 days, along with 3 assists, 8 rebounds and too many bruises to count. She's taking charges with as much concern for her body hitting the hardwood as she would for bouncing off a trampoline. Bria Goss has been a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line. And Makayla Epps...deserves her own paragraph.
We at ASoB have been unabashed admirers of Makayla, aka BGE, since her first Midnight Madness, but this season has taken our admiration to amazement. After stepping into the PG spot following Janee Thompson's season-ending injury, BGE has blown us away with her daily commitment to being the best Wildcat she can be. Battling an painful Achilles Tendon strain and a new injury to her big toe, Epps has refused to step down from her role as leader of this squad. Telling her teammates last night "We're NOT going to lose this game!" Epps figuratively put all her Wildcat sisters on her back as she scored 31 points against Mississippi State, bringing her 2 day scoring total to 39 points. THAT, my friends, is the definition of a true Wildcat.
All that aside, Epps is playing injured and that can and will take a toll. On top of that, Linnae Harper, who delivered 18 points in the Cat's first win against Vandy, had zero last night and went out of the game with a strained knee. The Injury Fairy really needs to find a new punching bag; the Cats have received their fair share of her "gifts".
In short: UT is on a roll and the Cats are the plucky walking wounded. Combine that with the drama and excitement the tourney brings out, and what will happen tonight is anyone's guess.
Tipoff is at 7 PM EST on ESPNU. Until gametime - GO BIG BLUE!!!!