UK women end two-game skid with a win over Vanderbilt


Kentucky guard Makayla Epps shoots a runner during the first half of the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, January 26, 2017 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Addison Coffey | Staff.

Chris Leach

The trio of Evelyn Akhator, Makayla Epps and Taylor Murray all had big games to help the No. 25 UK women’s basketball team win their first game in February. Each of them scored over 18 points to lead the Cats to a 71-63 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Epps scored the most out of the trio, contributing 23 points, her tenth 20-point game of the season and fourth in a row. Akhator scored 20 and Murray scored 18 more to account for 86 percent of the Cats’ points between just those three.

The Commodores came into Memorial Coliseum Sunday afternoon with a 1-8 SEC record, but Matthew Mitchell said in a pre-game press conference that Vandy is a better team than people may think, and he ended up being right.

Vandy started the game on a high note and held the lead for most of the first quarter. The Commodores are a very organized team that run their plays excellently, and with UK not causing many disruptions, that allowed them to take control of the game early.

“He [Matthew Mitchell] told us this game was all about disruption, Vandy is a very set-oriented team,” Epps said. “That first five minutes of the game we wasn’t disrupting and coach was upset with us.”

The Cats gained their focus in the second quarter and took a seven-point lead into halftime. Vandy was able to hang around in the game thanks to knocking down three three-pointers in the first half. 

In the third quarter, Vandy hit three more triples, tying the game with 3:13 left in the quarter. The Cats would respond with a huge 9-0 to finish the quarter, giving them momentum going into the fourth.

“It was a tremendous turning point in the game,” Mitchell said. “We had lost some defense focus there, so that was a huge turning point in the game.”

Vanderbilt then crept back into the game once again, hitting two more threes to start the fourth quarter and trimming the Cats’ lead to three. However UK continued playing well and built its lead back up to 11 with 1:42 remaining. From there, the Cats cruised to their seventh SEC win.

The Cats will now hit the road for the next two games, playing at Georgia on Feb. 9 and at Arkansas on Feb. 16. Both are winnable games for the Cats, and UK will certainly need to win any game they can since they are in a tight race in the SEC standings.

“We got to start stealing some on the road, you know every SEC game is like gold to us,” Epps said. “We just got to see how we can play it out the month of February leading into March.”