UK women survive late comeback from Mizzou to end skid


Senior guard Makayla Epps drives down the lane during the game against Union on Thursday, November 3, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Chris Leach

With 1:53 left to go in regulation, the No. 24 UK women’s basketball team seemed to have a victory over the Missouri Tigers locked up, as the Cats led by 12. However, any basketball fan knows that no lead is safe until the final buzzer sounds and this was evident Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum.

The Tigers would continue fighting, and that aggression sparked an 8-0 run that trimmed the Cats’ lead down to four in just 27 seconds.

“We talk a lot about resiliency in our program, and having that fighters mentality,” Mizzou head coach Robin Pingeton said. “I was really proud of them, they did not waiver.”

On the next possession, the Cats seemed to seal the game again following an and-one from Evelyn Akhator, who finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. After Akhator’s three-point play, UK had a seven-point lead with just over a minute remaining.

However the Tigers would once again crawl back, forcing two turnovers, and scoring four quick points, trimming the Cats’ lead to just three with nine seconds left. 

On the next possession, Maci Morris would be fouled on an inbound play and hit one of two free throws, making it a two-possession game with under 10 seconds to go, sealing the game for good this time.

With the 64-62 victory over Mizzou, the Cats ended their two-game losing streak, and also secured their first conference win of the season.

“What an important victory for us, every one of those in this league is good win,” Matthew Mitchell said. “Real proud of our team under difficult circumstances, just happy to get the victory.”

However, that first Southeastern win did not come easy, as early on the Cats needed a comeback of their own to get back into the game.

The Cats found themselves in an early hole, trailing by 10 points just 9:30 into the game, thanks to an offensive slump that saw them shoot just 21 percent in the first quarter.

In the second quarter quarter, the Cats’ offense came alive and unleashed a scoring spree that Mizzou could not contain. The Cats shot 64 percent in the second, outscoring the Tigers 26-6. UK built a double-digit lead during that span and would maintain it for most of the game until Mizzou’s late comeback.

The Cats’ offense was led by Makayla Epps, who returned to form Thursday, scoring 17 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists.

“I feel like personally I struggled against Duke,” Epps said. “Struggled against Tennessee, two big teams, two big stages, games that the team needed me to play well. I just wanted to get my legs back under me, go out there and have some fun.”

The Cats will now have until Sunday to prepare for another tough SEC opponent, as Texas A&M will come to Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 8 to take on the Cats. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.