Cats use big second half to take down No. 12 Oklahoma


Guard Makayla Epps (25) shoots an arrow after a made three during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners on Monday, March 21, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

By Chris Leach

The No. 17 UK women’s basketball team picked up a big win at Memorial Coliseum Thursday evening, beating the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners 82-68.

This was the second time this season that the Cats beat a ranked opponent as they took down No. 14 Miami (FL) in the season opener.

There was no early indication that this game would wind up being a 14 point victory for the Cats, as there was seven lead changes and four times where the score was tied in the first half. The Sooners actually had a two-point lead heading into intermission.

That lead was largely credited to hot three-point shooting from the Sooners. Oklahoma made eight three-point shots in the first half off 17 attempts. The most three-pointers the Sooners had made in a game all season before Thursday was nine.

The Cats would combat the Sooners’ hot shooting with an attack led by Makayla Epps, as she was feeling it early and often. Epps shot 7 of 10 from the floor to score 18 points in the first half.

In the second half, Evelyn Akhator, the team’s dominant post player, picked up her third foul and was sent to the bench with 6:47 left in the third, leaving the Cats with mostly guards on the court. Having so many guards on the court was a situation the players were not used to being in.

“I feel like the five guards got out there and battled, they had some big kids coming at us,“ Epps said. “I feel like we stood our ground right there.”

The Cats usually take advantage of teams in the paint, but with the lack of height in the post, UK’s guards had to step up and knock down shots from outside.

Maci Morris answered the call and had her biggest game of her career, dropping 19 points for a new career high. Morris would also set a career high in rebounds with eight.

“With the bigs the out, I knew I had to go get the ball so I could give it to Epps,” Morris said.

And suddenly the hot shooting from the Sooners disappeared as OU only shot 36 percent from the floor in the fourth.

The Cats did not slow down, and opened up an 18 point lead with 3:43 left in the game. From there, the Cats would cruise to their sixth victory of the season.

Epps would finish the game with a season high 30 points, which was enough to pass Belitta Croley for 16th all-time on UK’s career scoring list. 

“She is going to have to rise to the occasion in games like that from time to time, and it was a lot of fun to watch her tonight, she played great,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said.

The Cats will have another opportunity to take down a ranked opponent on Dec. 4, as the Cats hit the road to take on No. 7 Louisville. Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 2 p.m.