Cats close out game strong, get big win over No. 14 Miami


Senior guard Makayla Epps goes up for a lay-up during the game against Union on Thursday, November 3, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Chris Leach

The No. 19 UK women’s basketball team picked up a big win against No. 14 Miami (FL) to start their season, as the Cats defeated the Hurricanes 82-66.

Anyone who takes a short glance at the final score might think that this game was a blowout victory for the Cats, however that was not the story.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Cats only had a six-point lead. Plus star player for the Cats, Makayla Epps had been struggling offensively, only shooting 3-11 from the court, and 5-11 from the free throw line.

Epps was seen hobbling around throughout the game. Epps said after the game that she is battling some tendinitis in her knees but it was not going to stop her from playing.

Then the fourth quarter started and the tendinitis must have gone away because Epps scored the team’s first 12 points in the fourth.

Even with Epps catching fire, the Canes still kept the game close thanks to Adrienne Motley knocking down three consecutive three-point shots to keep the game alive for Miami.

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Just like Epps, Motley struggled shooting the ball early as well, just shooting 3-13 on the court before the fourth quarter.

Behind Motley’s three-point shooting, the Canes were able to trim the Cats’ lead down to three with four minutes remaining in the game.

Eventually Motley started missing shots and the Cats did not stop scoring as they kept increasing their lead at a rapid pace. The Cats would finish the game on a 13-0 run, capped off by an Epps three-pointer to give the Cats their largest lead of the game of 16 points with one minute remaining.

Epps would finish the game with 29 points, 18 of which came from the fourth quarter.

“I owe a lot of it to my teammates, I couldn’t buy a free throw,” Epps said. “Just having the love from my teammates really kept me upbeat.”

Head coach of the Canes Katie Meier believed the zone defense the Cats used was a big reason why the Cats were able to pull away late in the game. Meier felt like the Cats had more energy in their legs and did a good job shutting down Meier’s players

Head coach for the Cats Matthew Mitchell is known to hardly use zone defense but with the way it worked tonight, Mitchell is willing to try it again.

“I got more comfortable with it [zone defense] tonight because we were able to win with it,” Mitchell said.

The win is not just credited to Epps of the zone defense. Evelyn Akhator was easily on her way to being the player of the game, as she had 16 points and eight rebounds at halftime when the Cats led by nine.

At the start of the second half, Akhator picked up her third foul and Mitchell was forced to sit Akhator for the remainder of the third quarter.

“We needed Evelyn on the floor at the end of the game, so as long as I could leave her on the bench and we were winning, I was good with it,” Mitchell said.

Akhator would come back in the fourth and get those final two rebounds she needed to get her first of many double-doubles this season. This was Akhator’s 14th career double-double.

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One thing that Cats need to work on is consistency. In the first quarter, the Cats only shot 29.4 percent from the court. Luckily the Cats played tough defense to prevent the Canes from opening up a big lead.

The largest lead the Canes had was five points, which occurred halfway through the first quarter when the Cats were struggling offensively. 

“Once we got those first subs in and they got into the game, I think everyone settled down,” Mitchell said.

With the first game nerves out of the way and coming out of it with a big win, the Cats now have less than 24 hours to prepare for another big game as they will host Albany on Saturday evening at Memorial Coliseum. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

It is not often that teams play back-to-back games in college basketball unless it is the postseason. Mitchell believes his players are ready for the challenge. 

“It’s a very tough situation to put the team in on the opening weekend, but they can do it,” Mitchell said.