UK Hoops opens up NCAA Tournament with dominant win over UNC-Asheville

By Caitlin Schwartz

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For the third time in program history and third straight year, UK was selected to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament inside Memorial Coliseum.

“I am just really proud of our team for making the tournament this year,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It is never a guarantee to make the tournament, you have to go earn it and our team really worked hard starting last June.” 

The Cats took full advantage of the home crowd Saturday afternoon as the No. 3 seed UK women’s basketball put a harsh 54-point beat down on No. 14 seed UNC Asheville in the first round of tournament play.

Over the last seven seasons, UK has advanced to three Elite Eights and four Sweet 16s. They are 13-6 under Mitchell and 17-12 all-time in the tournament.

This is only the second time in program history that UK and UNC Asheville have met with the Cats holding a 2-0 record in the series. UNC-Asheville hasn’t seen the Cats on the court since 1995 and the Bulldogs did not look forward to seeing UK on their schedule again as they would go onto lose the First Round matchup 85-31.

The Big South Champions Bulldogs scored the fewest points by a UK opponent in tournament history. The Cats also held UNC-Asheville to 20.6 percent shooting, the lowest for any UK opponent in tournament history. 

UK’s Makayla Epps led the Cats with 24 points, five assists and three rebounds. She also made a season-best three three-point field goals. 

At half time, Epps had as many points as the Bulldogs, with 16 points as UNC-Asheville trailed 37-16. UK led by as many as 22 points in the first half.

Janee Thompson helped Epps in the rout of UNC-Asheville as she was one of four players for UK who finished in double figures with 13 points. Freshman Taylor Murray also chipped in 11 points, while Evelyn Akhator added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Cats. 

Batouly Camara’s led the Cats dominant performance on the glass with 11 rebounds. With Camara’s help UK was able to control the boards outrebounding the Bulldogs 50-31.

The Cats will face sixth-seeded Oklahoma in the second round Monday night in Memorial Coliseum. UK is 0-1 against the Sooners, with the only meeting occurring when Oklahoma knocked the Cats out of the NCAA Tournament region finals in 2010.