UK Hoops falls to Washington in Sweet 16

Caitlin Schwartz

A sea of blue in Rupp Arena was not enough to help the No.3-seeded UK Hoops to a victory as it trailed the No.7-seeded Washington Huskies the entire game with an end result of a loss, 85-72.

On the other hand, UW pulled off yet another NCAA Tournament upset as they knocked UK out of the tournament. It will be UW’s first Elite Eight appearance since 2001. UW has never made it to the Final Four.  

Both teams started out the game with no rhythm, shooting a combined 4-for-18 from the field in the first quarter. The Cats did their best to take advantage of the Huskies zone defense and shot seven three-pointers in the first five minutes of the game. Only one of those shots went in for UK.

The Huskies had an imperative third quarter, shooting 63.2 percent, which eventually brought the game out of reach for UK.

“They made tough shots and big shots and really, really impressed with their performance tonight,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said about UW.

UK shot a measly 21.7 percent in the first quarter but picked that up to 40 percent by the end of the game. 

The Cats had four players in double figure scoring despite the low shooting percentage. Evelyn Akhator had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds while Alexis Jennings did the same with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Playing her final game as a Cat, Janee Thompson posted 11 points in the game.

“I’m really proud of how far we’ve come and how much better we’ve gotten,” Thompson said. “I wouldn’t rather be out here with anybody else. It’s been a fun ride.”

Guard Makayla Epps led the Cats with 30 points shooting 13-for-26 from the field and went 3-of-7 from behind the arc. She also brought down five rebounds for the Cats.

“Washington had moments where they out-toughed us,” Epps said. “I just hope we can look ourselves in the mirror and just learn from it.”

The duo of Talia Walton and Kelsey Plum put on a show in Rupp Arena combining for 53 points and 11 rebounds for the Huskies. Walton had 30 points herself, showing that Plum is not the only person on the team who can score big in big games. Plum put on a 32-point performance against Maryland to get them to this game.

Chantel Osahor added to the incredible performances as the 6-foot-2 junior put up 19 points and ripped down 17 rebounds for the Huskies.

“There were 34 missed shots and she had half of the rebounds,” UW head coach Mike Neighbors said. “Half. Seventeen defensive. There were 34 missed shots, and she got every other one. They were all tough.”

The three just could not be stopped.

“This is the first time all three of them have played that well on the same night,” Neighbors said of Walton, Plum and Osahor. “That’s what you’re supposed to do when it gets to this point.”

UW will continue its season and play Stanford on Sunday in the Elite 8 in Rupp Arena.

“The disappointment of this one game just cannot diminish how proud I am of our team,” Mitchell said. “We would love to have advanced further. But it doesn’t take away of how proud I am of our players.”