No. 18 UK Hoops faces rematch with Vanderbilt


Junior forward Evelyn Akhator (13) shoots the ball over a defender during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers on Monday, January 25, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 64-63. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Caitlin Schwartz

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The No. 18 UK women’s basketball team returns to the court after a bye-week for a rematch with Vanderbilt on Sunday at 4 p.m.

The Cats remained at No. 18 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today/Coaches Top 25 this week. This continues a program record as UK has been ranked for 128 consecutive weeks. 

UK is coming off of a victory over LSU, a win that snapped a three-game losing streak for the Cats, who are 16-6 overall this season, including 5-6 in Southeastern Conference play. The Commodores are 15-9 overall this season, 4-7 in conference play.

The matchup starts a two-game road swing that includes a trip to Mississippi State next week. The Cats are still in the middle of four of five games on the road, with the only home game being against LSU last Sunday.

Vanderbilt and UK met earlier this season on Jan. 28 in Memorial Coliseum, where Vanderbilt upset the Cats pulling out a 71-69 victory. 

“Well, we have a tough challenge on the road for us against Vanderbilt,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They beat us in Lexington and really played a great game and were a tough opponent, and we know that it’ll be tough again on Sunday.”

The Commodores had lost the last nine out of 10 previous games to the Cats. Vanderbilt’s Christa Reed (10.6 ppg) had 19 points in the win, including two out of the teams 10 3-pointers with 1:30 left to play.

Vanderbilt’s Rachel Bell is averaging 9.6 ppg while Rebekah Dahlman is averaging 9.3 ppg. The three combined (Reed, Bell and Dahlam) pace the team from behind the arc with 108 out of the team’s 134 3-pointers (80.6 percent).

For the Cats, Makayla Epps continues to lead the team in scoring this season, averaging 17.0 ppg. Earlier this week, Epps was named to the Naismith Midseason 30, which is a watch list for college basketball’s best player.

Janee Thompson is next up to Epps, averaging 12.4 ppg for the Cats and leads the team with 120 assists. Alexis Jennings is averaging 9.5 points and 6.9 rpg, while fellow post Evelyn Akhator is averaging 11.5 ppg and 9.0 rpg.

Vanderbilt has lost four straight games in conference action since beating UK in January, most recently falling to No. 25 Tennessee at home.

Sunday will mark the 51st meeting between the two teams. Vanderbilt leads the series, 28-22. Matthew Mitchell is 10-4 all-time against the Commodores.

“I can tell you this, our team is working hard. They want to win. They’re motivated to win,” Mitchell said. “I’m seeing some really great things from them, and we’re going to try to make sure that turns into a victory on Sunday.”