UK dominates Louisville behind Epps’ near perfect game

By Anthony Crawford

[email protected]om

No. 8 UK women’s basketball had the full support of Big Blue Nation as they took on their in-state rivals, the Louisville Cardinals, in Rupp Arena. The Cats took full advantage of the “Pack the House” efforts in the iconic arena as they would go on to beat the Cardinals for the fifth straight year in a 72-54 victory.

Playing in Rupp against a rival is special for any player, but for players from the commonwealth of Kentucky, it takes on a whole other level of meaning. That was the case for Lebanon, Kentucky native Makayla Epps as she would prove to rise to the occasion for the Cats.

Epps scored the first points for UK to start the game and from then on she was the focal point of the Cats’ offense.  The junior guard started the game by making her first six shots and led the Cats in scoring in the first half with 15 points. Epps would go on to lead all scorers with 24 points while shooting 10-11 from the field and added four rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

“I had the night I had, but honestly even if I was scoring I was having the time of my life regardless,” Epps said.

The rest of the Cats would follow Epps’ hot shooting, especially from behind the arc. UK shot 53 percent from the field and made five of their ten three’s in the first half. The Cats would finish the game shooting 52 percent for the second straight game this season.

After UK ended the first half with 17-point lead, UofL would go on a run to bring the game back to within 10 in the third quarter. The Cards comeback efforts were led by junior guard Briahanna Jackson, who led the team with 18 points and eight rebounds.

The Cards efforts, however, were thwarted by the Cats. Epps, especially, made a difference when she checked back in after a media timeout and scored three straight buckets, including two back-to-back and-ones, for the Cats to build a more comfortable lead going into the fourth.

“We tried to run a play for Epps,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “And that’s always good when you give her the ball and she can go execute an and-one play and then came right back down for another tough play.”

After UofL missed a lot of opportunities to bring the score back down to within 10, UK went on an 8-0 run in the fourth to help put the game away. The Cats turned sophomore forward, Alexis Jennings, for scoring in the quarter as they looked to get quality shots inside. Jennings scored eight points in the quarter and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds in the game.

“But she (Jennings) was big-time because Louisville was trying to take away some things.” Mitchell said. “And those jumpers she hit and then that left-handed hook she made at a critical time was huge.”