UK Hoops looks to rebound from LSU loss

Guard Linnae Harper of the Kentucky Wildcats drives during the second half of the women’s basketball game against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC Yum Center on Sunday, December 7, 2014 in Louisville, Ky. Kentucky defeated Louisville for the fourth straight year, 77-68. Photo by Michael Reaves

By Kevin Erpenbeck

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The UK Hoops team will look to rebound from its most recent loss to LSU when it travels to face Missouri on Sunday.

No. 14 UK has not played a game since the upset by LSU last Sunday. The 84-79 loss was the Cats’ second defeat in their last three games. The road match against Missouri will be UK’s second straight game away from Memorial Coliseum.

Missouri is coming off a 73-50 loss against Arkansas last Sunday. It marks the Tigers’ sixth loss in their last seven games.

Ever since the loss of junior point guard Janee Thompson, the Cats have been searching for a guard on the roster to move over to the point position. Head coach Matthew Mitchell said he would like to see sophomore guard Makayla Epps rise to the occasion because he believes “she has the potential to become one of the best point guards in the country.”

After UK’s win against Florida, Epps said that she’s prepared to become the starting point guard her team needs.

“I just want to play like Janee,” Epps said. “She might be the smallest player on our team, but she has some of the biggest shoes to fill.”

Since then, Epps has become the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 13 points a game. She also leads the team in assists, a category once led by Thompson, with 59.

But it’s Epps’ fellow sophomore guard who may have improved the most as of late. Linnae Harper has started in every game since Dec. 21 and now leads the team in rebounds with 137, which is 18 more than second-place senior forward Azia Bishop.

However, it’s Harper’s defense that has truly impressed her head coach. Mitchell said the 5-foot-8 guard has come a long way since her freshman year and continues to surprise him this year.

“She is on a torrid steal pace,” said Mitchell after the Florida game. Harper leads the team in takeaways with 42. “Last year, she did not get on the floor because she couldn’t defend. Now she’s getting steal after steal and I’m proud of her.”

No matter which player steps up, though, what Mitchell is looking for during UK’s recent slump is very simple.

“We’ll really try to seek constant improvement,” said Mitchell after the LSU loss. “I don’t know if we’re unclear on us needing to improve.”