Here is what Makayala Epps and Janee Thompson had to say after Friday’s loss to Washington in the NCAA Tournament.
Q. Makayla Epps, you got the lead down to about four or five at halftime from 13 or 15, and then it seemed Washington kind of stretched it out again there early in the third. What happened that you weren’t able to build on that momentum early in the third quarter and continue that come back?
MAKAYLA EPPS: Like Coach said, you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Washington. They came out and played really hard tonight. A very well-coached team. Got a lot of respect for them and all their players. It’s just like Coach said yesterday in the press conference: The tougher team would win. And Washington had moments where they out-toughed us. I just hope we can look ourselves in the mirror and just learn from it. We’ve got a lot of people coming back — very young team. Got a lot of people coming back. Sad to lose my partner here, Janee Thompson, but we’ve got a lot of people coming back and we can watch this and learn from it.
Q. Janee, with this being your senior season, what can you say about this team and this season and what it meant for you to be a Hoop Cat?
JANEE THOMPSON: It’s meant a lot to me seeing these girls grow and get better every day. It’s been very fun. I’ve become really close with this team and they’re like my family. They’re like my sisters. I’m really proud of how far we’ve come and how much better we’ve gotten. I wouldn’t rather be out here with anybody else. It’s been a fun ride.
Q. Janee, it seems like it was a really physical battle out there, and Makayla talked about toughness, Coach talked about toughness. Describe how tough it was to be out there in the action on the floor?
JANEE THOMPSON: Well, that’s the type of environment this tournament brings. You’ve got to be tough. People are playing their hardest, because they know if they lose, they’re going home. Unfortunately we came up short today, but like Makayla and Coach said, you’ve got to give Washington credit. They played really hard. They wanted to win, and they just made a few more plays than we did, and they made some really tough plays. We’re sad to lose, but we’ve got to give Washington credit.
Q. Can you talk about how tough and how much effort you put into this game? Obviously, the whole team, but throughout the injury, putting up the numbers that you did and trying to will your team through to the Elite Eight?
MAKAYLA EPPS: When I got out there I didn’t think about my shoulder. I couldn’t get that in the back of my head because that would be like a weak spot for me and a weak spot for Washington, and they’d see me stretching over my shoulder. So when the ball went up in the air, all I was worried about if I had to play the game through injury, I was going to do that for my team. I came back and faced Oklahoma for my team. Everything I did tonight was for my team.
At the end of the day it’s not how many numbers I put up. As long as Kentucky’s winning, I’m happy about that, and tonight that just didn’t happen for us.
Q. Janee, tell us about your knee and what is the prognosis.
JANEE THOMPSON: My knee’s OK. It’s a little sore right now. It just bent back kind of funny when she hit me on the screen because I didn’t see her. But I had a lot of adrenaline going at the time. I realized that it could be my last game, so I wasn’t going to sit out no matter what.
Q. Janee and Makayla, you guys seem to do defensively a nice job on Kelsey Plum. Can you talk about No. 3 (Talia Walton) and No. 0 (Chantel Osahor)? Seemed to have big nights tonight, and maybe where that break down happened defensively?
JANEE THOMPSON: They’re two really good players, really skilled, really talented. A lot of the focus initially was on Kelsey, but they really stepped up for their team and made plays every time Washington needed something. It seemed like it was zero or No. 3, and they wanted it. So you’ve got to give them credit for using the gifts that God gave them.