Kentucky hopes to build on impressive opening NCAA win

Maci Morris (Vicky Graff Photo)

Maci Morris (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After one of the best defensive performances in a NCAA Tournament game in program history, the No. 12 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team looks for more of the same when it faces sixth-seeded and No. 24 Oklahoma in a second-round matchup on Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum.

The game will be televised regionally on ESPN2 with Cara Capuano and Carol Ross on the call. With several other NCAA Tournament second round games on at the same time, Kentucky will be a regional telecast available inside the states of Kentucky and Oklahoma and available on a whip around basis nationally.

Kentucky is coming off an impressive performance against UNC Asheville on Saturday in the first round, taking down the Bulldogs 85-31. The performance was one of the best defensive performances for Kentucky in an NCAA Tournament game in program history, limiting UNCA to just 20.6% from the field and 12.0% from 3. Offensively, Kentucky shot 50% from the field and 50% from 3, marking the seventh time this season UK has hit 50% or more from the field. It is the first time in the Matthew Mitchell era that UK has hit 50% or more from the field seven times in the same season.

Junior guard Makayla Epps paced Kentucky in the game with a game-high 24 points, adding five assists, three rebounds and two steals. In four postseason games this season, Epps is averaging 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals. On the season, Epps is leading Kentucky with 16.8 points per game, adding 4.7 rebounds and sitting second on the team with 135 assists.

Senior guard Janee Thompson had 13 points against UNCA and is averaging 12.6 points and had a team-best 148 assists this season. Junior forward Evelyn Akhator is averaging 11.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, while sophomore post Alexis Jennings is averaging 9.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

This is Kentucky’s seventh straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament with the Wildcats holding a 18-12 overall record in the event, including a 14-6 mark under Mitchell. Kentucky has hosted the first and second rounds of the event each of the last three seasons, holding a 5-2 record overall in NCAA Tournament games played in Lexington.

Oklahoma enters Monday’s game with a 22-10 record, including an 11-3 mark at home, 7-5 mark in true road games and 4-2 record in neutral-site games. The Sooners are currently ranked in the top 25 of both the Associated Press and USA Today/Coaches Top 25. OU went 11-7 in Big 12 action this season.

Oklahoma is led by senior forward Kaylon Williams, who is averaging 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, hitting 53.9% from the field. Junior guard Peyton Little is averaging 10.9 points with 2.9 rebounds per game, while sophomore center Vionise Pierre-Louis has played in 32 games with zero starts but is averaging 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

As a team, the Sooners are scoring 70 points per game, allowing opponents to score 61.4 points per game. OU is hitting 41.8% from the field this season, including 31.6% from 3, while outrebounding opponents by 3.1 rebounds per game. OU put together an impressive performance against Purdue in the first round on Saturday, taking down the Boilermakers, 61-45.

Monday’s game marks the third all-time meeting between Kentucky and Oklahoma with the series tied 1-1. The Wildcats last faced the Sooners on Nov. 28, 2014 when they claimed a 92-88 overtime win over OU in the Virgin Islands. The first-ever meeting was on March 30, 2010 when the Sooners earned an 88-68 win over Kentucky to advance to the 2010 Final Four.

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