Epps scores 29 in opening win over Miami

Makayla Epps (UK Athletics Photo)

Makayla Epps (UK Athletics Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – With 3:13 left in the game, the No. 19 Kentucky women’s basketball team went on a 13-0 run to defeat the No. 14 Miami Hurricanes 82-66 in its first game of the season on Friday night inside Memorial Coliseum.

Seniors Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps combined for 47 of the team’s 82 points in the victory. Epps had a game-high 29 points to go along with five assists. Akhator recorded her 14th career double-double in the contest, adding 18 points and 10 rebounds.

With five turnovers between both teams in the first three minutes, the game was scoreless until Miami’s Erykah Davenport made a layup to put up the first points in the contest. Following two 3-pointers from sophomore guard Maci Morris, Epps would help bring the Wildcats to a 12-10 lead late in the first quarter, but Miami would respond with a 3-pointer to close the first quarter with a 13-12 lead.

A huge steal from Epps was the spark the Wildcats needed to start the second quarter, giving Akhator the chance to put up the Wildcats first six points in the period. Akhator would go on a tear, as her jumper 1:33 into the second quarter would bring the lead to 18-16, and the Wildcats would not trail again in the game.

The Hurricanes would continue to keep it close throughout the quarter, but a 3-pointer from Jessica Hardin at the buzzer would extend Kentucky’s lead to 38-29 to end the first half.

Miami would come out of the locker room hot, going on an 8-1 run to start the half to bring them within two. The score would remain close through the quarter, but Mackenzie Cann would put up a huge 3-pointer to help the Wildcats end the quarter with a six-point advantage, 57-51.

Epps completely took over in the fourth, scoring 18 points, starting with a jumper which would extend Kentucky’s lead to eight. Miami would make one final push with 3:24 left in the game, as a layup from Keyana Harris cut the deficit to three once again. But Epps would quickly fire back, and the Hurricanes would not score again. The Wildcats outscored Miami 25-15 in the period.

In its second game of the Kentucky Classic, UK will host Albany tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network+ and on the UK Sports Radio Network in Lexington on 630AM WLAP.

#25 Makayla Epps, G

On free throw shooting…

“I don’t know what happened. It’s so crazy to me, it really blows my mind. I wanted to shoot above 80. I get fouled a lot and I feel like I should be shooting at an elite level. My dad shot 80, so I have to beat him. I put a lot of work in after practice and during practice. Then I shoot them during the game, and they are rimming out, and I am literally up there losing my mind. Like what is going on? You’ve done this a million times. Even today, I was shooting them, hitting like 9 or 10 in a row. The ball just didn’t bounce my way.”

 

On what they learned in the third quarter when Akhator was not in the game…

“I personally learned that I love this team. I felt like crying in the film room after the game, I don’t know if I was serious or if I was joking. I still feel like crying, I don’t know, I might in a second. It’s just crazy because a lot of people counted us down and a lot of people sleep on us after the turmoil towards the end of last season. We have a lot of hard working kids. Jess Hardin saved me at the end of the half. I could’ve sworn I turned the ball over, then I look up and she makes a 3. I love it. I just ran off of the court smiling. Maci hit a 3, and Makenzie hit a 3 kind of back to back off of my assists. They make plays. These kids get their name and number called off the bench and they just come in and make plays when two of our starters are out for foul trouble. We have people that just come in and do what they have to do for the team in the time being. The two starters can come back in and the ball just keeps rolling, and it’s a really good feeling for me.”

 

On the fourth quarter…

“I guess I did just start feeling it in the fourth quarter. It is just crazy how things happen sometimes. My teammates kept feeding me the ball, especially Maci, she pulled me to the side and told me not to worry about the free throws. It was just like when I told her against Union when she had a bad shooting night. She was shooting the heck out of the ball tonight. I said I don’t care if you’re 0-20, you shoot the ball. She said the same thing to me. I just have love for my teammates, and that really kept me upbeat.”

 

On playing zone defense …

“We work on zone every day in practice now, and we try to make it more effective. I feel like zone really helped us tonight.”

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