Epps scores 30 in 82-68 win over Oklahoma
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Makayla Epps scored a season-high 30 points as No. 17 Kentucky topped 12th-ranked Oklahoma 82-68 on Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Sophomore Maci Morris also had the best game of her young career, posting a career-high 19 points and grabbing a career-best eight rebounds, which led the Wildcats on the evening.
Kentucky (6-1) also got double-figure scoring efforts from Evelyn Akhator (11) and Makenzie Cann (10) in the victory, the Wildcats’ second win over a ranked opponent this season. Kentucky opened the season by topping No. 14 Miami (Fla.) on November 14.
Thursday’s game was a rematch between the teams that met on the same floor, in the NCAA Tournament, less than nine months ago. And much like that game, a 79-58 Kentucky win in the NCAA Tournament’s second round on March 21, this game was close for three quarters before Kentucky blew it open in the fourth.
Epps got off to a fast start on Thursday, scoring 12 of Kentucky’s 19 points in the first period. But Oklahoma hit four of eight shots from three-point range to lead 20-19 after the first quarter. Senior guard Peyton Little hit a pair of threes and led the Sooners with eight points in the quarter.
In the second quarter, Morris, the Bell County (Ky.) product, got hot, hitting a pair of three pointers to give Kentucky a 27-26 lead. And after Epps hit a jumper and Makenzie Cann nailed a three of her own, the Wildcats led 32-26. Kentucky would stretch its lead to 37-29 on a three by Jessica Hardin.
But Oklahoma got back-to-back three-pointers from Chelsea Dungee and Gioya Carter, to cut the lead to 37-36. And when Little connected on her third three-pointer of the game, the Sooners took a 39-37 lead into the locker room, finishing the half on a 10-0 run.
Epps finished the first half with 18 points, connecting on seven-of-10 shots from the field and making all four of her free throws. Morris had eight points at the break, and Cann had five. Meanwhile, Oklahoma hit eight-of-17 from three-point range in the first half, with Little (three), Carter (three) and Dungee (two) accounting for all of the Sooners’ shots from long range.
Morris opened the second half by hitting a three from the top of the key to give Kentucky the lead back at 40-39. After Oklahoma had taken a 43-42 lead, it was Cann from three-point range again, giving the Wildcats a 45-43 lead. And when Morris connected on a mid-range jumper, Kentucky led 47-43.
The Wildcats were able to gain a bit of separation at the end of the third quarter, taking a 63-55 lead into the final frame. Morris had nine points in the third quarter for the Wildcats, while Taylor Murray had nine and Epps added six. Kentucky outscored Oklahoma 26-16 in the period.
The fourth quarter started in the same fashion, as Kentucky opened the frame with a 14-6 run, taking a 77-61 lead in the process. Akhator, who was saddled with foul trouble for much of the evening, had seven points to spark the run that broke the game open.
Little led Oklahoma (5-1) with 19 points, while Carter had 18 and Vionise Pierre-Louis added 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, when the Wildcats face intrastate rival Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center in the Derby City. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. ET.