No. 18 Kentucky Tops Washington State, 69-67

Makenize had three 3-pointers. (UK Athletics Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Makayla Epps scored 20 points and Evelyn Akhator had her seventh double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds as the 18th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team got past Washington State 69-67 on Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum.

The game came down to the final minute after Washington State had tied the game on a three-pointer by Alexys Swedlund with 1:12 left. On Kentucky’s next possession, Akhator was fouled and made both of her free throws to give Kentucky a 69-67 lead with 42 seconds remaining.

Washington State had three chances to score on its ensuing possession. But point guard Chanelle Molina missed two shots in the lane and Nike McClure missed two free throws with 12 seconds left in the game. Epps rebounded the second miss and Kentucky immediately called timeout.

Kentucky (9-3) got the ball to Maci Morris, who was fouled immediately by a Washington State defender. But Morris missed both free throws, giving the Cougars one last chance to win or tie. Swedlund was forced into a tough three-point attempt, which missed, giving the Wildcats a hard-fought victory.

The Wildcats were without sophomore point guard Taylor Murray for the second straight game. Murray broke the pinkie finger on her left hand in last week’s game against Arizona State and is day-to-day.

The Wildcats got things going early in the game, racing to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter. After a Washington State three-pointer, Kentucky went on a 14-0 run to stretch the lead to 24-5. The Wildcats would lead 26-8 at the end of the period. Cann hit all three of her three-point attempts in the quarter and led the Wildcats with nine points in the frame. Kentucky hit 10-of-14 (71 percent) from the floor in the first 10 minutes, while Washington State hit just two-of-15 (13.3 percent).

Washington State (5-6) opened the second quarter with a 6-2 run to cut Kentucky’s lead to 28-14. The Cougars would continue to cut into the lead and when Caila Hailey converted an old-fashioned three-point play, Washington State was within 10 at 35-25.

After Epps converted a three-point play, the Cougars went on an 11-0 run to close the half and cut Kentucky’s lead to 38-36 at the break. Washington State hit 11-of-16 (68.8 percent) in the period, while Kentucky hit just four-of-19 (21.1 percent) from the floor. After not scoring in the first quarter, Molina had 14 points in the second stanza.

Washington State got within a point at 40-39 early in the second quarter, but Kentucky responded with six straight points to keep the lead. But Washington State fought back and took their first lead at 50-49 on a three-pointer by Cameron Fernandez with 3:23 left in the third quarter. But the lead wouldn’t last, as Kentucky scored the next six points to lead 55-50. The Wildcats would lead 58-52 at the end of the third quarter.

Kentucky built the lead to nine at 63-54 early in the fourth quarter, but Washington State refused to go away. The Cougars scored five straight to cut Kentucky’s advantage to 63-59 with 5:36 remaining in the contest. And when Swedlund hit a three-pointer with 3:02 left in the game, the Cougars were within two at 66-64.

With 1:12 remaining in the game, Swedlund struck again, hitting a three-pointer to tie the game at 67-67, setting up the final sequence.

Kentucky returns to action on Dec. 29 when the Wildcats visit the Duke Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on ACC Network Extra.

Team Records and Series Notes
 Matthew Mitchell is in his 10th season with Kentucky. Mitchell is 258-121 overall as a head coach and 228-92 during his tenure at Kentucky.
‘Kentucky is 133-19 all-time in Memorial Coliseum under Mitchell.
UK ended its non-conference home slate 9-0 inside Memorial Coliseum including wins over No. 14 Miami and No. 12 Oklahoma.
Currently, UK is No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 24 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25. Kentucky has been ranked in both the USA Today/Coaches’ Top 25 and The Associated Press Top 25 since week 13 of the 2009-10 season, which is a program-record streak of 137 weeks.
 With today’s victory, UK now holds a 2-0 record over the Cougars.
The last time Kentucky faced Washington State was Nov. 10, 2006 when the Wildcats earned a 80-51 victory in Lexington.

Team Notes
 Kentucky used the starting five of Makayla Epps, Evelyn Akhator, Maci Morris, Alyssa Rice and Jaida Roper.
 UK is 2-0 this season with that starting-five combination.
 Today’s victory brings UK’s record to 9-3 overall.
The Wildcats are now 1-2 against Pac-12 opponents this season after suffering losses to Colorado and Arizona State on Nov. 19 and Dec. 11, respectively.
UK is now 6-9 all-time against Pac-12 teams.
The Wildcats’ two-point win marked its smallest margin of victory this season.
Three games this season have been decided by only two points, two of which were overtime losses.
Kentucky controlled the game through trips to the charity stripe, making 17-of-23 attempts from behind the free-throw line.
WSU was just 5-of-11 from the line.
UK also beat the Cougars in second-chance points 16-9 despite only grabbing two more offensive rebounds than WSU (14-12).
 Despite leading the Cougars 26-8 at the end of the first quarter, UK gave up 28 points in the second quarter to only have a two-point lead at the end of the first half.
WSU’s 28 points marked the most points allowed in a quarter by Kentucky this season.
he Wildcats led by as many as 20 points in the game.
 
Individual Notes
 Makayla Epps led the Wildcats in scoring with 20 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
  Epps recorded her third 20+ scoring performance of the season.
The senior is the only Wildcat to have posted multiple 20+ games this season.
She’s now scored 20+ points 24 times in her career.
The senior led the team in scoring for the eighth time this season and 36th time in her career.
With today’s performance, Epps needs just 65 points (1,487 total) to enter Kentucky’s top-10 scorers in school history, as her total is currently 1,422 which is 15th in UK history.
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Evelyn Akhator posted her seventh double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
The senior has now had 20 double-doubles in her Kentucky career which ties for fifth in school history.
Akhator went 9-of-12 from the free-throw line which ties her career high in free throws made and attempted (vs. LSU, 03/03/16).
Akhator’s 19 points marked her highest scoring performance since Nov. 12 when she had 28 points against Albany.
Akhator led the team in rebounding for the ninth time this season.

Maci Morris added 14 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists in the game.
Morris has now posted double-digit scoring in eight games this season.

Makenzie Cann had 9 points on 3-of-6 3-point shooting in today’s contest.
Cann also grabbed 6 rebounds, tying a season-high with three offensive boards.
Cann has made at least 2 3-pointers in six games so far this season.

Alyssa Rice contributed two points and eight boards for the Wildcats.
Rice also one steal and one assist in the game.

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