LEXINGTON, Ky. – Looking to get back in the win column after dropping two tough road games at highly ranked Duke and Tennessee last week, the No. 24 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team opens its Southeastern Conference home schedule against Missouri on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky (9-5) is coming off a tough week dropping road games at top-15 ranked Duke and Tennessee, who is receiving votes in both national polls. The losses dropped Kentucky to No. 24 in the latest Associated Press Top 25. The Wildcats fell out of the USA Today/Coaches Top 25, but are still receiving votes.
Sophomore guard Taylor Murray was the story for Kentucky last week, returning from injury to lead the Wildcats in scoring in both games. Murray posted 18 points against Duke before a career-high 23 points with six rebounds and two assists against Tennessee. On the season, Murray is averaging 14.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, sitting second on the team with 27 assists.
Senior guard Makayla Epps leads Kentucky in scoring averaging 16.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Epps leads Kentucky with 55 assists this season and is second on the team with 18 steals. The native of Lebanon, Ky., has scored in double figures in every game but two this season with five 20+ point performances.
Senior post Evelyn Akhator and sophomore guard Maci Morris are also averaging double figures for Kentucky. Akhator, who has eight double-doubles this season, is averaging 13.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Morris is averaging 12.3 points per game and has scored in double figures in three straight games.
As a team, the Wildcats rank high nationally in several categories, including seventh in the nation and first in the SEC in fewest turnovers per game at 12.1. UK ranks 23rd nationally and second in the league in fewest total turnovers with 170, which is 69 fewer turnovers than the Wildcats had through 14 games last season. Kentucky also ranks top 15 nationally and second in the SEC in fewest personal fouls per game at 13.9.
Missouri has started its 2016-17 campaign with an 11-4 overall record, including a 1-3 record in non-conference road games and a 0-1 record against ranked opponents. The Tigers started SEC play with a win on Sunday, defeating Georgia 63-45 in Columbia. Missouri returns four starters and eight letterwinners from its 2015-16 squad which went 20-11 overall and 8-8 in SEC play.
Sophomore forward Cierra Porter leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounds, averaging 15.7 points and 9.3 boards per game. Sophomore guard Sophie Cunningham follows close behind in scoring, averaging 15.5 points. The last Tiger averaging in double-figures is senior guard Sierra Michaelis with 12.1. Senior guard Lianna Doty and Cunningham both rank No. 1 on the team in assists with 54 (3.6 per game).
Against Georgia, Michaelis led the Tigers in scoring with 20 points while Porter recorded her seventh double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Thursday’s meeting against Missouri marks the seventh meeting in school history between the two programs in women’s basketball. The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 5-1, including a 3-0 mark in games played in Lexington. Kentucky has won four straight meetings.
Last season on Feb. 25, 2016 inside Memorial Coliseum, UK took down No. 24/24 Missouri, 69-59. Then-senior Janee Thompson had 24 points in the game, while Akhator scored 15 points with nine rebounds and Epps had 14 points and three assists. UK forced MU into 17 turnovers and had 20 points off those miscues.
This is the first of two regular season contests between the Wildcats and the Tigers this season as Kentucky will head to Columbia on Jan. 30.