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UK Hoops starts difficult stretch at Alabama

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team begins a difficult stretch of four of its next six games on the road in Southeastern Conference play when it travels to face Alabama, who is receiving votes in the latest Associated Press Top 25, on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET inside Coleman Coliseum.

“Well, we are excited to get back out on the court and try to bounce back from what was a tough game on Sunday,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Really happy with how the team practiced yesterday. We had one of our best days in a long time. I think the players are determined to improve and that is what we still need to do. We made too many mental errors and we have to get those corrected. As their coach, I have to work harder in practice so that we have those opportunities so we can get those corrected because we were really close in that game. It was tough to see it slip away. So, big challenge for us going on the road to Alabama, have been outstanding all year. They have been incredible at home averaging over 80 points a game and really, really potent offensively. Just very athletic and strong. So, it will a tough test for us but we are excited to go play and we are going to go down there and try to earn a victory. ”

The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+ through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones and tablets. Now in his 12th season, Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Price’s call of the game on 630 AM WLAP. Live stats and free audio will be available online at ukathletics.com.

 

Kentucky (10-6, 1-2 SEC) is coming off a 1-1 week in conference play, starting the week with a victory over Missouri in the Wildcats SEC home opener before falling to Texas A&M last Sunday. The loss against the Aggies dropped Kentucky out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since week 13 of the 2009-10 season. UK had been ranked in 132 consecutive polls, which was a program record.

 

The Wildcats slip in the polls is mainly due to having played the third toughest schedule in the country according to the latest NCAA RPI report that was released Monday. So far this season, UK has played eight teams inside the top 50 of the NCAA RPI with wins against No. 21 Miami (Fla.), No. 26 Oklahoma and No. 47 Washington State. The Wildcats are 2-3 this season against ranked opponents.

 

Senior guard Makayla Epps led Kentucky in scoring in both games last week, posting 17 points with five assists and five rebounds against Missouri before 20 points with two assists and four rebounds against Texas A&M. The native of Lebanon, Ky., leads UK in scoring this season by averaging 17.0 points per game with a team-high 41 assists. Fellow senior Evelyn Akhator is second on the team with 13.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, while sophomores Taylor Murray and Maci Morris are averaging 13.3 points and 11.8 points, respectively.

 

Alabama enters Thursday’s game with a 14-2 overall record, including an 11-0 mark at home and 2-1 record in SEC play. After starting league play with a 93-45 loss at South Carolina, the Crimson Tide have responded by taking down Ole Miss 90-80 in their SEC home opener before a heroic last-second shot to take down Missouri in Columbia, 59-58. Alabama was 12-1 in non-conference play with the only loss coming at Georgetown.

 

The Crimson Tide are averaging 76.4 points per game this season while limiting opponents to just 57.1 points per game. Alabama is hitting 42.5 percent from the field and 31.0 percent from 3 with a +9.9 rebounding margin and +3.8 turnover margin. In conference play, Alabama is hitting 35.8 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from 3 with a +3.0 rebounding margin and -3.0 turnover margin.

 

Alabama is led this season in scoring by Meoshonti Knight, who is averaging 13.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, while Hannah Cook is averaging 11.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. Knight is second on the team in assists and steals, while Cook is third with 31 assists. Shaquera Wade and Jordan Lewis are the final two players averaging double figures with Lewis leading the team with 75 assists and Wade averaging a team-best 6.9 rebounds per game.

 

Thursday’s meeting with Alabama is the 44th all-time in program history with UK leading the all-time series 26-17. The series is tied 10-10 in games played in Tuscaloosa with Kentucky winning each of the last three games played in Tuscaloosa. Kentucky has won 11 of the last 13 games in the series. Its lone loss in Tuscaloosa during that stretch was a 77-75 setback on Feb. 16, 2012.

 

Last season on Jan. 7, 2016 inside Memorial Coliseum, UK took down Alabama, 73-48. The Wildcats limited Alabama to just 20 points in the first half on 7-of-28 shooting. For the game, UK shot 43.5 percent from the field, while the Crimson Tide hit at a .304 clip. The Wildcats out-rebounded Alabama, 45-30, with a 30-10 advantage in points in the paint and 18-2 lead in second-chance points. Evelyn Akhator scored a game-high 21 points with eight rebounds, while Maci Morris and Makayla Epps each scored 10 points with Epps adding five rebounds and six assists.

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