By KENTUCKY ATHLETICS
LEXINGTON, Ky. – After taking down a talented Belmont squad in the first round Friday, the No. 18 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team turns its focus to No. 11 Ohio State on Sunday at Noon ET inside Memorial Coliseum with the winner advancing to the Lexington Regional Sweet 16.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins on play-by-play and Nell Fortner as the analyst. Fans can also see the game through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones and tablets. Now in his 12th season, Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Network, airing in Lexington on 103.9FM.
Combing for 52 of the team’s 73 points, seniors Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator paced Kentucky (22-10) in its first-round win over Belmont. Epps scored 30 points with five rebounds, while Akhator scored 22 points with 10 rebounds. The 30-point game was the sixth of Epps career, ranking third most in program history. She is one of only two UK players to have two or more 30+ point games in NCAA Tournament play. Akhator recorded her 17th double-double of the season and 30th of her career. Akhator has scored 20 or more points with nine of more rebounds in four of UK’s last five games. In Kentucky’s last two games, Epps and Akhator have combined for 107 of the team’s 150 points.
Ohio State enters the game with a 27-6 record after taking down WKU in the first round Friday, 70-63. The Buckeyes are 16-2 at home, 7-2 away and 4-2 in neutral-site games this season. OSU finished tied with Maryland for the Big 10 regular season title after going 15-1 in conference play. As a team, Ohio State is scoring 86.1 points per game, hitting 45.5 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from 3. The Buckeyes are out-rebounding teams by 5.3 rebounds per game with a +2.4 turnover margin. OSU is currently ranked No. 11 in the AP Top 25 and No. 10 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll.
Ohio State is led by junior guard Kelsey Mitchell, who is averaging 22.8 points per game with a team-best 129 assists. Junior forward Stephanie Mavunga is second on the team averaging 11.8 points per game, but has missed time recently with an injury. Senior forward Shayla Cooper is the only other Buckeye averaging double figures with 10.4 points per game. Against WKU, Mitchell and junior guard Asia Doss had a team-best 15 points with Cooper adding six points and 15 rebounds. Freshman forward Tori McCoy posted 12 points. The Buckeyes shot 42.9 percent from the field and hit 8-of-20 3s, while limiting the Hilltoppers to just 28.9 percent from the field and 9-of-37 3s.
Ohio State leads the all-time series against Kentucky 13-9, but UK leads in games played in Lexington, 6-5. The Buckeyes have won five of the last seven meetings between the two teams, including two of the last three in Lexington. The two teams used to meet up regularly until 1998 and have only met once since with the Buckeyes earning a 53-51 win in Columbus on Jan. 6, 2007. Matthew Mitchell has never faced Ohio State in his head coaching tenure and the Wildcats and Buckeyes have never met in the NCAA Tournament.