GREENVILLE, S.C. – Evelyn Akhator scored 23 points, and Alyssa Rice added a career high 11 as 20th-ranked Kentucky topped Alabama 65-55 on Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the 2017 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Kentucky (21-9) also got double-figure scoring efforts from Makayla Epps and Maci Morris, who had 12 and 11 points, respectively. Taylor Murray had eight points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals as the Wildcats advanced to Saturday’s semifinals.
The Wildcats won the rebounding battle 39-33, with Akhator grabbing a game-high nine boards. Kentucky also took advantage of its opportunities at the free throw line, converting 22-of-26 from the line in the game. Alabama made just seven free throws on 10 attempts.
Alabama jumped ahead early, grabbing a 5-0 lead to start the game. But the Wildcats scored the next five points to tie the game at 5-5. The Wildcats took their first lead at 9-8 on an Akhator basket. Kentucky led 17-14 at the end of the period, despite hitting just six-of-16 (37.5 percent) from the floor.
Kentucky scored the first four points of the second period, as Akhator hit a pair of free throws and Rice converted a layup to give the Wildcats a 21-14 lead. In fact, Kentucky assembled an 8-2 run to start the second quarter, building a 25-16 lead in the process. The Wildcats would extend the lead to as many as 12 (30-18) before taking a 32-26 lead into the half. Akhator had 17 points in the half, and Rice added eight.
In the third quarter, Alabama chipped away at the Kentucky lead, eventually cutting the advantage to 33-30. But Kentucky answered with a 7-0 run, sparked by five points from Maci Morris, to take a 40-30 lead. Alabama fought back to within 40-36, but Makayla Epps scored five straight points to make it 45-36 Kentucky. The Wildcats would extend the lead to 54-42 at the end of the third period.
Kentucky led by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter before Alabama mounted one final comeback. The Tide got within six at 61-55 before Kentucky scored the final four points of the game.
Hannah Cook led Alabama with 22 points. She was the only Crimson Tide player in double figures.
Kentucky returns to action on Saturday in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament against top-seeded South Carolina. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on ESPNU.