Senior Night for any Kentucky sport is always an emotional time. The 2015-16 version of UK Hoops honored only 1 senior on Thursday night against the Missouri Tigers, and that senior, Janee Thompson, came through in a big way with a career high 24 points to lead the Wildcats to a 69-59 victory.
Thompson has put her heart and soul into this team since day 1 four years ago. Matthew Mitchell said to the crowd after the game that she may be one of the most important seniors he’s had. After seeing how she responded this season after a devastating injury last year, it is easy to see how important she truly is.
The game itself was a good one. The first half featured a balanced attack from Kentucky with Thompson and Evelyn Akhator getting 10 points each. Kentucky cruised to a 39-26 lead, shooting 42.9% from the floor. They also obtained a slight rebound advantage over the Tigers 17-14.
UK Hoops would also force Missouri into 10 turnovers in the first half while the Tigers could only get 6 out of the Wildcats.
The 3rd quarter was a totally different game altogether. The 13 point UK lead evaporated when the Cats went cold from the field while Missouri, well they were hot. So hot that they erased the deficit and took a 1-point lead going into the 4th quarter.
Led by the Tiger’s workhorse, freshman Sophie Cunningham, who ended the game with a game high 29 points, Missouri looked to be poised and ready to pull off the upset.
But Janee Thompson had other plans. She would take charge in the 4th quarter, scoring 14 points to put Kentucky back on top, where they remained.
Evelyn Akhator led the Cats on the boards with 9 rebounds, continuing her stellar inside play.
She came up with several key offensive rebounds down the stretch to help put the game away.
Akhator also chipped in with 15 points, 6 of which were the first points of the game to help set the pace.
Makayla Epps didn’t have the type of game you may expect, but her 14 points came at critical times to keep Kentucky in it as Missouri started making their run.
Kentucky will now travel to a very difficult environment at Texas A&M on Sunday at 4 pm.
Depending on how some other games in the SEC fall, Kentucky may need the win to take the 4th seed in the SEC Tournament. That would give them the coveted double bye.