For the last half decade, the series between has UK Hoops and Louisville has been one sided. The 2015 version of this in-state rivalry added to that trend as Kentucky defeated the Cards 72-54 in front of 14,425 fans in Rupp Arena.
Junior guard Makayla Epps for Kentucky was absolutely superb as she made 11-12 from the floor en route to her game high 24 points. Truth is, she sat out most of the 4th quarter and didn’t really try to score in the end because of Kentucky’s big lead. So it could have been much, much more. Epps was in complete control of the game from the opening tip.
As we near the mid point of December, UK Hoops is starting to really take shape.
Despite some abrupt departures from what many thought were going to be key players, the Cats seem pretty comfortable with what they have and that was on display from start to finish when they led Louisville wire to wire.
Louisville has had a rough season thus far, coming in with a 3-4 overall record with some of those losses being to some head scratching opponents. However, the Cards were coming into this game with a renewed sense on confidence after winning their last 2, including a decisive victory over a top 20 opponent in Michigan State.
Unfortunately for the Cards that confidence will need to be rebuilt. Kentucky sprinted out to a 7-0 lead and finished out the first quarter leading 17-11. Epps did not miss in the opening stanza going 4-4 with 9 points. Louisville Coach Jeff Walz said after the game that he has “never seen a team with as little fire as this team has.” Those are some strong words from a clearly frustrated coach.
The second quarter wasn’t much different with Epps concluding the half as the only player in double figures with 15 points. She was 7-8 from the field and seemed to be on her way to one of her best games as Wildcat.
A big key coming into this game according to Coach Mitchell was the Wildcat defense, especially from true freshman Maci Morris. Mitchell said he expected Louisville to pick on Morris, and they tried, but Morris held her ground and set the tone for the team defense in the first half. The Cardinals were held to 28% shooting in the first half, which resulted in them trailing the Cats 39-22.
Louisville wasn’t ready to go away and they did their best to make things interesting in the 3rd quarter. They would cut the Kentucky lead to 10 with 3 minutes remaining, but the Cats responded to finish out the quarter leading 54-41.
The 4th quarter witnessed the Cats pull away from Louisville with some stellar play from Alexis Jennings. She would score 10 points in the quarter on her way to 14 total.
Evelyn Akhator continued her energetic play in the paint pulling down a game high 9 rebounds. The stat line won’t tell the whole story for Evelyn because her value lies in the sheer energy she has inside. Getting after loose balls, tipping potential rebounds, getting fouled, she knows how to impact a game and it’s getting better every time she steps out there.
Unlike some Matthew Mitchell teams of the past, this team has the balance. The frontcourt can be just as dominate and deep as the backcourt. And with a potential All-American guard in Makayla Epps that can dominate any game, this team may have the most potential of all.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday when they travel to the always difficult Middle Tennessee State University. That game will tip at 3 pm.