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UK Hoops and other sports coverage
UK Hoops played a hard game today in Colonial Life Arena but ultimately, the Gamecocks won 95-87.
South Carolina got off to a quick start, going 7-for-7 from the field in the first quarter. Taylor Murray also got off to a quick start with seven points in the first alone. She ended with a career high 29 points. Murray was able to get something going and help the Cats go on an 8-0 run at the end of the half cutting the score to 48-40.
Despite Murray’s amazing game, foul trouble and great shooting from South Carolina cost the Cats the game. Morris, Akhator, Murray, Rice and Cann each had four fouls and for the first time in her career at UK, Makayla Epps fouled out. The bench depth has been somewhat of a concern for the Cats all season and this afternoon, it showed. While Matthew Mitchell struggled to get some players in the game, the Gamecocks lit up the boards – shooting 62%.
UK Hoops finishes the regular season 20-9, and 11-5 in the SEC. As far as the SEC tournament goes; UK is looking at either a three or a four seed.
The basketball game was one of the most satisfying experiences for Kentucky fans in the past calendar year. It stole the spotlight, so allow me to shed some light on other things happening around Wildcat country.
— So. Many. Recruits. The header photo is what my Twitter timeline looked like for most of the day. We already knew a number of recruits that planned to visit, but Twitter revealed many more. Ayodele Adeoye (bottom right corner) might be the most pleasant surprise. Adeoye is a 4-star Top 300 inside linebacker from St. Louis. There was a large in-state contingency too, but I’d go gray in the hair mentioning every name that crossed my timeline today.
— Nick Richards is Back. Drew Franklin didn’t catch him at his best, fresh off a suspension. Tonight the future Wildcat had 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead The Patrick School to their fourth Union County title in five years.
Meanwhile, 2018 UK recruit Zion Williamson is still busy doing dunk contest-stuff in the middle of games.
— Middlemarch (@latoo2) February 25, 2017
If you’d like to see more highlights from future Cats, this link will do the trick.
— The 100th Sweet 16 is Coming Together. Believe it or not, postseason basketball is upon us. Today the brackets were drawn for (almost) every region in the state. See when and where your favorite team plays here.
— Boogie and The Brow aren’t Fair. In their second game together they’re getting more creative. Tonight, a pick-and-roll finished with a lob.
— NBA.com (@NBAcom) February 26, 2017
Oh, and Cousins dunked on Nerlens (albeit after the whistle).
— Troy Hughes™ (@TommySledge) February 26, 2017
— THE JET STOLE HOME! The young UK baseball season hasn’t had too many highlights, but they’re starting to figure things out. During today’s win over Old Dominion, the Cats pulled a triple-steal with a 2-1 count. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy Marcus Carson’s base-running.
— Kevin Saal (@kevinsaal) February 25, 2017
— All Gold Everything (in Track and Field). Everything the UK women’s track and field team touches turns to gold. At the SEC Indoor Championships Jasamine Camacho-Quinn took home gold in 60m hurdles, her second career gold, and Sha’Keela Saunders got the gold medal in the long jump with the sixth-longest jump in indoor collegiate history.
The women’s overall score was 71 points, good for the third-place bronze medal, tying the best finish in school history from 1989.
By Trey Huntsman on ©February 24th, 2017 @ 10:00pm
As part of our new baseball coverage, KSR will bring a stand alone baseball podcast next week. We are amping our coverage for Kentucky Baseball and the sport as a whole in 2017 with a weekly Baseball Notebook post, more game coverage, and the baseball podcast.
The KSR Baseball Podcast will focus on UK Baseball, SEC Baseball, and the pros. The show will be hosted by yours truly and former Kentucky Baseball Coach Keith Madison. Coach Madison led the Wildcats for 25 years, winning the most games in UK history. Before coaching, he played in the minor league systems of the Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds after signing out of Brownsville. Coach Madison is one of the most knowledgeable baseball experts in the country and we are excited to have him join the podcast network.
The Baseball Notebook post will be once a week and will cover the week ahead, former Cats in the pros, SEC baseball, and much more. As for the podcast, it will available on the KSR iTunes feed next week.
We look forward to bringing you the best coverage for Kentucky Baseball and all other levels in 2017. For up to the minute coverage, follow @TreyHuntsmanKSR and @KeithMadison32 on Twitter.
It took a boatload of runs and an early comeback, but Nick Mingione and Kentucky picked up their first run of 2017. The BatCats used a seven run fourth inning to lead the way to a 16-9 win over St. Joseph’s on Friday afternoon. Luke Becker drove in four runs in support of Zach Pop in relief. Pop shutout the Hawks in 3.2 innings of relief to pick up the win.
Much like the first four games of the season, UK fell behind early. Peter Sitaras blasted a grand slam off Sean Hjelle in the second and Dominic Couci followed with a solo blast in the third. Already down by a crooked number, the Cats clawed back starting in the third. Zach Reks scored Tyler Marshall on a sac fly and Connor Heady scored the first of his three runs on an RBI groundout by Riley Mahan.
The offense backed up Hjelle in a big way in the fourth inning. Trailing by three, the Cats reached base nine times in the top of the fourth and tallied seven runs off SJU’s Pat Vanderslice. Marcus Carson and Kole Cottam both reached base twice in inning as Kentucky used six singles and three walks to break the game open.
The Hawks were able to answer back in the fifth. Couci homered for the second time, this time a three run shot to cut the lead to one. Matt Maul singled in another run to tie the game and chase Sean Hjelle in the fifth.
The Cats had enough of the back and forth nonsense following St. Joe’s rally in the fifth. Pop entered the game and shut down the Hawks over 3.2 innings in relief. After Pop entered in the fifth, St. Joe’s looked despondent. The sophomore struck out four and allowed two hits in relief.
Kentucky used some big two-out hitting to regain the lead in the sixth. Luke Heyer took a bases loaded walk to make the score 10-9 before Luke Becker brought everybody home with a double off the leftfield wall. The Cats used more outstanding two out hitting in the 7th as their lead grew to 16-9 when Marcus Carson tripled down the line to score Mahan.
The first two weeks have been about new guys making their debuts for UK. Chris Machamer made his debut in style today when he struck out the final batter of the game to give Kentucky their first win of the season.
— Kentucky Baseball (@UKBaseball) February 24, 2017
Kentucky’s offense showed out. It was a group effort today as four different players had multiple RBIs, including Marcus Carson’s three and Luke Becker’s four. UK had incredible plate discipline today as they reached base ten times on walks to go with their fourteen hits. All of this was without Evan White, who is still out with a groin injury.
Pop continues to be impressive. It is understandable why so many people see Pop going in the first few rounds of the MLB Draft. He has a high ceiling with a fastball in the high 90s and a couple of other plus pitches. He is yet to allow a run in 5.2 innings this season. If he pitches like this against SEC opponents, look for Pop to make a push into the rotation.
Congrats to Coach Mingione on his first win. The first win of the season is always the hardest in baseball. Mingione got his first win as a head coach today in Norfolk. The first few losses were by a close five runs, but Mingione and the Cats are now in the right direction.
Catch the Cats tomorrow at 4 ET against Old Dominion on 98.5 with Dick Gabriel. Zach Logue will look for his first win of the season on the mound.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 24th, 2017 @ 9:00am
Sometimes, the script of life matches the script of a movie. Last night was such a night for Makayla Epps, Evelyn Akhator, and UK Hoops. That’s where we’ll start today’s top 10:
1. A storybook Senior Night
On Epps and Akhator’s Senior Night, the ladies upset #3 Mississippi State in overtime, with Epps scoring the bucket to put the Cats ahead for good. Epps made her father proud in her final game in Memorial Coliseum, putting up 22 points and five assists; Akhator had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and there weren’t many dry eyes in the house when the two came through their hoops and swayed with their teammates to “My Old Kentucky Home”:
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) February 24, 2017
And Epps’ game-winning putback:
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) February 24, 2017
Another view from KSTV:
— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) February 24, 2017
“The best feeling for me is that Makayla and Evelyn will always have tonight,” Matthew Mitchell said afterwards.
And what a night it was. UK’s win was so big that…
2. Matthew Mitchell celebrated by jumping on a table
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) February 24, 2017
Not only does Mitchell have nice moves, his team has won five straight. They’ll wrap up the regular season Sunday at #7 South Carolina at 2 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU, and is required viewing for any Kentucky fan.
3. What’s the latest on De’Aaron Fox’s knee?
After Ryan “Scoop” Lemond dropped the bomb that Fox’s knee injury may be worse than originally thought, everyone in the Bluegrass wants to know if he’ll be able to suit up tomorrow. Fox fell awkwardly on his knee during the Missouri game and looked to be in considerable pain, but played through it. On Wednesday, John Calipari said Fox’s knee was bruised and that he was getting treatment for it, but Ryan said on yesterday’s radio show that he believes Fox either won’t be able to play or he will be severely limited. Hopefully, we’ll know more when…
4. Calipari addresses the media this afternoon
Cal will meet with reporters some time around 2:30 p.m. this afternoon to preview tomorrow’s game, and, one would think, give us an update on Fox. Ten dollars says he gives us the ole “We’ll see if he can go in practice” line. While Fox’s knee has stolen the headlines, it’s worth pointing out that Briscoe hurt his ankle vs. Missouri as well. No word from Scoop on the severity of that injury.
5. UK is promoting Fox as an All-American candidate
Yesterday, UK released this promo video touting De’Aaron Fox as an All-American candidate, which should remind you just how vital he is to Kentucky’s success. Do us all a favor and send healing vibes to the Joe Craft Center, where hopefully, Fox’s knee is getting the same magic treatment that Jeff Sheppard’s ankle did back in 1998.
6. DeMarcus Cousins got a double double in his first game with the Pelicans
It’s a shame last night’s Pelicans/Rockets game was only available on NBA League Pass, because otherwise, the ratings would have been through the roof. Anyone who likes basketball wanted to see Boogie’s debut alongside Anthony Davis, and although they didn’t win, there were plenty of promising moments. Boogie finished with 27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals and 4 blocks, while Anthony had 29 points and 9 rebounds. Check out Boogie’s highlights below:
7. Meanwhile, with Boogie gone, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere shined
DeMarcus Cousins left a huge hole in the Kings’ frontcourt, but don’t worry too much about how they’ll fill it. Last night, Willie Cauley-Stein scored a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds while Skal Labissiere also turned in a career-high 12 points in the Kings’ win over the Nuggets.
Boogie to the Pelicans clearly may be Willie’s gain, and, in turn, is Kings’ beat reporters gain. Last night, many on the Sacramento beat got their first real taste of the Willie Cauley-Stein we all know and love with quotes like this:
Willie Cauley-Stein: “I’m a pizza guy. But when you really think about it, what is pizza? It’s just dough, sauce, cheese and dedication."
— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) February 24, 2017
Pizza chains of Sacramento, you have a new spokesman. Speaking of, if you’re coming to Nashville for the SEC Tournament, don’t forget to check out Five Points Pizza! Dough, sauce, cheese, and dedication is their specialty. 🍕
8. There was plenty of last-minute trade deadline chaos
The NBA trade deadline was yesterday and several Cats were part of some last-minute speculation. Nerlens Noel was traded to the Mavericks, which makes sense given Philly’s stockpile of bigs, but unfortunately, the Mavs are even worse than the 76ers. Terrence Jones was waived by the Pelicans, but he’s played well enough this season that he’ll probably get picked up by another team pretty soon. The Suns tried to find a new home for Brandon Knight, but failed. Hang in there, B-Knight.
9. Shannon Spake is getting her own car in “Cars 3”
— Shannon Spake (@ShannonSpake) February 24, 2017
Shoutout to one of our favorites, Shannon Spake, who announced last night that she’ll have her own car in the next installment of the Cars series, which drops this summer. Spake is now with Fox, where she covers NASCAR, along with college football and basketball. Shannon’s been great to me over the years, and now, she’ll be a hero amongst my nephews.
10. Finally, check out this marriage proposal at Bellarmine last night
— Bellarmine Athletics (@BUKnights) February 23, 2017
Bellarmine’s Destony Curry got the surprise of her life last night when her boyfriend popped out of the Knights mascot costume and proposed during her Senior Night ceremony. Of course, she said yes. Congrats, you crazy kids.
Radio in an hour….
No. 22 Kentucky pulled out a massive upset tonight, taking down No. 3 Mississippi State 78-75 on an emotional Senior Night. The Cats are now 20-8 on the season and third in the SEC and an electric night in Memorial proved that they are a real contender this year. Check out Savannah’s post to read more about tonight’s overtime win.
The seniors took over the second half.
Kentucky went into the third quarter trailing 31-30 and Makayla Epps had decided she had enough. Epps came out and had an 8-0 run to give the Cats a 38-30 lead. This gave Kentucky some much needed momentum after they had a rough time getting their offense moving in the first half. For only having four points in the first half, Epps came out and rolled out 18 more in the second half for 22 points total.
Akhator, was also a victim of a weird first half. Only scoring five points in the first half, she went to work in the second and scored 22 points to give her 27 totally points and 17 rebounds. A ridiculous stat line, but one that is not unusual for the senior. She took advantage of MSU getting in early foul trouble to work her way into the paint and be a huge factor in Kentucky winning tonight.
Head coach Matthew Mitchell was elated for the seniors tonight.
“The best feeling for us is that Makayla and Evelyn will always have tonight. And now that they have it, you can’t take that away from them,” Mitchell said after the game.
Free throws matter
If you follow me on Twitter then you’ve seen me preach this over and over again while watching our guys play. But free throws were what kept the Cats in this game. Mississippi State was making stupid foul after stupid foul and Kentucky took advantage. They shot 71% from the charity stripe, making 20 of 28 free throws.
Memorial was lit
“That atmosphere out there felt amazing, it felt like one of the Rupp Arenas game,” Epps said. And it did have that feeling. 5,224 fans showed up to cheer on Epps and Akhator tonight and it was one of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced in Memorial.
Memorial is turnt pic.twitter.com/YrytjMwNAT
— Haley Simpson (@haleysimpKSR) February 24, 2017
And they did it. No. 22 Cats knock of No. 3 MSU 78-75 on senior night. pic.twitter.com/0w6xdpGSPb
— Haley Simpson (@haleysimpKSR) February 24, 2017
This is the Cats biggest win of the season
It’s no secret that Kentucky has struggled this season. They’ve lost all but one matchup against top 25 teams this season and have lost both of their games that went into overtime. Tonight, they knocked off the No. 3 team in the nation and the top team in the SEC. The Cats also played one of the most complete games they’ve played all season with things flowing on both ends, hitting the shots that mattered and forcing turnovers one after another.
This was big going into the SEC tournament
Next week I will be traveling to Greenville, South Carolina to watch the Cats compete in the SEC Tournament. This win seals Kentucky at three seed so they will receive a one day bye and will play on Thursday. That is huge because the Cats will need all the rest they can get going into March.
Also, this video from the locker room is awesome.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) February 24, 2017
I didn’t wake up today thinking I’d see Matthew Mitchell standing on a table, but ya never know.
UK Hoops WON against Mississippi State tonight, 78-75. And ya’ll, WHAT A GAME.
A win. In overtime. On senior night. Against the third ranked team. What more could you ask for? It was an emotional senior night win for Makayla Epps, Evelyn Akhator and Matthew Mitchell after the turmoil of the beginning of the season.
“Makayla and Evelyn will always have tonight. To have that moment with them, it’s one we’ll probably never forget,” said Matthew Mitchell
The Cats struggled in the beginning, Mississippi State went on a 8-0 run in the first quarter. The Cats were shooting 1 of 6 while the Bulldogs were 4 of 5. But the Cats were able to get something going with the help of Maci Morris who had seven points in the first quarter. The second quarter was all back and forth and all Epps and Akhator, MSU led 31-30.
Epps and Akhator both went off in the second half and after too much back and forth for my liking, we ended up in overtime. Mackenzie Cann missed a huge three with eight seconds left in overtime but, Epps saved the day with two points. With one second left, Maci Morris went to the free throw line and I’ll admit, I was too scared to watch. I’m told she made both though from those who could stomach the pressure to watch on press row. Memorial was already loud but man, when that second shot went in and then the buzzer went off shortly after – IT GOT LOUD.
Epps had 22 points, Akhator had her 15th double-double with 27 points and 16 rebounds. The two seniors scored 59 of the Cats’ 78 points. These seniors are special ya’ll, and the environment in Memorial was truly a testament to them. I counted about six Makayla Epps fatheads and five Akhator ones. Even I couldn’t help but get a little emotional during their senior night ceremony (but no, I didn’t cry).
“People counted us down and out when we went through that turmoil. I took that on the chin. We knew we had to play today. It’s a crazy feeling to win,” said Epps.
Well, that’s all from Memorial for this season. UK Hoops plays one last game against South Caroline on Sunday at 2 , and then it’s off to the tournament we go!
With the game tied, Makayla Epps hustled to grab Mackenzie Cann’s missed three-pointer and put it back through the rim. The made bucket with eight seconds left in overtime gave Epps a win in her final game at Memorial Coliseum.
Epps and senior Evelyn Akhator combined to score 27 of UK’s final 29 points. More coverage is on the way.
By Nick Roush on ©February 23rd, 2017 @ 7:15pm
For the final time Evelyn Akhator and Makayla Epps took the Memorial Coliseum court . Matthew Mitchell’s Senior duo received the send-off they deserve. First, Akahtor’s introduction:
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) February 23, 2017
Things may have gotten a little dusty for Epps’ entrance.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) February 23, 2017
When the two teams finally left the benches for tip-off, Epps kissed the UK-logo at center-court, just like her father. See the full video from the KSR Facebook page after the jump.
By Drew Franklin on ©February 23rd, 2017 @ 6:30pm
We’re moments away from Makayla Epps’ Senior Night in Memorial Coliseum and there is a story on the internet that you HAVE TO read before that one tips off.
The story of Epps, in her own words, just went up over on The Players’ Tribune, where several famous athletes have penned their own pieces.
Epps is the next in line to do so, sharing how she went from Anthony Epps’ daughter to Louisville commit to Kentucky Wildcat, and how playing for Kentucky was/is so special, beyond basketball.
Here, have an excerpt:
All my life people have been asking me about playing in my father’s shadow. I never saw it as a negative thing. If anything, I felt the opposite. I watched my father strive to succeed while he was playing, and it inspired me to play the game the way he did.
And I liked the bar being set high for me. It motivated me to bring my best to the court every game. I told myself that by the end of high school, when people in Marion thought of the name Epps, they were going to be thinking of me first.
Seriously, read it: Kentucky Woman by Makayla Epps
By Haley Simpson on ©February 23rd, 2017 @ 5:30pm
Four years ago, Makayla Epps was the daughter of a former Kentucky basketball player who happened to be a four-star recruit out of Marion High School in Lebanon, Kentucky.
Now, Epps is projected by DraftSite.com to go as the 13th WNBA pick to the San Antonio Stars. Just before teammate Evelyn Akhator is projected to go 14th to the New York Liberty. She’s the leader of a Kentucky team that was in shambles last April and had to have tryouts to fill two spots on the roster. She never gave up and kept fighting for a team, and state, that she loves.
Epps wears 25 on her jersey, the same number her father did in his tenure at Kentucky, but has managed to make it her own and become the face of Kentucky Women’s Basketball. But regardless of how good your dad is, if he’s a Kentucky basketball player, it’s going to be hard to separate yourself from that.
So how did she do it? How did the daughter of a player for one of the most successful basketball programs in history step out of her fathers shadow?
She didn’t leave
When Matthew Mitchell lost all of his coaching staff, the departure of seven players and two commitments Epps could have flown the coup, but she didn’t. The senior stayed and fought for her team to be a competitor this season against all odds. Many players went to more dominant programs, Alexis Jennings went to South Carolina and Batouly Camara went to UCONN, and Epps could have done just the same. Thankfully, she chose to stay and back the team she had spent the last three years building.
“I had people asking me, ‘are you leaving, are you leaving’ and I said nah, I can’t leave the blue and white. I’m glad I stuck it out,” Epps said before the beginning of the season.
She’s a stone cold leader
Epps is this team’s Tyler Ulis. Each and every girl on the squad looks up to Epps and trusts her to lead them through thick and thin, and it’s apparent on the court. She’s the most vocal person on the court, always telling her teammates where they need to be on the court and calling out the plays. If someone misses a beat, Epps is right there telling them what they need to better the next time around – almost as if she’s an extension of the coaching staff. As a senior, Epps is on the floor more than anyone else on the team, averaging just over 35 minutes per game, and spends the entire time doing her best to help her team exceed.
“I’ve played more games for Kentucky than any other player on this team. I know the game, I know what it takes to win games, I know what it takes to compete in the SEC, and I know what it takes to be the top dog, ranked in the country type. I’m just being more vocal, my teammates respect me, I respect all my teammates. So when I say something, they stop and really listen,” Epps said.
She’s scored almost twice as many points as her dad
Anthony Epps may have helped the Cats score a national title in 1996, but in his four years from 1993-1997 he scored 881 points. Placing Epps at 75th on the all time scorers list for Kentucky Basketball history. His daughter, has almost doubled that having scored 1,664 career points for 5th best in program history. This season, Epps leads the team in points per game, averaging almost two more points than the next highest scorer at 16.9 ppg. Akhator has the second best average with 14.9 ppg. In fact, Epps has led the team in scoring each year since her sophomore year. In her sophomore year she averaged 14.9 ppg and her junior year she averaged 17 ppg.
It doesn’t take a national championship trophy to leave a mark at Kentucky. Fans have grown to love Epps, some even waited in lines reaching outside the Memorial Coliseum on Sunday to get her autograph. She’s a homegrown Kentuckian who has made her state proud. The farthest Epps has ever taken a team in the Sweet 16 but she will be remembered as one of the greatest women to ever wear the blue and white.
By Haley Simpson on ©February 19th, 2017 @ 8:00pm
After four years, Makayla Epps’ time in a Wildcat uniform is coming to an end. The seniors last home game will be on Thursday, senior night, but a good amount of the 6,600 fans that showed up for today’s game against Florida waited to get a chance to thank Epps for her commitment to the Cats.
According to the lovely Jen Smith of the Herald Leader, the line for autographs went all the way down the ramp and through the doors onto Euclid Avenue.
— Clay Bollinger (@ClayBollinger) February 19, 2017
One fan was even lucky enough to get her picture made with Epps inside the Joe Craft Center:
— Ehsan El-Amin (@BoogymanSmoove) February 19, 2017
The last four years have been a fun ride, I’ll have more on that later this week, but don’t miss out on your last chance to send Epps out in style on Thursday. Get your tickets for senior night against Mississippi State at 7 here.
The BatCats came from behind but could not trump North Carolina’s offense early as the Tar Heels won 5-4 to sweep Kentucky. Logan Salow pitched five scoreless innings in relief and Riley Mahan clubbed a two-run home run, but North Carolina held off the Cats to complete the three game sweep.
Logan Warmoth got the offense started early for the Tar Heels. With one out in the first, Warmoth took Justin Lewis deep for the first home run of the series. Lewis struggled early and often in his first start of the season. The sophomore allowed a two-run bomb from Tyler Lynn in the second inning. Through two innings, UK was already trailing 3-0 to the #13 Tar Heels.
Much like yesterday, the Cats answered back. Connor Heady doubled home Troy Squires to get UK on the board in the top of the third. With two outs, Mahan pulled a fastball from Luca Dalatri into the trees in right field. Mahan’s seventh career home run tied the game at three.
Lewis came back out in the third and could not find a groove. Salow entered the game with no outs and two on after Lewis balked in a run. Salow allowed one inherited runner to score before shutting the door in the third. Lewis allowed five runs in two innings while allowing three walks and four hits.
Kentucky LHP Logan Salow gets Kyle Datres to fly out to end the 5th. UNC holds a 5-4 lead. pic.twitter.com/dOsW2mA2hx
— Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky) February 19, 2017
Kentucky would get one of those runs back in the top of the fourth when Squires grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Marcus Carson. Salow would come back out and dominant for four more innings. The senior threw five shutout innings in relief, allowing only six baserunners and striking out two. UK struggled to find any offense with Salow on the mound. Dalatri settled down following the third and fourth innings. In his first career start, Dalatri went seven innings and struck out five. The Cats had reached base in every inning until the 7th when Daltri shut down UK for the first time.
Once again, UK had an opportunity to win in the 9th when trailing by one. Josh Hiatt picked up his third consecutive save as he shut down the Cats in order in the 9th.
Kentucky’s bullpen was excellent this weekend. With no starter going further than five innings, the bullpen needed to have a big weekend. UNC scored a combined one earned run (three runs total) on UK relievers. Logan Salow had five scoreless innings today to keep UK in the game.
Tristan Pompey collected his first hits of the season. The athletic outfielder had several hard hit balls that fell into a shift in the first two games of the series. Pompey went 2/4 today with a pair of singles.
— Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky) February 19, 2017
The Cats held close but couldn’t find a win. The three losses this weekend were by a combined four runs. In each game, UK had the tying run at the plate in the 9th inning but couldn’t put together a late rally. It’s a tough way to open the season, but there are positives from this weekend. The bullpen exceeded expectations and we saw that the offense doesn’t back down when they get behind.
The Cats are back at it on Wednesday. UK will play three games in Virginia starting with a 3 ET first pitch at Liberty.
In case you missed today’s UK Hoops win over Florida, here are five leftovers from the victory.
Despite the final score, it was a fairly even matchup
The two teams really competed in the first half, with Kentucky building a lead and then Florida answering with a run. Although the Cats were able to pull away in the second half, a lot of the game’s statistics were extremely similar between the two teams. Kentucky shot 46 percent from the field, while Florida shot 45 percent. UK ended with 30 total rebounds, and UF ended with 28. Additionally, both teams scored 32 points in the paint.
Second chance points were key
One clear exception to the previous statement is second chance points. Kentucky finished with 25 such points, compared to Florida’s five.
Another uneven factor in the game were turnovers. Florida committed 23, while the Cats gave up just 15. This led UK to outscore the Gators 24-10 on points off turnovers.
“We just turned the ball over too much,” said Florida head coach Amanda Butler. “We had a lot of unforced turnovers [and] too many possessions where we just flat threw it out of bounds.”
UK outscored UF from the bench
While Kentucky has struggled with getting more players actively involved in their rotation all season, this game was a unique one in that Florida had the same issue. Excluding players who entered the game with less than one minute remaining, Kentucky played eight women, while Florida played seven. In terms of bench points, the Cats had 13, while Florida had zero. Jessica Hardin, Paige Poffenberger, Makenzie Cann and Jaida Roper all entered the game off the bench and scored at least two points.
Hardin returned to action after a 12 game absence due to concussion protocol. In her first game since Dec. 29, she drained a three-point basket immediately after checking into the game late in the fourth quarter.
“I was hoping to get her in a little bit earlier, but we didn’t handle the second quarter great,” Mitchell said of Hardin. “She took so much time off for her concussion, but, man, it didn’t affect her shooting. I still believe she could play a vital role in the post season.”
Taylor Murray was a major factor… even if the points column doesn’t show it
Although the sophomore point guard ended the game with just four points, she played a big part in the Cats’ win.
“11 assists and one turnover? That’s incredible,” Mitchell said. “She is playing some fantastic team basketball. She just ignites us.”
Next up… senior night
This Thursday, this team will play its last game in Memorial Coliseum. With two such strong seniors – Akhator and Epps – it’s sure to be an emotional night.
After the game, Mitchell praised Epps for the progress she has made not only as a basketball player, but also as a person throughout her time at Kentucky.
“I’m really proud of the work she’s done as a person. She’s made some changes that are going to benefit her for the rest of her life,” said Mitchell. “We’re going to work our heads off to see if we can send her and Evelyn off with a victory.”
After a close first half, the Kentucky Wildcats were able to finally pull away from Florida, defeating the Gators 67-48 in front of a packed Memorial Coliseum. The win was made even more special as it was UK’s annual Play4Kay Pink Game benefitting the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Both teams and every coach sported pink in the matchup.
Although Kentucky defeated the Gators by double digits, it didn’t always look so easy. While UK led by ten during the second quarter, Florida would just not go away. Throughout the first half, the Gators chipped away at the lead, ending the half trailing by just four: 27-31.
In the first half, the Cats relied heavily on senior Evelyn Akhator, who finished the half with 10 points. Taylor Murray, despite only scoring two points in the first 20 minutes, got it done for the Cats in other ways, specifically by dishing out seven of the team’s eight first half assists.
But it was the third quarter that really propelled Kentucky ahead of the Gators. While Florida went just 4-9 from the field, the Cats hit 7-15, outscoring the Gators 19-10 during the period.
“We really worked hard to not be frustrated at halftime,” Matthew Mitchell said. “They really locked in and did a great job in the second half.”
By the final quarter, Kentucky had found their stride. The lead continued to grow, and Akhator continued to shine, ending the night with 19 points and nine rebounds. Maci Morris also performed well, finishing with 15 points, while Makayla Epps added 14 points.
Kentucky is now 19-8 on the season, including 10-4 in the SEC. The Cats’ final home game of the season will be on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 against Mississippi State.