UK Hoops took over Rupp Arena this afternoon, and the crowd of 13,000 watched as the Wildcats fell to the Arizona State Sun Devils 71-73 in overtime. Kentucky is now 7-3 for the season and 7-1 in Lexington.
Maci Morris stole the show and she was hot from the very beginning. Although the Devils won regulation tip off, senior Evelyn Akhator quickly forced a turnover, and Morris drove to the rim for an easy layup. Both teams struggled offensively for the rest of the quarter. The Cats went 2-8 from the field, while the Devils turned the ball over six times in the first ten minutes. At the end of the quarter, UK led 15-10.
Of these 15 points, seven belonged to Morris. The sophomore guard hit her stride in the second quarter and went into the locker room with 16 points and three assists. Taylor Murray was also a strong contributor for the Cats, adding eight points for the half. One noticeable factor, of lack thereof, was Makayla Epps. The senior, who has been averaging over 19 points per game, ended the half with a stunning zero points, zero assists and four rebounds.
“We put a lot of pressure on Epps,” said Arizona State head coach Charli Thorne. But Morris? “She killed us.”
Despite the uncharacteristic performance by Epps, the Cats ended the half with a 31-24 lead.
But the Devils just wouldn’t go away. Arizona State came out of the locker room roaring, and their 7-2 run cut the Cats’ lead to just two points.
“I did a poor job at halftime, and the start of the second half really hurt us,” said Matthew Mitchell after the game. “It was just a totally different team that came out after halftime.”
Morris scored a career-high 29 points, and Epps finally got on the board with a jumper that tied the game 40-40. Still, Arizona State stayed close, and the Cats were unable to pull away.
With 1:30 left in regulation, Makenzie Cann hit a three to tie the game 59-59. The Cats forced an ASU shot clock violation and got the ball back at halfcourt with 4.2 seconds left. Cann tried another three, but this time the shot fell short.
The Cats were headed to overtime.
Morris continued to do her thing, sinking two free throws at the start of the extra period. Overtime was too close to call – no team led by more than four throughout the extra five minutes. With less than a minute left in OT, Murray recovered a missed Akhator layup, once again tying the game. ASU answered with a jumper of their own, putting them up by two with 5.2 seconds left. Epps had the last touch, but her shot at the buzzer was short, and Kentucky was handed their first home loss of the season.
Morris ended the night with 29 points, three assists and a rebound. Still, a loss is a loss.
“I would have rather won than scored 29 points,” said a disheartened Morris after the game.
“It was a tough loss today, [but] we just have to go to work,” said Mitchell. “Everything that happened today, we’ll just have to look at and try to improve.”
The Cats will be be back in Memorial Coliseum this Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2:00 to face off against Radford.