It wasn’t pretty, but they got it done.
With the men playing right down the road, the lady Cats fought their own battle inside Memorial Colisuem tonight, coming back from an ugly first period where they trailed to defeat #14 Miami 82-66 in the season opener.
In the first period alone, the Cats turned the ball over six times, something they only did eight times in their exhibition against Union last Thursday. Both teams suffered from an ugly period, unable to get anything moving on either end of the court. It wasn’t until Maci Morris sunk a three-pointer four minutes in were the Cats able to get anything on the board, only to find themselves already trailing. Morris would hit another three shortly after to come out of the period with 6 points, half of the Cats total points.
Combined, the Cats shot 29% from the field to come together for 12 points. To go along with their shooting woes, the Cats also struggled to get their missed shots back, unable to capitalize off rebounds until late in the period.
Coming into the second period, the Cats were down 13-12 and were quick to make adjustments. The Cats shot 55% from the field, playing a portion of the period with five guards, putting Mackenzie Cann at center. Kentucky was riding a 14-5 run halfway through the period with momentum on their side. Holding a 28-21 lead with several stops out of the 2-3 zone they played the majority of the game. By the end of the 10 minutes, Evelyn Akhator was nearing a double-double with 16 points and eight rebounds, but it was Jessica Hardin who sent the Cats blazing into half-time with a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 38-31 lead.
Losing momentum after half-time, Kentucky’s shooting misfortunes of the first period returned. The Cats were unable t0 get things moving, not putting any significant points on the board until three minutes left in the period. Alyssa Rice sunk a jumper which was followed by Morris hitting a three and a layup back-to-back to stretch it to 52-46. However, Miami rallied to bring it within three again, but it wasn’t left unanswered as Cann followed it with a three and a defensive stop. Kentucky was able to come out of period leading 57-51, all while Akhator spent the period on the bench with three fouls, which head coach Matthew Mitchell was fine with.
“As long as I could leave her on the bench and we were winning I was good with it,” Mitchell said.
The fourth period was a battle yet again, but Makayla Epps, despite looking gimpy for the first three periods, came alive. Coming into the period with 11 points, Epps went off for 18 points to gain control of the game. The entire period was another episode of the Epps show. She was able to lift the Cats over a Miami team that wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“She’s a great player, she sensed the moment, she sensed what we needed,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell also noted that the way Kentucky is going to win games early in the season is by Epps stepping in and taking control of the game. Despite a bad first three periods, she was still able to be the saving grace at the end.
Overall, Akhator finally got her double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Maci Morris came out of her shooting slump from last game with 11 points. Mackenzie Cann made some solid contributions with seven points and seven rebounds.
The Cats will be back in action in the Kentucky Classic against Albany at 7 inside Memorial Coliseum.