UK Hoops started their season busting the doors down in a 78-60 victory over the Union University Bulldogs tonight in Memorial Coliseum.
The matchup against Union is one of the easier ones of the Cats demanding schedule, but we were still able to learn a bit about what this rendition of UK Hoops will look like.
Makayla Epps is a BEAST
The saving grace from last season was the return of Makayla Epps and boy she did not disappoint tonight. In the first quarter alone she nailed three three-pointer’s. But she wasn’t done there. In the second half she went for two more, bringing her to 5-5 in the first half alone off three’s. After halftime, Epps came back for one more three and tallied 31 points. After the game Matthew Mitchell noted that for this team to be successful, Makayla has to be assertive offensively and that’s exactly what she was. Along with her 31 points, Epps grabbed five rebounds and served up four assists. The girl is going to put on a show this year for anyone who will watch.
Our bench is going to be just fine
The only players with any experience on a D-1, SEC basketball court are the five starters. One of the biggest questions surrounding the team this season was if their bench was going to provide any relief, and while it’s still early, it seems that is going to be the case. Jessica Hardin and Mackenzie Cann both had their part in tonight’s victory, Hardin scoring three and Cann scoring 10. Mitchell praised Cann for being ready to shoot tonight and being coachable, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a lot of her this year. For the freshman off the bench, Jadia Roper raked in some significant minutes tonight, turning them into four assists and two rebounds. Roper was still quite green on the court tonight and over the course of the season she has the potential to turn into a major contributor off the bench.
Evelyn Akhator is going to have a lot of double-doubles this year
One of the first things that Union head coach Mark Campbell said after the game was “you can’t control her” when speaking about Evelyn Akhator. And he’s right. The senior from Nigeria was in true form tonight, putting up 17 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Akhator isn’t afraid to take it to the hole and she’s not afraid to knock a girl down to get the ball either. Akhator also blocked three shots, the only other person on the team doing so, Alyssa Rice, had one. The nucleus of the Cats front court is on a war path this season, and she doesn’t care who’s in her way.
We’re a scrappy bunch of players
Maybe it was knowing no player was going to foul out, but the Cats were awful scrappy tonight, going after every fifty-fifty ball possible and forcing turnovers. Overall, Kentucky out rebounded the Bulldogs 50 to 25 and the Cats only turned it over 8 times compared to Union’s 14 times. Out of those 14 turnovers, Kentucky was able to convert them into 17 points. Not a single player was afraid to get down and fight for a ball or stick to their man like their life depended on it. They’re a tough bunch of girls.
There’s still a long road ahead
By no means did the Cats look perfect tonight. While they came out hot in the first half, they calmed down in the second and struggled to make some shots. There was several missed opportunities on both ends of the courts and there are newbies that just need to get acclimated to the level of play. However, Mitchell believes this team has just what it takes to be a contender at the end of the season. “I believe in the character of the kids coming off the bench. They will continue to get better and we will continue to get better,” Mitchell said.
Read Maggie’s post about the game here.