It was another close one in Memorial tonight. After taking down the Vols Monday night, the #12 Cats made a quick turnaround to play Vandy, who is currently 3rd in the conference. After a super tight game, the Cats lost in a heartbreaker, 71-69.
To start the game, Evelyn Akhator drove down the lane to give the Cats an early 2-0 lead. Vanderbilt managed to score a few times, but didn’t have an answer for Kentucky’s speed. At the first media timeout, the Cats led 12-5. Kentucky kept the ball rolling throughout the first ten minutes leading by 9 going into the second period. During the first quarter, Kentucky ate Vandy up down low, outscoring the Dores in the paint 14-6 and outrebounding them by 50%.
Vanderbilt started out the second quarter with a long jumper to cut the Cats lead to six before Makayla Epps scored. Vanderbilt managed to cut the lead to two with 6:43 left in the half, and took the one point lead a minute later with a three pointer. Janee Thompson hit a gorgeous three pointer to take back Kentucky’s lead 29-27, only for Vandy to tie it back up on the next possession. The two teams exchanged baskets to end the half, and finished with a gorgeous wide-open three pointer from Janee Thompson to tie the game back up at 34 a-piece. At the half, Kentucky was shooting a nice 55% from the field and 40% from the three point line. In the first two quarters, the Wildcats outrebounded the Commodores 17-11 and outscored them in the paint 18-12. Janee Thompson led the Cats in scoring with 12, followed by Akhator with 10 points and 5 rebounds.
The Commodores started the second half on a roll, quickly going on a 6-0 run to take the lead, 40-34. Makayla Epps brought the Cats back within four, but Vanderbilt scored yet again to extend the lead. Epps rebounded her own miss and put it back in to cut the lead to four again, but Kentucky couldn’t buy a defensive stop tonight. Maci Morris made her first points of the game at 4:07 left in the third period to cut the lead to two and excite the Memorial crowd. Kentucky tied it 49 all with a layup by Alexis Jennings, assisted by Morris with 2:20 left in the period. Shortly after, Morris got fouled hard, made both of her foul shots, and Kentucky took the lead, 51-49. At the end of the third, the Cats led by one, 53-52.
Vandy momentarily took the lead in the first two minutes of the final quarter, but Evelyn Akhator put the ball in the basket a few seconds later to get Kentucky’s lead back. The crowd absolutely exploded when Makayla Epps made a way out there three at the 6:24 mark, stretching the lead 62-58. Vandy took the one point lead again with three minutes left to play, but Alexis Jennings took it right back, 65-64. The Dores made a three pointer and another basket to get a five point lead in the closing 16 seconds. Makayla Epps stepped up to charity strike and cut the lead to three and then hit a basket to make it a one point game with 11.8 seconds left, but Vandy was able to hit a foul shot to make it a two point lead. Kentucky loses in a tight, tight game, 71-69.
Part of Kentucky’s demise was the 38% shooting from the field in the second half. The Cats shot 21% from the three point line in the game while Vandy went 10-24. UK committed 12 turnovers, but forced 16 TO’s off the Dores, turning them into 20 points. Kentucky outscored Vandy in the paint, 40-24, and rebounding was dead-even between the two teams at 32 all. Epps led all scorers with 25, followed by Janee Thompson with 14 points and 6 assists. Akhator led the team in rebounding with 6.
“We can’t hang our heads right now, we have to be a resilient bunch now. Tonight’s disappointing, but there’s brighter days ahead.” Coach Matthew Mitchell said after the game.
Here’s tonight’s box score:
The Cats will look to recover down in Gainesville against the Gators on Sunday. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network at 1pm.
Until then, Go Cats.