Coming off their first loss of the season to Auburn on Sunday, the #10/9 Wildcats were back in Memorial Coliseum to face the 12-2 Alabama Crimson Tide. The Cats’ defense rolled over the Tide, 73-48.
Kentucky was first on the board thanks to Janee Thompson, who had the first five points of the game, but Alabama’s Quanetria Bolton and Hannah Cook were quick to answer and take the early lead, 7-5 with 6:38 left in the first quarter. In the final five minutes of the first period, the Hoops only made 2 of their last 13 FGs and turned the ball over 7 times. At 3:50 in the first, Thompson went down hard under the Alabama basket clutching her thigh. Thankfully, she was able to get herself up and to the bench without assistance and returned to finish out the last minute and a half of the period. Thompson’s return seemed to be exactly what the Cats needed; the first quarter ended with Kentucky leading 15-9 after an 8-0 run in the last minute and a half. In the first ten minutes of the first half, Kentucky outrebounded the Tide, 15-5 and had six 2nd chance points off 7 offensive rebounds.
The Cats took the momentum from the first period straight into the closing 10 minutes of the half, lengthening the lead to as much as 14 before the buzzer. Thanks to a 3 minute UK scoring drought in the closing stretch on the first half, Alabama cut the lead down to ten, 29-19. In what was arguably the ugliest offensive first half of the season, Kentucky shot 33% and committed 12 turnovers. However, the Cats were able to work defensively, out-rebounding the Crimson Tide 27-17 with 10 second chance points off 10 offensive rebounds. Pretty impressive. Evelyn Akhator led all scorers with 8 points and 5 rebounds, followed by Thompson with 7 and Epps with 6.
Alabama’s Cook scored the first points of the second half, momentarily cutting it to 8 before Akhator scored off the glass. Kentucky then proceeded to go on a two-minute 6-0 run before Bama cut it back to twelve. Bell County’s Maci Morris got her first points of the game at the 6:55 mark of the third quarter. A minute later, Morris sank a three to make the lead 40-25. Akhator channeled her inner Anthony Davis at the 1:15 mark with a monster block and Kentucky extended the lead to the largest of the game so far, 51-32. After sloughing through the first half, Kentucky found their offensive groove in the third quarter, shooting a very nice 73% from the field and leading the Tide 51-33. Game, set, match. Go home Tide.
Bama started the fourth quarter on a little run, cutting into their 18 point deficit. But, a gorgeous three pointer by Thompson at the 5:32 mark pretty much solidified the victory. Bama really, really deflated after that, missing 7 of their last 8 shots and giving Kentucky the 25 point win, 73-48.
The story of the game was definitely Evelyn Akhator, who put up an impressive 21 point, 8 rebound night. Maci Morris also went off in the second half, scoring all of her 10 points in the final 20 minutes. Janee Thompson tallied 10 points and 7 assists. Makayla Epps and Alexis Jennings had 10 and 12 points respectively. Kentucky shot 45% on the game, and a stellar 83% from the line. The Cats outrebounded the Tide 45-30, while outscoring them in the paint 30-10.
Kentucky (12-1) will travel to Athens to see the Georgia Bulldogs before coming back home a week from today to face #2 South Carolina on the 14th. The Cats vs. the Dogs will be on SECNetwork+ at 2pm and the matchup on the 14th vs. the Gamecocks will be broadcast on the SECNetwork at 7pm. Until then, follow me on twitter… @JC_KSR.
Go Cats and Enjoy these Highlights.