Epps Doing Whatever It Takes to Extend Her Career
Makalya Epps is not ready for her Kentucky career to come to an end. And she’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep her career as a Wildcat going.
In Friday’s NCAA Tournament first-round victory over Belmont, that meant scoring, as Epps poured in 30 points, lifting fourth-seeded Kentucky to a hard-fought 73-70 win over Belmont. It was her second consecutive 30-point effort, including her 31-point effort in an SEC Tournament semifinal loss to South Carolina.
“I just have a mentality that I don’t want my season to come to an end - ever, if that was possible,” Epps said. “I’m going to do whatever I have to do.”
The fourth-seeded Wildcats now get a Sunday date against Ohio State (Noon ET, ESPN2).
Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell loves the fact that Epps can beat opponents in various ways.
“As we’re looking at our team, I do trust her to figure out what does she need to do that day,” Mitchell said. “What I liked about yesterday was that her mentality was aggressive. So tomorrow, she may need to score 30, I don’t know how it’s ever going to play out exactly. But it’s good to know that she has that capability and that she’s willing to do it.”
Epps leads the team in scoring at 17.6 points per game, but she’s also helped the team by doing other things all season. The senior from Lebanon, Kentucky, leads the team with 114 assists and is third on the team in both rebounds (4.5 per game) and steals (33).
Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff knows his team will have its hands full with Epps.
“Epps is playing great, she’s playing fantastic basketball right now,” McGuff said on Saturday. “The thing I really love about her, she really manages the game for Kentucky. She kind of has a knack where she knows when to speed it up, she knows when to slow it down, she makes sure everyone is in the right position. She’s displaying great leadership, so she’s playing really, really well right now. We’re not going to stop her, but we hopefully can slow her down a little bit and not let her go crazy. I’ve been really, really impressed with her.”
Epps has a chance for another milestone in Sunday’s game. She’s currently 29 points from overtaking Leslie Nichols for fourth place on Kentucky’s career scoring list. But that’s not what Epps is focused on right now. She just wants to keep playing.
“I’m still looking to be a facilitator, still looking to pass, but if I have an open shot, I feel like I have to take it,” she said. “I’m just trying to score and if I have to score 30 points for us to win and advance then that’s what I’ll do. But if I don’t score a basket and I have to go get 10 rebounds then that’s what I’ll do. I’ll just do everything I can to make sure Kentucky gets the win at the end of the day.”
And Mitchell knows that his senior is up to any task.
“She’s not shying away from the moment,” Mitchell said. “She’s had a lot of big games for us and I feel like she will, in some shape, form or fashion, will need to have a big game for us to win tomorrow. I don’t know what that means statistically, but I do know that she will be very important for us to move on tomorrow.”
Epps and Mitchell hope that she can do enough for the Wildcats on Sunday to keep the senior’s storied career going for at least another week.