Epps Leads Kentucky Past Louisville
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Makayla Epps made 10 of 11 shots en route to a season-high 24 points to lead No. 8 Kentucky to a 72-54 victory over archrival Louisville on Thursday night in the annual battle for Bluegrass women's basketball supremacy.
Epps' hot hand quickly set the tone for the Wildcats (8-0), who shot 52 percent and led throughout to win their fifth in a row in the series.
The junior guard, whose father Anthony starred on the Wildcats' 1996 NCAA men's championship team, made several critical baskets late in the third period after Louisville twice got within 10 points, providing a cushion that wasn't seriously threatened.
Alexis Jennings added 14 points and eight rebounds, Taylor Murray scored 11 points and Janee Thompson 10 for Kentucky, which controlled the paint 30-18 and outrebounded the young Cardinals 36-27.
Briahanna Jackson scored 18 points while Myisha Hines-Allen had 16 for Louisville (3-5), which shot 36 percent and had its modest two-game winning streak end. The game drew 14,425 to Rupp Arena, home of Kentucky's powerhouse men's team.
Evelyn Akhator had nine rebounds for Kentucky, which needed no heroics after using second-half rallies to win the past three against Louisville.
The schools' different paths to this year's showdown made things a bit more interesting in this rivalry game. Louisville's youngsters were showing signs of turning the corner after starting 0-2 by winning three of five, with prized freshman guard Asia Durr scoring 30 points over the past two games.
Despite the departures of three players since Oct. 15 via transfer while another was dismissed, Kentucky still entered with its starting lineup averaging double figures in scoring and among the nation's leaders in several offensive categories. The Wildcats have nine active players on their roster.
Kentucky made its four shots including a 3-pointer en route to making 53 percent by the break, including 5 of 10 from long range. Epps got things going with frequent drives and some jumpers against Louisville's slow-reacting defense, and backcourt mates Maci Morris (eight points) and Murray joined the fun from inside and outside as well.
Other than some rough spots featuring turnovers and a bunch of missed layups, the Wildcats were pretty consistent all night. The opportunities were certainly there and Kentucky seized them - especially Epps, who scored six points during Kentucky's 10-2 run that ended with a 39-22 halftime lead.
Louisville got within 17-14 early in the second period and made a couple of third-period charges to get within 49-39, but Epps' five straight points got Kentucky's lead back to 12 as it improved to 34-17 in the series.