Kentucky Rolls in NCAA Tournament First Round
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Makayla Epps scored 24 points and third-seeded Kentucky routed No. 14 seed UNC Asheville 85-31 on Saturday for its biggest NCAA tournament victory margin in school history.
The 12th-ranked Wildcats (24-7) shot 50 percent from the field to easily win their ninth straight opening-round game. The past seven wins have come under coach Matthew Mitchell, whose team also allowed their fewest points in a tournament game and lowest shooting percentage (20.6).
Kentucky advanced to face No. 6 seed Oklahoma in the second round on Monday.
Epps shot effectively all day in making 10 of 20 from the field for Kentucky. Taylor Murray and Evelyn Akhator each shot 5 of 7 to combine for 21 points, while Janee Thompson had 13 on 4-of-11 shooting.
The Wildcats meanwhile held UNC Asheville (26-7) to just 21 percent from the field and dominated the boards 50-31 in rolling to its third straight first-round win by 40-plus points.
Tianna Knuckles' eight points led UNC Asheville, which had its five-game winning streak ended.
Batouly Camara had 11 rebounds and five points as Kentucky improved to 15-2 at Memorial Coliseum in dominating fashion. The Wildcats owned the paint 50-16, their bench outscored the Bulldogs 24-6 and they scored 18 points off 15 turnovers.
Kentucky has done this often under Mitchell, and Kentucky had little to worry about as Epps' shooting fueled a quick start that kept UNC Asheville on its heels throughout.
The junior guard made four of her first five shots including a 3-pointer to get Kentucky going toward 50 percent shooting and a 24-11 lead after one quarter. Neither she nor the Wildcats cooled off much in extending their edge to 37-16 at halftime, an effort that featured good defense.
Kentucky used its size advantage to deny UNC Asheville inside and force the Bulldogs into perimeter shots in an effort to cut their deficit. The shots didn't fall for UNC Asheville -- which made just 3 of 25 from behind the arc -- and the Wildcats were there to grab rebounds and set up successful possessions.
Kentucky rolled to its biggest margin in the final minute and took the first step toward its goal of hosting all four of its NCAA tournament games. Next week's Sweet 16 will be held a few blocks away at Rupp Arena, home of the successful men's team.