From UK Athletics

Wildcats Finish Non-Conference Slate with 9-4 Record

DURHAM, N.C. – Sophomore guard Taylor Murray scored 18 points, but the 17th-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team lost to No. 15 Duke 69-54 on Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Makayla Epps had 12 points and Maci Morris added 11 for the Wildcats, who fell to 9-4 on the season. Evelyn Akhator had only one point, but did grab a season-high 15 rebounds.

Kentucky went cold in the second half, hitting just six-of-34 (17.6 percent) from the floor. The Wildcats made just three field goals in each of the game’s final two periods, going three-of-16 in the third quarter and three-of-18 in the fourth. Kentucky hit 18-of-60 (30 percent) from the field in the game.

The Wildcats won the battle of the boards, 36-34, and also forced Duke into 21 turnovers, which Kentucky turned into 21 points.

The Wildcats got out of the gates early behind Murray, who scored five quick points to help Kentucky build an 8-2 lead. But Duke answered with an 11-2 run to take a 13-10 lead. Murray then scored back-to-back baskets to give Kentucky a 14-13 lead before Duke scored the final three points of the quarter, giving the Blue Devils a 16-13 advantage after one period. Murray finished the first frame with nine points.

Duke extended its lead early in the second quarter, scoring the first four points of the period to lead 20-13. Kentucky then got baskets from Epps and Murray to cut the lead to two. After a pair of Duke free throws, Jessica Hardin nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to 22-21. Duke’s Lexie Brown answered with a three of her own, but Kentucky got two free throws from Murray and a basket from Epps to tie the game at 25-25. Duke would score the next five, and the Blue Devils would lead 37-32 at the break. Murray ended the half with 16 points to lead the Wildcats, who shot 46.2 percent from the floor and committed 11 turnovers in the half.

Duke (12-1) built its lead to nine points at 42-33 in the third quarter before a 7-0 Kentucky run cut the lead to two at 42-40. But the Blue Devils would lead 49-44 at the end of the frame.

In the fourth quarter, Duke opened with a 10-0 run to open its lead to 59-44. Kentucky was able to cut the lead to 13 at 59-46 on a pair of Epps free throws. But the Wildcats would get no closer.

Brown led Duke with 24 points, while Owensboro, Kentucky native Rebecca Greenwell had 10.

Kentucky returns to action on Sunday when the Wildcats visit the Tennessee Lady Vols in the SEC opener. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN2.

From UK Athletics 

KENTUCKY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL POSTGAME NOTES

No. 17 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Duke

Cameron Indoor Stadium – Durham, N.C.

Dec. 29, 2016

FINAL SCORE: No. 17 Kentucky 54, No. 15 Duke 69

Team Records and Series Notes

–          Matthew Mitchell is in his 10th season with Kentucky. Mitchell is 257-122 overall as a head coach and 227-93 during his tenure at Kentucky.

–          Currently, UK is No. 17 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 23 in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25. Kentucky has been ranked in both the USA Today/Coaches’ Top 25 and The Associated Press Top 25 since week 13 of the 2009-10 season, which is a program-record streak of 140 weeks.

–          With today’s loss, Duke holds a 6-2 overall series record over the Wildcats.

o   UK is now 0-3 vs. Duke in Durham.

o   This is the sixth meeting between the two schools in as many years. Last season, the Wildcats earned a 71-61 victory on Dec. 20 inside Rupp Arena.

–          Kentucky will return to action Sunday, Jan. 1 at 4 p.m. ET, when the Wildcats head to Knoxville, Tenn. to open Southeastern Conference play against the Tennessee Lady Vols. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and on the UK Sports Radio Network in Lexington on 630AM WLAP.

Team Notes

–          Kentucky used the starting five of Makayla EppsEvelyn AkhatorMaci MorrisAlyssa Rice and Taylor Murray.

o   UK is 6-2 this season with that starting-five combination.

o   It was the first time the Wildcats had used those five since Dec. 1 against Oklahoma.

–          With today’s loss, UK concludes non-conference play with a 9-4 overall record.

o   In the latest NCAA RPI report, UK has the third toughest schedule in the nation.

–          The Wildcats are now 0-2 against ACC teams after falling to in-state rival Louisville on Dec. 4.

–          UK also falls to 0-3 on the road this season.

–          Kentucky was plagued by shooting woes in the fourth quarter, posting its lowest field-goal percentage of the season at 30.0 percent (18-of-60).

o   This was the first time the Cats have shot 30 percent or lower since April 1, 2013, when UK shot 30.6 percent (19-of-62) against UConn.

o   UK went just 6-of-34 (17.6 percent) from the floor in the second half.

–          The Cats capitalized on 21 forced turnovers, scoring 21 points off those turnovers.

o   Duke had just 18 forced turnovers which they scored 13 points off of.

–          Defensively, UK limited Duke – who entered the game averaging over 80 points per game to just 69 points.

Individual Notes

–          Taylor Murray led the team with 18 points to go along with four rebounds, one assist and one steal in her first game back from injury.

o   The sophomore tied a season-high two 3-pointers made on two-of-two 3-point shooting.

o   Murray missed the previous two games due to a pinky injury.

–          Makayla Epps had 12 points, three boards, three steals and two assists in the game.

o   With today’s performance, Epps needs just 43 points (1,487 total) to enter Kentucky’s top-10 scorers in school history, as her total is currently 1,434 which is 15th in UK history.

–          Maci Morris added 11 points, three rebounds, one block and one steal.

o   Seven of Morris’ 11 points came in the second half.

–          Evelyn Akhator grabbed 15 rebounds and four steals for the Wildcats.

o   Despite her excellent defensive efforts, she scored a season-low one point.

–          Makenzie Cann posted five points, five steals and four rebounds.

o   Her five steals mark a career-high, as her previous high was three which she set against No. 14 Miami in the season opener on Nov. 11.

–          Jess Hardin added three points with just one 3-point attempt.

o   Hardin has made a 3 in eight-of-13 games this season.

–          Jaida Roper scored two points to go along with one steal in just six minutes of action.

Kentucky-Duke Postgame Quotes

Cameron Indoor Stadium – Durham, N.C.

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell:

Opening statement:

Congratulations to Duke. What a great effort they had tonight. They really played hard and had great execution on offense and really shot the ball well and made shots. I thought our team really hustled and played through some adversity there in the first half. We had it in striking distance going into the fourth and I thought Duke gave us some looks that we just couldn’t knock down there in the second half. But I’ll have to look at the film because maybe those are the shots they wanted us to take. I thought our team battled. We outrebounded them tonight and gave some effort. We just couldn’t get the ball in the basket there in the second half. We’ll try to figure out and learn from that. But great game for us, a great learning experience. Our team has done a heck of a job against one of the toughest schedules in the country. I’m excited about our team, excited to be headed into conference play. Congratulate Duke on a really good performance tonight. They out-hustled us and outplayed us.

On the teams were off balance overall and missed shots for his team:

[Duke] is averaging 83 [points] and we held them to 69. We gave ourselves a chance. I thought the real difficulty for us is that we had it at 45-42 and we couldn’t make shots and we let it balloon to 55-44. I thought it was us letting offense affect defense. We turned them over 21 times and we outrebounded them, so we were doing some good things. But offensively, I think on our team when the ball doesn’t go in the basket we have a hard time staying with it defensively and finding a way to tough through that difficult time. So that’s a learning experience for our team. I didn’t think we were taking terrible shots. I thought some of our shots at the rim were off balance. I thought we corrected that in the second half and started doing a better job, but while we had some good looks it didn’t go in.”

On taking Makalya Epps out in the first quarter:

I thought we had a great opportunity to attack Duke. We were 8-2 I think to start the game and I thought it could have been 14 or more and I thought we were really passing east and west and I wanted her to see, because evidently she couldn’t see, the driving lanes. I was just trying to get her on the bench real quick right before the media so she could maybe see some of the gaps that were there. Duke does a great job of kind of matching up and confusing. When you drive past one, they do a good job of helping. You have to be tough and smart and sharp and we just weren’t sharp enough tonight and didn’t make enough good decisions. You credit them for that. They played good defense.”

On Oderah Chidom’s being a difficult matchup:

“What we were trying to do in the game is trying to get them out of rhythm. Becca [Greenwell] and Lexie [Brown] take so many shots and so we were trying to make sure that we covered Becca and we didn’t do a very good job on Lexie. She really made some shots with a hand in her face. I thought she was terrific. I think our post players didn’t do a good job of understanding that just because we were trying to take away Greenwell I thought we were a little bit relaxed early in the game. We got it corrected at halftime. I thought we were better. Chidom was 5-for-5 in the first half and then 0-for-1 in the second so we improved there. I just didn’t think we were intense enough and were kind of relaxed in the post and that’s probably a coaching error. I’ve got to do a better job of getting us ready and more prepared for that. She was really good. I thought she caught and saw there was no resistance and quick moves. We did a better job when we forced her out and started collapsing and started getting some turnovers. She’s a really fine player, a good athlete, plays hard. Duke’s got a good team…play hard, play together, make shots. They’re a good team.”

On what he liked that his team did in the first half:

“I thought we moved the ball and I thought we created some good looks, just couldn’t shoot it quite as well as we wanted to. I just thought we battled, especially when Maci [Morris] got two fouls and had to sit. We had some young kids come in and hang in there and fight. I just thought we fought pretty hard there. The first half was pretty even, we didn’t make our free throws and they made one more bucket than us, but it was a pretty good battle. We just let it get away from us there in the fourth quarter. We got really deflated on defense, gave up some easy opportunities, that if we could have battled through that time maybe it would have been a little bit different.”

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