From UK Athletics
Strong Second Half Pushes Texas A&M Past No. 24 Kentucky
Aggies hit key shots down the stretch to push past Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Texas A&M Aggies used a second-half surge to power past the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday, handing UK its first home loss inside Memorial Coliseum this season with a 77-68 result.
Kentucky seniors Makayla Epps and Evelyn Akhator each had 20 points in the game to lead all Kentucky scorers. With the loss, Kentucky falls to 10-6 overall on the season and is 1-2 now inside of Southeastern Conference action.
The Wildcats will travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to face the Crimson Tide on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET. The game can be seen live on the SEC Network+, ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app.
UK held a 17-11 lead after the first quarter, without Epps scoring a point and sophomore Maci Morris tallying two 3s for a team-high six points in the quarter. The Wildcats’ sophomore guard Taylor Murray made a running lay-up as time expired in the quarter to take a six-point lead, its largest of the game at that time.
In the second quarter, Texas A&M used its inside presence to take the halftime lead by a point, outscoring the Wildcats 23-16 in the second period. The second quarter also proved to be the emergence of the Aggies’ Curtyce Knox, who ended up with a game-high 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 3-for-3 from 3-point range.
The Wildcats struggled from outside the arc, going 3-of-13 from 3-point range, and all three made 3’s came in the first half. UK only attempted three 3’s in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Kentucky took a six-point lead at 47-41 midway through the third quarter before Texas A&M used a 9-2 run including seven in a row to push past the Wildcats and take a one-point lead at 50-49 at the end of the third quarter.
In a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the lead changed four times before a 7-0 run by the Aggies including a key 3 from Knox to put the Aggies ahead 69-62. Texas A&M would then go on to make all eight of the free throws they attempted inside the final three minutes of the game to ice it.
The 20-point game for Akhator is her second 20-point game this season, after scoring a season-high 28 points versus Albany in the Wildcats’ second game of the season. Akhator also added in four rebounds and two assists in the game. Epps’ 20 points is her sixth 20-point game of the season and 14th double-figure scoring game of the season.
KENTUCKY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL POSTGAME NOTES
No. 24 Kentucky vs. (rv) Texas A&M
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 8, 2017
FINAL SCORE: No. 24 Kentucky 68, Texas A&M 77
Team Records and Series Notes
– Matthew Mitchell is in his 10th season with Kentucky. Mitchell is 258-124 overall as a head coach and 228-95 during his tenure at Kentucky.
– Currently, UK is No. 24 in the Associated Press Top 25. Kentucky has been ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 since week 13 of the 2009-10 season, which is a program-record streak of 141 weeks.
– With today’s loss, Kentucky drops to 4-3 in the overall series record against the Aggies.
o Kentucky now trails the Aggies 2-1 in games played in Lexington.
o Last season, Kentucky earned a 71-58 victory in College Station.
– Kentucky will return to action Thursday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m. ET, when the Wildcats head to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network+ and on the UK Sports Radio Network in Lexington on 630AM WLAP.
– Kentucky used the starting five of Makayla Epps, Evelyn Akhator, Maci Morris, Alyssa Rice and Taylor Murray.
o UK is 7-4 this season with that starting-five combination.
– With today’s loss, UK falls to 10-6 overall this season.
o In the latest NCAA RPI report, UK has the fourth-toughest schedule in the nation.
o The Wildcats were handed their first loss of the season in Memorial Coliseum, dropping to 10-1 in the historic building this season.
o Today’s loss snapped a 15-game winning streak inside Memorial Coliseum for Kentucky.
– UK is now 1-2 in Southeastern Conference games.
– Despite leading for a majority of the contest (27:12), a 3-pointer from TAMU’s Curtyce Knox with 6:13 remaining in the game would put the Aggies up 60-58 and Kentucky would not lead the remainder of the game.
– The Aggies outrebounded the Wildcats 38-26, including 15-8 off the offensive glass.
– Kentucky made just two of its’ last 10 field goal attempts.
– On the defensive end, Kentucky won in the blocks category 6-2.
– UK once again led its opponent in points in the paint, 40-30
o The Wildcats have led their opponents in the category in 11 of 16 games, in addition to one game in which they tied their opponent 36-36.
– Makayla Epps led the team in scoring with 20 points.
o Epps also added four rebounds and two assists.
o It was the senior’s sixth 20+ point game of the season and the 25th of her career.
o Epps is just eight points away from moving up to No. 10 all-time at Kentucky in scoring.
o Her 1,479 career points currently ranks 12th in UK history.
– Evelyn Akhator also added 20 points, four rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
o Her 20 points marked just her second career game with at least 20 points after posting 28 in the second game of the season against Albany on Nov. 12.
o The senior led the team in scoring for the third time of the season.
– Taylor Murray poured in 11 points to go along with four rebounds and five assists.
o Her five assists marked a season high for the sophomore point guard.
o Recorded double-digit scoring for the ninth time in her career.
– Maci Morris had six points, two rebounds and one block today.
o Morris did not score a basket after the first quarter.
o Has made a 3-pointer in 13-of-16 games this season.
o Her six points marked her second lowest scoring output of the season.
– Paige Poffenberger posted a career-high five points in just 10 active minutes.
o The freshman also tied a career-high with one steal.
– Alyssa Rice tallied four points, four boards and two blocks.
– Jaida Roper added two points, one board and one steal in 11 minutes of action.
KENTUCKY WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
RV Texas A&M 77, No. 24 Kentucky 68
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Jan. 8, 2017
Kentucky Head Coach, Matthew Mitchell
Opening statement …
“Tough one to lose there because Texas A&M played a lot harder than we did. That is not what you want to do. You do not want to lose a game because of effort. Hats off to them. They wanted it. They came in here on the road, and just out-toughed us. They wanted it a lot more than we did and we will have to correct that. ”
On Kentucky fighting through adversity …
“Yeah, that is what is really plaguing us that we have to try to correct. If something doesn’t go our way we hang our head and you are going to get beat when you play that way. So we just have to get back to work on Tuesday and figure out a way to correct that because you observed that correctly, that is exactly what happened.”
On Jessica Hardin …
”I have no update on her.”
On if UK has had fatigue issues …
“I don’t know how there could be any fatigue issues because we subbed liberally today. We didn’t have anyone play over 36 minutes and they had two players play for 40 minutes and, two players playing for 37 minutes so I don’t know how in the world it could be fatigue.”
UK Player Quotes
#25 Makayla Epps, G
On recovering from this result …
“Tuesday morning we have practice so we’re going to look to get better. Hats off to Texas A&M. They’re a tough team in the league. Every league game is tough. We never expect to blow anybody out or have it easy out there, but the SEC is tough. Every team we play on Sunday and Thursday is going to be tough. We just have to get ready for Tuesday against Bama.”
On missed layups …
“It was a tough day. We got up in the first quarter, then they fought back and got the lead at halftime and they hit a wild shot there at the end, and we missed some free throws down the stretch. It’s just another one of those things for this team to keep our composure, and stay positive. It’s just hard to see them hit a big shot when you’re down three or six and she hits a crazy shot. It’s just hard, and it’s something that we have to keep working on.”
Texas A&M Head Coach Gary Blair
On Knox’s play…
“She has shot well from the 3 in years’ past. This year she has just focused more on getting other people the ball, which is why she leads the nation in assists but she is working on her 3-point game. She hit three out of three today so hopefully that will give her some confidence.”
On the games being tight in recent years …
“I think Matthew looks like Rock Hudson and can dance like Bruno Mars. He does the halftime show, he is a hell of a recruiter. He has the best coaching show in men and women’s basketball, and I just love to compete against him. He’s a fun guy and I think it is good for women’s basketball that he is going to win a National Championship before he leaves here because he can coach and he can recruit. When I start looking at the guys that are in the game that can do it, I look at Ohio State, Louisville and I look at Kentucky. Those three guys right there. I look at my old assistant out at Washington and he is fixing to graduate.”
On the atmosphere at Kentucky …
“First I would like to compliment Kentucky. We came here from Georgia because we’re out of school ‘till the 19th so we just made one little trip, but it is great coming into basketball country. Basketball is No. 1, Horse Racing is No. 2, bourbon is Nos. 2 and 3, and basketball recruiting is No. 4. You all have a good football program as well, but your state supports and is so loyal. We stayed at the Hyatt. I just enjoyed talking to your fans going around. I wish I could have gotten a ticket to the game last night because that is my old school in Arkansas. I love to see knowledgeable fans that aren’t worried about whether the Packers are winning or are my Cowboys winning. You have a great state that supports a lot of different things. Kentucky is very good school. You’ve got a good program but we’re in the SEC.”
On play and resiliency down the stretch …
“They start taking control in the 3rd quarter. Then all of a sudden, we fought back, we fought back in the second quarter, we fought back in that third quarter and that made the difference. He went to zone in the first half to stay out of foul trouble. He went man to man in the second half about 98 percent of the time and we were able to finally isolate. The one isolation play I got her on down there is an old Louisiana Tech play that we call Tech because I did that when I coached and I had to get Anne Donovan out of the hole at 6-foot-8, and I was the assistant. It is an overload play and finally we figured out that they weren’t going to guard my four so I put Danni (Williams) in at the four. They ran her up, she got the go and the easy basket and that put us over the hump and then they missed some shots that they had been hitting down the stretch but our execution in the last five minutes was pretty dog on good, offensively and defensively. We were playing a matchup zone and we were mixing it in with a man. Sometimes I felt like they didn’t really know what we were in and I didn’t know what we were in. (Assistant Coach Bob) Starkey started doing a good job, but after we stopped giving them the right handed drive, which we gave them the whole first half we did a lot better job. You however have the two of the top 10 players in our league, and you know who they are, and they’re very good. You have one of the best point guards in the league. Neither have depth, my freshmen are not quite ready and you’re down to seven scholarship players. So is Tennessee. The only team that has that depth is Mississippi State who just beat Tennessee.”
On league play over the season …
“You’re going to have games like this the whole year. I told my team before we started SEC play: 10 out of our 16 games will be decided in the last minute of play so we’re two out of three so far in those games. This team though, I’m proud of them. They’re resilient. (Khaalia Hillsman) I really believe she is the most improved post player in the league between her and Porter of Missouri. The two most improved post players that have been good and there are some damn good ones. Nobody knows who in the hell she is (Knox). You saw that charge she took. The ref said ‘Coach I just missed it,’ hell I got now backup point guard and an 18-wheeler just ran over her, and I am sacrificing this little skinny little thing. Look I appreciate you all, have a good time, and root for my cowboys.”
Texas A&M Players
#11 Curtyce Knox, G
On that 15 footer late in the game…
“I just kind of threw it up. I just prayed it (was) going to go in, but I had to play if off that I knew it was going in.”
#00 Khaalia Hillsman, C
On how their play changed in the fourth quarter…
“We were just trying to get stops. We were just trying to stop Epps, Murray, and Akhator so I felt like once we were able to get some good stops that was really going to help our offense.”
On Coach Mitchell complimenting Texas A&M’s effort …
“Well last year they killed us on the boards and that was a very strong point of emphasis for this game. We weren’t quite over the Georgia loss, and I felt like we took our anger out on them.