LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky women’s basketball junior guard Makayla Epps (pictured) has been named the espnW National Player of the Week after her strong performances in Kentucky’s wins over in-state rival Louisville and Middle Tennessee State, it was announced late Sunday night, Dec. 13
This is the first such national player of the week honor for Epps, who was named the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Week last February. Epps is the first Kentucky player to earn a national player of the week honor since Jennifer O’Neill in 2013.
Last week, Epps was named to the 2015-16 Naismith Trophy Women’s College Player of the Year Early Season Watch List.
The native of Lebanon, Ky., started her impressive week against in-state rival Louisville at Rupp Arena, putting together one of the best individual performances for a Wildcat vs. UofL in the Matthew Mitchell era. Epps went 10-of-11 from the field against the Cardinals to post the highest field goal percentage for a UK player with at least 10 attempts since 1987. The junior went for 24 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals in the game. Her season-best 24 points were the second most points scored for a UK player against UofL in the Mitchell era.
Epps continued her strong play a few days later at Middle Tennessee, posting 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting with four assists and three steals. The guard stepped up when UK needed it most. After a 7-0 MTSU run cut the Kentucky lead to four, Epps went on a 5-0 run to push Kentucky back in control.
Epps currently leads the No. 8 Wildcats in scoring, averaging 17.3 points per contest and dishing out an average of 6.4 assists per game, which ranks 10th in the nation. Epps also holds the 13th-best assist to turnover ratio in the NCAA, with 51 assists and 16 turnovers for a ratio of +3.2. Entering the weekend, Epps was one of just eight players in the NCAA this year to have recorded a triple-double, and is just the second Wildcat in program history to accomplish the feat. Epps had a tremendous game against Morehead State on Nov. 18, pouring in 21 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out 12 assists. It was the first triple-double since Leslie Nichols’ 18-point, 13-rebound, 11-steal effort on Feb. 14, 1986, and was also the first time that a Wildcat had 12 or more assists in a game since Dec. 1, 1993.
A preseason All-SEC First Team selection, Epps has scored 799 points during her 76 games donning the Blue and White.
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Kentucky freshman guard Jamal Murray was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday, Dec. 14 after averaging a team-best 16.5 points, a guard-best 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in wins over Eastern Kentucky and Arizona State last week.
In the win over EKU, Murray posted an impressive line of 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He followed up that performance with a team-high 17 points, five assists and three boards in the victory over Arizona State.
With two 3-pointers in both games this week, Murray became the first player in Kentucky history to make at least one trey in each of his first 10 collegiate games.
Murray, a native of Kitchener, Ontario, leads the 9-1 Wildcats in scoring (15.5 points per game) and 3-pointers made (20).
It’s the first weekly SEC honor of Murray’s career and the fourth such award for the Wildcats this season. Ulis previously won SEC Co-Player of the Week honors while freshman forward Skal Labissiere and freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe have both picked up SEC Freshman of the Week this season.
Kentucky is off until Saturday for finals week. UK returns to action Saturday in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a part of the CBS Sports Classic. The Wildcats will take on Ohio State at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.
Photos by UK Athletics & Jamie H. Vaught