LEXINGTON, Ky. – After seeing its five-game winning streak in Southeastern Conference play end Monday night at Missouri, the No. 25 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team looks to get back in the win column Thursday night, Feb. 2 when it plays host to No. 4 South Carolina at 7 p.m. ET at Memorial Coliseum.
The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network with Paul Sunderland on play-by-play, Gail Goestenkors as the analysts and Steffi Sorensen as the sideline reporter. The game can be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones and tablets. Now in his 12th season, Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Price’s call of the game on WLAP 630 AM. Live stats and free audio will be available online at ukathletics.com.
Thursday’s game against South Carolina starts a stretch for Kentucky where it will play four of the next six games inside Memorial Coliseum. After South Carolina, UK plays host to Vanderbilt Sunday at Noon ET before traveling to Georgia next Thursday. Following UK’s lone bye weekend, the Wildcats play at Arkansas on Feb. 16 before back-to-back home games against Florida (Feb. 19) and Mississippi State (Feb. 23) to end UK’s home schedule.
Kentucky (15-7, 6-3 SEC) is coming off a setback Monday at Missouri, falling to the Tigers 73-67 to snap a five-game winning streak. Senior guard Makayla Epps scored a game-high 20 points with four rebounds, while sophomore guard Taylor Murray had her second double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Wildcats shot 39.7 percent in the game, while Missouri shot 46.9 percent, including seven 3-pointers.
Epps is Kentucky’s leading scorer this season with 16.7 points per game, adding 4.3 rebounds and a team-best 83 assists. The native of Lebanon, Ky., has scored 20 or more points in back-to-back games to take her career point total to 1,574, which ranks her seventh all-time in program history. Fellow senior Evelyn Akhator is averaging a double-double this season with 15.1 points and 10.4 rebound per game. Akhator has 12 double-doubles this season and 25 for her career.
Two other Wildcats are averaging double figures with Murray posting 12.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while Maci Morris (pictured in last year's game vs. South Carolina) is averaging 11.9 points per game with a team-best 39 3-pointers made. As a team, UK is scoring 70.7 points per game, hitting 44.0 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from 3.
Fourth-ranked South Carolina owns an 18-2 overall record, including an 8-1 mark in league play and a spotless 4-0 record in SEC games played on the road. USC is 7-1 overall this season away from home with the lone loss coming at Duke.
The Gamecocks, coached by Dawn Staley (pictured), currently have four athletes averaging double-digit scoring, led by junior forward A’ja Wilson who is averaging 16.7 points per game. Junior guard Allisha Gray is second on the team with 13.7 points per game, followed closely by Alaina Coates (13.4) and Kaela Davis (12.5). Coates is also the Gamecocks’ leading rebounder grabbing 11.0 boards per contest.
South Carolina is coming off its first loss in conference play, after being downed by Tennessee 76-74 on Monday night. The loss also snapped USC’s 30-game home winning streak against SEC opponents. Against Tennessee, junior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore led the Gamecocks with 18 points. Wilson, Davis and Gray also posted double-digit scoring performances in the game.
Thursday's meeting with South Carolina is the 59th all-time in program history with the Wildcats leading the all-time series 33-25. Kentucky leads the series 20-7 in games played in Lexington. South Carolina has won each of the last three games in the series, including all three meeting last season. UK's last win against South Carolina came March 1, 2015 in Memorial. Matthew Mitchell is 10-10 all-time as a head coach against South Carolina.
Kentucky and South Carolina met three times last season with the Gamecocks winning all three games. The first game was in Memorial Coliseum when the Wildcats led for nearly 29 minutes before South Carolina outscored UK 22-12 in the final period to earn a 73-62 victory. The teams also met in Colonial Life Arena last season with the Gamecocks earning a 78-68 victory. The final meeting came in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament when the Gamecocks shot 52.9 percent from the field, including 12 3-pointers to earn a 93-63 victory. Makayla Epps scored in double figures in all three games, combining for 49 total points.
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Kentucky fans are encouraged to wear blue to the game and arrive early to Memorial Coliseum. UK students will receive free admission to the game with a valid UK student ID, while the first 100 students in the student section will receive a free t-shirt. One lucky student will be selected to take a halfcourt shot for a chance to win $25,000. Senior guard Makayla Epps will be signing autographs postgame.
Single-game tickets for all Kentucky home games are available through the UK Ticket Office and through ticketmaster.com. Single-game tickets are $9 for reserved seating (all ages), $8 for adult general admission and $5 for youth (6-18/seniors 65+) general admission seating. General admission seating is free for ages five and under.
Photos by Jamie H. Vaught