Epps scores 20, No. 10 Kentucky women beat Florida
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Janee Thompson provided the inspiration, Makayla Epps produced the points.
Epps scored 20 and kept No. 10 Kentucky ahead with perfect foul shooting Thursday night in a 62-56 win over Florida.
Kentucky (15-3, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) bounced back from a 68-60 loss at top-ranked South Carolina on Sunday. The Wildcats lost Thompson, their starting point guard, to a season-ending ankle injury in that defeat.
The Wildcats wore blue T-shirts with white letters inscribed “Our B3st,” in support of Thompson, who wears jersey No. 3.
“She has the biggest shoes on the team to fill,” Epps said. “It’s weird not having her out there and looking over at her behind the bench. Everything we do now is for Janee.”
Epps said the Wildcats missed not having Thompson, who watched the game behind the bench and walked around on crutches.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell praised his team’s ability to overcome the adversity that struck his team.
“What a great victory for us tonight after some tough days, dealing with the aftermath of Janee’s injury,” Mitchell said. “I felt like tonight was going to be real difficult. We did not play well at all times and Florida had a lot to do with that.”
Epps made all eight of her free throws, including six in the final two minutes. She shot 6 for 10 from the field and also had four assists.
Linnae Harper had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats.
Kentucky welcomed the return of senior Bria Goss, who had missed the previous six games because of a thumb injury. She didn’t score, but had a crucial offensive rebound that led to Epps’ two foul shots with 32 seconds left.
Cassie Peoples led Florida (9-9, 1-4) with 12 points and Kayla Lewis added 10.
“It was a game that just epitomizes our league,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “It was a great women’s basketball contest in the best league in the country.”
“It was a fantastic battle and came down to two, three and four plays. They made those two, three and four plays,” she said.
Florida led 51-50 with 4:17 remaining, but Jennifer O’Neill hit a 3-pointer during a 7-0 run that put the Wildcats ahead for good.
Kentucky made seven of 10 free throws in the final two minutes in a game that had 17 lead changes.
The Wildcats missed all eight of their 3-point attempts in the first half. They made three in the second half, two by O’Neill.
Florida: The last nine games between the two teams have been decided by 10 points or less. ... The Gators, No. 1 in the SEC with an average of 14 steals per game, had six against the Wildcats.
Kentucky: The Wildcats lost two of three games to the Gators last season, including an 83-73 loss in Memorial Coliseum. ... Senior Jelleah Sidney made her first appearance in 13 games. She’s been slowed by a sore knee.
Florida hosts No. 1 South Carolina on Monday.
Kentucky visits LSU on Sunday.