Fresh off back-to-back Southeastern Conference wins and its lone bye weekend of the season, the University of Kentucky women’s basketball team looks to extend its winning streak Thursday as it travels to face Arkansas at 8 p.m.
“We have a tough game ahead of us tomorrow night at Arkansas, it has always been a difficult place for us to earn a victory. This will be a very tough game for us. They have some very good players and play extremely hard and pose a lot of difficult situations for our team that we will have to work hard to handle,” UK coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They can really drive the basketball and have good 3-point shooters and can spread the floor, so you really have to play great team defense against them. So it will be a real challenge. We have worked hard this week to prepare and we have a little bit more time to try to get ready for what I know will be a tough battle tomorrow night in Fayetteville.”
Kentucky (17-8, 8-4 SEC) is coming off one of its longest stretches between games this season as UK last played on Feb. 9 in Athens. The Wildcats took down the Bulldogs, 66-56, earning its second straight conference win as UK has won seven of its last nine league games after starting the season 1-2. A win Thursday would guarantee Kentucky a winning record in conference play for the ninth time in Mitchell’s 10 seasons. The Wildcats are 4-2 in conference play on the road this season.
Four Wildcats are averaging double-digit scoring this season, led by seniors Makayla Epps (17.2) and Evelyn Akhator (14.8). Sophomore guard Taylor Murray is third in scoring with 12.3 points per game. Morris rounds out the list adding 11.7 per contest. In all, seven different Wildcats have posted double-digit scoring performances this season and four returning letterwinners have set new career-high scoring marks.
Epps has scored in double figures in each of Kentucky’s last six games, including four 20+ point performances during that stretch. Akhator leads Kentucky in rebounds with 10.4 per game to average a double-double. Her 26 career double-doubles ranks as the fourth most in Kentucky history, while her 13 double-doubles this season ties the fourth most in a season.
Arkansas enters Thursday’s game with a 13-12 overall record, sitting 2-10 in conference play. The Razorbacks are 9-6 at home this season and just 2-6 away from Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas started the season 9-0 before falling at Missouri State in early December and entered conference play 11-2. The Razorbacks lost their first four SEC games before a two-game win streak against Alabama and Vanderbilt. Recently, Arkansas has lost six straight league games.
As a team, Arkansas is averaging 65.1 points per game this season, hitting 40.2 percent from the field, including 32.8 percent from long range. The Razorbacks have a plus 2.9 rebounding margin this season with a plus 1.3 turnover margin. Teams are scoring just 59.1 points per game against Arkansas, hitting just 38.1 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from 3.
Senior forward Jessica Jackson leads the team by averaging 14.5 points per game, adding a team-best 6.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Malica Monk is averaging 9.1 points per game and 2.7 rebounds per game, while freshman point guard Jailyn Mason leads the team with 79 assists adding 8.1 points per game. Overall, Arkansas has six players averaging six or more points per game this season.
Thursday’s meeting with Arkansas is the 34th all-time between the two teams with Kentucky leading the series 20-13. Arkansas leads 9-5 in games played in Fayetteville. Kentucky has won six in a row over Arkansas, including 14 of the last 15 meetings. Arkansas’ last win over Kentucky was 78-67 victory in Fayetteville in January of 2011. Matthew Mitchell is 10-1 all-time against Arkansas as a head coach.
Kentucky and Arkansas met once last season in Memorial Coliseum with the Wildcats earning a 77-63 victory over the Razorbacks. Akhator posted a double-double in the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Epps had 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The Wildcats hit 49.2 percent from the field in the game, while Arkansas hit 44.8 percent. UK outrebounded Arkansas 37-24 and had a 40-24 advantage in points in the paint. Both teams hit four 3s but UK outscored the Razorbacks 10-0 in fast-break points.
The game will be broadcast on the SECNetwork+ 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.
From UK Athletics