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Surging Akhator, UK defense too much for Georgia, as Wildcats roll to 82-61 victory

By Kindsey Bernhard
KyForward Intern

When most players have a career-high game in scoring, their next game isn’t quite the same. That wasn’t the case for UK senior Evelyn Akhator.

After her career-high 29 points on the road against Alabama on Thursday, Akhator returned to Memorial Coliseum to score 24 points in UK Hoops’ 82-61 win over Georgia. UK Hoops improved to 12-6 on the season, 3-2 in the Southeastern Conference.

Akhator, a 6-foot-3 forward, grabbed 16 rebounds en route to her tenth double-double of the season and 23rd of her career.

Akhator said her play these past two games all started in practice. After talking as a team, the players agreed it had been a while since they were having fun on the court.

Evelyn Akhator scored 24 points in UK's win ove Georgia Sunday (UK Athletics Photo)

Evelyn Akhator scored 24 points in UK’s win over Georgia Sunday (UK Athletics Photo)

Head coach Matthew Mitchell believes his team has lacked energy but especially in the loss against Texas A&M. After meeting with every player, Mitchell said that Akhator told him she was going to do better.

“She was going to be a better leader,” Mitchell said. “She’s going to work harder to lead. She was not going to let herself get so down and dejected over a missed shot or a foul or, you know, some mistake.”

“I promised him that I will always bring the energy no matter what happens in the game,” Akhator said. “I just need to be positive. So that was my promise.”

Georgia’s game plan did not include double-teaming Akhator until the Bulldogs saw the kind of game she was having. Georgia head coach Joni Taylor said it’s not as easy double-teaming Kentucky when they have shooters like Maci Morris and Makenzie Cann on the perimeter.

“It is not as easy to double Kentucky as it is some other teams in the past we have,” Taylor said.

Cann said the Cats practice double-teaming Akhator in practice so they know what to look for during games.

“Well it’s great as a team and especially me as a shooter when they have to send four people on her,” Cann said. “It’s a lot easier for us. So I don’t complain about it.”

Akhator was not the only factor working for UK early in Sunday’s game. The UK defense held Georgia to four points in the first quarter. The visitors failed to score the final four minutes of the quarter. Georgia was down 44-14 at halftime.

“I think Evelyn came out and scored the first six or eight points, and Kentucky never looked back,” Georgia coach Taylor said. “We didn’t have an answer for them in the first half.”

The UK defense created 11 turnovers, which the Wildcats turned into 24 points. UK also outscored Georgia 16-14 in fast break points.

“We got better this week. We really took a step forward,” Mitchell said of his team’s defensive performance.

UK played without guard Jessica Hardin for the fifth straight game due to concussion protocol. Guards Taylor Murray and Makayla Epps stepped up in her absence. Murray finished with 14 points and three assists. Epps finished with 13 points and six assists.

UK Hoops will travel to Baton Rouge, La., to take on LSU on Thursday at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network+.

LSU is not ranked but received votes in both the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll this week. The Tigers are 14-4 on the season and 3-2 in the SEC.

Kindsey Bernhard is a journalism senior at the University of Kentucky. She is from Ft. Wright and played high school basketball at Notre Dame Academy.

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