The Battle of the Bluegrass rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville has produced many classics throughout the years, and Sunday’s women’s basketball game between No. 17 UK and No. 7 UofL was no different.
The Cardinals would come out the game with a 69-67 victory, but it took overtime to settle the battle that had been anticipated all week.
The Cardinals held the lead most of the game thanks to a strong performance on the glass, out-rebounding the Cats 49-40, including scooping up 21 offensive rebounds.
“We did not rebound out of the zone,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We just couldn’t defend the second shot.”
Offensive rebounding from the Cardinals would eventually lead to the Cats’ downfall.
For six years now, the Big Blue Nation has anxiously awaited the day that their beloved UK football team was selected for a bowl game. And on Sunday, it was announced that the Cats will be headed to Jacksonville to face Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl on New Year’s Eve.
In overtime, with 11 seconds left, Mariya Moore of UofL would go to the free throw line looking to extend UofL’s lead to four. Moore would make the first and miss the second, but Jazmine Jones of UL grabbed the offensive rebound, got fouled, and added a free throw to the Cardinals lead with nine seconds left.
Maci Morris would hit a huge three on the other end to trim UofL’s lead to one with five seconds left. Briahanna Jackson of UofL then got fouled and extended UofL’s lead to two with four seconds left.
Taylor Murray had a chance for a game-winner but was not able to get a shot up before the final buzzer, which sealed the victory for the Cardinals.
The loss had to hit Makayla Epps the hardest, as this was her first loss to UofL in a Kentucky uniform. Epps did all she could though, as she set a career high in rebounds with 16 to go along with 22 points.
“To leave 3-1 against them as a senior, I can take that,” Epps said. “You know I would like to get this one, but things happen.”
Epps led the team in the first half, but fellow guard Murray would step up and take off some of the defensive pressure on Epps in the second half.
Murray scored 19 of her 21 points in the second half, setting a new career high, which was set earlier in the season against Morehead State.
“She [Murray] should have a lot of confidence in her game, she is playing great basketball,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “She is coming on and paying outstanding and leading our defense.”
The loss was a big blow to UK, but the Cats have been impressive so far against tough competition, beating two of the three ranked teams they have played. Even in the loss, Mitchell knows his team is capable of winning these types of games on another day.
“Everything that led to us getting beat today is correctable, so you can’t question the kids’ heart, you can’t question their tenacity,” Mitchell said. “If you can keep that going over the course of the basketball season, you can have some success, and I know we will.”