No. 5 Kentucky women beat East Tennessee St. 73-56

East Tennessee State achieved its modest goal against No. 5

Kentucky on Sunday.

Coach Brittney Ezell wanted her team to hold the Wildcats under

80 points, and the Buccaneers did just that after outscoring the

Wildcats 27-24 in the second half in the 73-56 loss.

”We had to hold Kentucky, as strange as it may sound, to 80,”

Ezell said. ”You never want to say you want to hold somebody to

80, but we thought that if we held it in the high 70s or low 80s

that we have an opportunity to be in the game at the end. The kids

bought into that.”

The setback was the third in a row for the Buccaneers (2-6),

including two straight against teams from the Southeastern

Conference. East Tennessee State lost at Vanderbilt 92-71 on Dec.

3.

”This will prepare us for our league,” Ezell said. ”That’s

what we’re focused on – doing well in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

It’s a great opportunity to compete against an SEC team.”

Maria Bond, who led the Buccaneers with 14 points, said the

back-to-back losses will be beneficial when conference play begins

next month.

”It’s a confidence-booster,” Bond said.

Janee Thompson and Samarie Walker each scored 12 points to help

Kentucky tie a school record with its 11th consecutive victory to

open the season. Kentucky limited the Buccaneers to six points and

two field goals in the final 10:30.

”I’m glad we were able to play good enough defense to win the

game,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. ”I thought East

Tennessee State played really hard and, obviously, caused us some

problems today and competed tough. We had to win with our defense

and that’s something that’s been different for us than previous

games. I’m just glad we were able to tighten up in the second half

and really shut them down for a long period of time. I think that

was a big difference in the game.”

East Tennessee State forced four lead changes and three ties in

the first eight minutes, but the Wildcats used a 14-2 run to go up

31-18 with 8:15 remaining in the first half.

Kentucky led 49-29 at the half, but the Buccaneers pulled to

54-44 with 13:28 left.

”I thought our kids competed to the best of our abilities for

the entire 40 minutes,” Ezell said. ”You have to take your hat

off to Kentucky. They are fantastic, they are loaded, they play

hard and they’re aggressive.”

Linnae Harper added 10 points for Kentucky, and freshman guard

Makayla Epps had eight. Epps was involved in an automobile accident

on the Bluegrass Parkway while returning home from a funeral

Saturday night, but wasn’t seriously injured.

”I’m here and that’s the best thing,” she said. ”Nothing

terrible happened. I didn’t think I was going to get to play today

but I was grateful to get out there with my teammates and be able

to contribute as always. I’m just real blessed that nothing bad

really happened.”

Chandler Christopher added 11 points for East Tennessee

State.

Kentucky was without second-leading scorer DeNesha Stallworth.

She had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair loose cartilage in her

left knee and is expected to miss at least two weeks.