No. 8 Kentucky women beat No. 13 Duke 71-61
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) The Kentucky women are at home in Rupp Arena, too.
Evelyn Akhator scored 18 points to help No. 8 Kentucky beat No. 13 Duke 71-61 on Sunday night in front of 17,150 fans, the fourth-largest women's crowd in school history.
Akhator scored eight of Kentucky's first 10 points and the Wildcats (10-0) built an early lead and never trailed. The game was team's second of the season at Rupp.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said the team's point of emphasis was producing a presence in the post. Sparked by Akhator, the Wildcats outscored the Blue Devils 38-34 in the paint.
''You must establish a paint presence and you have to go right at them,'' Mitchell said. ''You have to attack the paint early. It was on the board all week. Something that was emphasized all week long. It was a great, great accomplishment for us to outscore them in the paint.''
Okhator listened to her coach's message.
''They (my teammates) believe in me,'' Okhator said. ''I didn't want to let them down. I had to do well in the paint.''
Janee Thompson and Makayla Epps each added 17 points for the Wildcats, who ended a two-game losing streak to the Blue Devils. Epps, who didn't have a field goal in the first half, scored 11 points in the final two quarters. She also had eight assists.
Thompson said the presence of Akhator helped the Wildcats keep and the lead throughout.
''A good start in the paint is always important for us,'' Thompson said. ''We have to establish a post presence so all other areas of our game can become open. Evelyn was key to the way we started. She was almost unstoppable (and) almost automatic that every time we gave her the ball she was able to score in the first half.''
Akhator made 8 of 14 shots from the field and the Wildcats shot 48 percent from the floor. They also made 10 of 11 free throws. Thompson made three of Kentucky's five shots from long range, including a 3 at the buzzer to end the first quarter.
Azura Stevens led Duke (9-3) with 17 points, and Crystal Primm had 15.
Kentucky led by 11 in the second quarter, but Duke rallied to cut it to 26-25 with 6 minutes remaining in the half. The Wildcats responded by scoring eight of the next nine points and pushed it to 34-26 with 4 minutes remaining in the half and held a 38-30 halftime lead.
Duke struggled against Kentucky's pressure and committed 17 turnovers, including 10 in the first half. The Blue Devils shot 37 percent from the field and were just 2 of 13 from 3-point range.
''It was a great, great performance by our defense,'' Mitchell said. ''We were really able to affect them with our defense.''
Duke coach Joanne McCallie agreed.
''Obviously, that was a significant impact,'' McCallie said. ''They play very physical basketball. They play really hard. Our turnovers, we had some really crazy turnovers. You have to give credit to the defense for causing some of those (miscues).''
Duke: The Blue Devils fell to 5-2 overall against the Wildcats. ... Guard Rebecca Greenwell, a graduate of Owensboro Catholic and the runner-up to Epps for Miss Basketball in 2013, missed all six of her field-goal attempts and scored just one point. ... Two of Duke's three losses this season have been on the road.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have won their first 10 games for only the fifth time in school history.
Kentucky hosts Tennessee State on Dec. 28.
Duke hosts Western Carolina on Dec. 29.