The Next Big Game!

  • UK FB Blue-White Game:
    in 9 days, 21 hours, 35 minutes

Larry on Twitter

Jennifer O’Neill

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Jennifer O’Neill had 17 points and Linnae Harper scored 16 to lead No. 15 Kentucky to its fifth 20-win season in a row on Sunday in an 83-74 victory over No. 16 Texas AM.

Kentucky (20-7, 8-6 SEC) led the entire second half but needed an 8-2 run at the end of the game to secure the win. After the Aggies (21-7, 11-3) closed within 75-72 on Karla Gilbert’s putback with 2:34 left, they missed their last five field goals while the Wildcats pulled away.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell credited his players’ effort and a recently installed 2-3 zone for the difficulties the Wildcats’ defense caused the Aggies.

”The players worked really hard on the 2-3 zone for the past two days,” he said. “We had not played a lot of that and it and it paid off for us today.”

The loss drops A&M into a second-place tie with No. 10 Tennessee (11-3) as No. 4 South Carolina (13-1) clinches at least a share of the SEC regular-season title. The Aggies hold the tiebreaker with South Carolina for the top seed in the SEC tournament thanks to a 67-65 overtime victory against the Gamecocks on Jan. 16.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair took the blame for the loss.

”Throw the errors at me,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job at coaching. We worked hard to set ourselves up to have a chance to win this thing. Now what we’ve got to do is throw this game aside, learn from it, try to win our last two, get to the SEC Tournament and hopefully get hot and hopefully get smarter.”

Samarie Walker had 14 rebounds and DeNesha Stallworth had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Kentucky. Walker also had 10 rebounds.

bria-hurt

Picture 1 of 32

Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jennifer O’Neill scored 24 points and sparked a comeback as No. 18 Kentucky rallied for a 75-71 victory over No. 8 Tennessee on Sunday, earning the Wildcats’ first win in Knoxville since 1985.

O’Neill had all of Kentucky’s points during a 6-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 72-69 lead in the closing minutes.

Kentucky (19-6, 7-5 SEC) had lost to Tennessee (20-5, 9-3) in its last 16 trips to Knoxville since a 76-72 overtime victory on Jan. 23, 1985, at Stokely Athletics Center. Kentucky had never beaten Tennessee in Thompson-Boling Arena, the Lady Vols’ home since 1987-88.

Kentucky led 73-71 with 13.4 seconds remaining when Janee Thompson missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Tennessee one last chance. After the Lady Vols called timeout with 5.4 seconds left, they threw an inbounds pass to Isabelle Harrison, who lost control of the ball and committed Tennessee’s 22nd turnover. Kastine Evans made the steal and sank two game-clinching free throws.

DeNesha Stallworth had 17 points and nine rebounds for Kentucky, which beat Tennessee for the third time in their last four meetings overall. Kentucky’s previous two wins during that stretch had been in Lexington. Thompson added 15 points and seven assists.

Harrison had 20 points and 16 rebounds for Tennessee, which had a six-game winning streak snapped. Bashaara Graves had 20 points and seven rebounds. Meighan Simmons had 13 points.

Kentucky grabbed a 38-34 halftime lead by capitalizing on foul trouble to Tennessee’s starting backcourt of Simmons and Andraya Carter. Both guards missed much of the first half after picking up two fouls.

The Lady Vols couldn’t afford foul trouble in their backcourt because they already were without point guard Ariel Massengale, who hasn’t played since getting inadvertently hit in the face Jan. 23 in an 89-69 victory over Florida. Massengale has returned to practice and was in uniform Sunday, but she didn’t play.
Tennessee had won the first five games Massengale had missed, but it faced a tougher challenge Sunday from Kentucky’s ball-hawking defense.

The Lady Vols scored their first three baskets of the second half off offensive rebounds to tie the game at 40, but Kentucky grabbed the lead and the momentum later in the second half.

Stallworth scored seven points and O’Neill had five points during a 14-2 run that gave the Wildcats a 56-48 lead. The Lady Vols seemed in even bigger trouble when Carter picked up her fourth foul with 9:02 left, and Bria Goss hit each of the two ensuing free throws to give Kentucky a 60-52 advantage.

The Lady Vols responded with a 15-4 spurt and took a 65-64 lead on Harrison’s putback with 5:44 remaining. Kentucky managed just one basket over a five-minute stretch as Tennessee mounted its comeback.

But Kentucky wouldn’t go away.

Kentucky trailed 69-66 when O’Neill banked in a jumper as the shot clock was about to expire with 3:21 remaining. She added a layup after a Simmons turnover that put Kentucky ahead for good with 2:23 left and capped a 6-0 spurt by sinking a jumper with 1:39 remaining.
Kentucky barely hung on from there.

Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

By: ASHLEY SCOBY

Kentucky scored the most points it has since Southeastern Conference play began, and the No. 18 Wildcats took down Mississippi, 108-78, Thursday night.

By the 6:34 mark of the second half, Kentucky had already scored more points (86) than it had in any other SEC contest to date. Sparked by a 20-36 shooting performance in the second half, the Wildcats made former Kentucky assistant and current Mississippi head coach Matt Insell’s homecoming a bittersweet one.

“It was exciting to see that we could get back to playing the way we were once before,” said Kentucky junior guard Jennifer O’Neill.

O’Neill led the offensive charge for the Wildcats with 27 points on 8-15 shooting (5-7 from the three-point line). She also swished all six of her free throws.

“She doesn’t have to score 27 every night but she needs to go out and try to get 27 every night mentally,” Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell said “Her mentality needs to be one of aggressiveness and attack. It’s just such a big difference when she does what she did tonight.”

O’Neill made 3 of 9 shots in the first half, but hit a scorching 83 percent in the second half, including 3 of 3 from behind the arc.

Kentucky built a 14-point lead by the 6:15 mark of the first half, but Mississippi went on an 18-11 run to close the gap to seven with 4 seconds remaining until the break. But O’Neill took an inbounds pass, drove the length of the court and nailed a jumper at the buzzer to bump Kentucky back out in front by a nine-point margin.

“Shooting the ball helps you a whole lot,” Mitchell said. “Instead of 2 for 16, we were 8 for 16 from three, and everybody just gets fired up and everybody gets going.”

O’Neill’s shot at the buzzer, although not a three-pointer, fired her team up to shoot lights out in the second half. The Wildcats shot 55.6 percent in the final 20 minutes, including 57 percent of their three-pointers during that period. Meanwhile, they held Mississippi to 38.5 percent shooting in the second half (37.5 for the game).

The hot shooting performance from the Wildcats was not led solely by O’Neill from behind the arc. Kentucky outscored the Rebels in the paint, too, 46-26.

Mississippi was led by a career performance from junior forward Tia Faleru, who came into the game leading the SEC in rebounding average (9.5). She finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds (six offensive).

“I didn’t think we really met the one-on-one challenge that was created by Faleru,” Mitchell said. “She’s a very, very active player. Offense was really good. Defense, we can get better.”

Offensively, Mitchell was pleased with the performance of his preseason All-American. DeNesha Stallworth finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, her best performance since coming off a mid-season knee injury in December.

The combination of two solid Stallworth and O’Neill performances earned praise from their former assistant coach.

“They’re real good when DeNesha Stallworth plays. They’re even better when Jennifer O’Neill plays,” Insell said. “So you get both of those clicking together on the same night like they had tonight, that’s a team right there that has a chance to play in Nashville.”

Kentucky went on a 12-3 run out of the locker room to take a 20-point lead at the 16:32 mark of the second half, and there was no slowing down from there. The Wildcats’ lead would not fall below 14 points for the rest of the game.

“It felt really good, just getting our confidence back and us just having fun again and us just believing in ourselves and just trusting one another,” Stallworth said. “It just felt fantastic, especially going into the next game versus Tennessee.”

For complete coverage of the UK women’s basketball team, including stats and notes from today’s win over Mississippi, visit wildcathoops.com.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell reacts during the second half of an NCAA first-round college basketball game against Liberty in Louisville, Saturday. Kentucky won the game 83-77. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

UK coach Matthew Mitchell (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

By ASHLEY SCOBY

It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.

But it might be a little about how you start, too.

Kentucky women’s basketball head coach Matthew Mitchell took that mindset into Sunday’s game against Arkansas, after his team dropped a stunner to unranked Alabama last Thursday. Mitchell switched up the starting lineup to include Jelleah Sidney (Sunday’s was her first career start) and Jennifer O’Neill, who started much of last season at point guard.

Relegated to the bench were sophomore point guard Janee Thompson and senior forward DeNesha Stallworth. Stallworth, whose name has appeared on several watch lists for National Player of the Year awards, only played 10 minutes, scoring 3 points and grabbing 3 rebounds.

Although Stallworth had been working herself back into the lineup after returning from knee surgery, Mitchell said her limited minutes had nothing to do with her health.

In fact, some of Mitchell’s post-game comments seemed to be directed right at his preseason All-SEC pick.

“If we can get our post players playing with the kind of fire that Jelleah and Azia (Bishop) play – they didn’t play great offensively but they gave us some energy and effort and they looked like they didn’t want to lose there and really got us going in the second half,” he said. “Our post players didn’t finish today very well.”

Bernisha Pinkett, a reserve guard who had been averaging a little less than 10 minutes per game this year, didn’t check into the game once.

“No more Mr. Nice Guy,” Mitchell said after Kentucky used that starting lineup switch-up to beat Arkansas, 68-58 on Sunday. “No more telling them how everything’s going to be all right.”

Because everything might not be all right this year. This team came in with lofty expectations of earning a No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament and finally reaching a Final Four after being bounced from the Elite Eight in three of four years.

But the Wildcats have stumbled to a 16-4 record, including a 4-3 mark in conference play, losing to SEC teams Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. Two of those losses came at Memorial Coliseum, where Kentucky has traditionally had an overwhelming winning record.

The lowest point of the season came on Thursday, when the Crimson Tide stormed into Lexington and took Kentucky down, 57-55.

“I’m just telling you we’re not showing up and playing like we played Thursday night,” Mitchell said after his team bounced back from that loss with the 68-58 win against Arkansas.

“That’s an embarrassment, and that’s nothing against Alabama. They deserved to win the game, but we’re just not going to do that. I’m in charge of that, and so my mentality is going to be we are going to play like a Kentucky team.”

Playing “like a Kentucky team” will include much more competitive practices, according to Mitchell, where playing time during games will be dictated by how much fire the players show during practices.

According to Thompson, part of that competitive spirit will be fueled by Mitchell’s changed mindset.

“I do think he was being a little light on us and trying to stay positive,” she said after the Arkansas win. “His mentality is now better because it kind of lights a fire under us at times and it makes us play harder and that showed in the game today.”

Junior Bria Goss thought the Alabama loss could be a “turning point” in the season, especially after getting back on track against Arkansas on Sunday.

How this Kentucky team has started might matter in the long run, but not because of the losses. That 4-3 start in league play can serve as the springboard to the successful season this team anticipated, according to Mitchell and his players.

“We’ve worked hard to build this program to be known for something, and that’s what we are going to do, or if we don’t it’s not going to be comfortable around here,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to make sure this thing gets to where it needs to be.”

For complete coverage of the UK women’s basketball team, visit wildcathoops.com or follow on Twitter @WildcatHoops1. 

Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

Kentucky's Jennifer O'Neill (0) drives to the basket around Auburn's Peyton Davis (34) during the second half of an NCAA women's college basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. Kentucky defeated Auburn 73-71. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Kentucky’s Jennifer O’Neill (0) drives to the basket around Auburn’s Peyton Davis (34) during the second half of an NCAA women’s college basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. Kentucky defeated Auburn 73-71. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

GARY B. GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

LEXINGTON — Jennifer O’Neill is making the most of opportunities coming off the bench for ninth-ranked Kentucky.

The 5-foot-6 junior point guard enters Thursday night’s Southeastern Conference game against Alabama (8-10, 1-4) leading the Wildcats (15-3, 3-2) with 12.7 points and 3.4 assists per game. Pretty good, considering O’Neill’s only start this season came nearly two weeks ago against Missouri.

Though O’Neill’s school-record 43-point performance keyed Kentucky’s 133-130, four-overtime win over No. 12 Baylor last month, her late defensive stop preserved Sunday’s 73-71 victory by preventing Auburn from attempting a potential game-tying shot.

O’Neill’s team-high 16 points in that game also demonstrate the consistency has helped supplant forward DeNesha Stallworth (12.2 points) atop the stat sheet.

“I just try to do whatever I can play and play my role,” said O’Neill, who seemed somewhat shocked to discover that she’s the Wildcats’ top scorer. “Whatever (coach) Matthew (Mitchell) needs me to do is what I’m trying to do.”

O’Neill leads four Wildcats averaging in double-figure scoring entering the rematch against the Crimson Tide. Kentucky beat Alabama 85-63 in its SEC opener behind her team-high 17 points along with four assists and two steals.

That effort filled a critical offensive void as the Wildcats played their last game minus Stallworth while she recovered from knee surgery. The senior forward has posted a couple of 11-point games since returning, but O’Neill’s contributions have been especially important as Stallworth tries to regain form.

“The way she plays just from a leadership standpoint, I think she can give us a whole lot,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “I think she can do even better than what she’s doing now.”

The Bronx, N.Y., native finished third in scoring at 10.9 points per game last season while starting 32 of 35 contests but has split time this year with sophomore starter Janee Thompson. Mitchell’s move that was intended to reinforce the Wildcats’ depth at the point has ended up producing nearly similar numbers for both players.

Thompson is fifth in scoring, averaging 9.8 points along with 3.2 assists in just over 20 minutes per game. O’Neill’s 26 steals are just two more than her teammate, who’s shooting slightly better (40 percent-38 percent).

Starting games watching Thompson from the bench has provided O’Neill a good perspective on what to do when she enters.

“I’m seeing the game differently,” O’Neill said. “I have (assistant coach) Jeff House beside me, who’s showing me the gaps and openings of the defenses and is telling me what kind of plays I should run or what I should look for in transition, so I kind of have a cheat sheet to an exam.”

There’s no doubt what O’Neill will and can do if left open on the perimeter, entering Thursday tied with senior Kastine Evans with 26 3-pointers. Ironically, O’Neill made just 2 of 7 from long range in her career game that was crafted on 12-of-24 shooting from elsewhere and 13 free throws.

Sunday’s game demonstrated her defensive impact as O’Neill kept the Tigers’ Katie Frerking from getting a final shot off. The play capped a 32-minute outing that proved the importance of having an effect no matter the role.

“It’s a little bit of both, playing it out and creating something,” O’Neill said of her approach. “If I have an opening I’m going to be aggressive, but if I don’t, I just have to be poised and make sure my teammates are touching the ball.”

azia-shot-blocked

Picture 1 of 18

Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

catalist

For IPhones/IPads, and new for Android devices, the Catalist app by Larry Vaught is the best way to keep up with UK basketball. It's free!

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.