By: ASHLEY SCOBY
DeNesha Stallworth scored 14 points, including 9 of Kentucky’s first 11, and the Cats rolled over the now 0-4 Lipscomb Thursday night, 116-49.
Kentucky was six points away from breaking the school record (121) for total points in a game.
UK Hoops also continued its balanced offensive attack that has been its bread and butter this season: Eight players scored in double figures, and all 11 players available for the game appeared in the scoring column. Samantha Drake, who tore her ACL and meniscus in Sunday’s game against Central Michigan, is out for the season, along with Kyvin Goodin-Rogers who is sitting out due to a pulmonary embolism.
Bria Goss led all scorers with 18, and Janee Thompson (16), Bernisha Pinkett (15), DeNesha Stallworth (14), Linnae Harper (12), Kastine Evans (12), Jennifer O’Neill (11) and Samarie Walker (10) joined her in the double-figures club.
“It shows how talented this team is and it also shows how deep this bench is,” Walker said of Kentucky’s balanced offense. “Linnae came off the bench and scored 12, ‘Nesha (Pinkett) came off the bench and had 15. That’s really good. You don’t see too many teams that can do that.”
The Cats actually saw a deficit early in the game, as the Lady Bisons jumped out to a 3-2 lead off a Sara Bliss trey. Then, Stallworth took over, scoring 9 of Kentucky’s first 11 points, leading eventually to a 14-3 UK Hoops lead.
It wasn’t just Kentucky’s starters that would build the Cats’ monstrous lead. Early in the game, Harper would flip a Lipscomb turnover into a run-out and pull-up jumper that gave UK an 18-5 lead, and a Jelleah Sidney turnaround shot in the paint put Kentucky ahead 20-7. Kentucky stomped on the gas medal, keeping its lead at 14 points or more for the remainder of the half, and the game. The Cats’ bench finished with 46 points.
Kentucky went on a 20-4 run to start the second half, and never slowed down. The Cats hit the 50-point margin with 10:42 remaining, after Pinkett converted on a layup to make it 89-39. About four minutes later, they hit the century mark in the scoring column after a jumper from Goss.
No matter which combination of players was in the game, Kentucky maintained a frenetic pace that included 40 total points off Lipscomb’s 32 turnovers.
“That’s just the goal for us is to put 40 minutes of pressure on you and not 40 minutes of defensive pressure,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I think the offensive push on misses and makes is hard to deal with. You don’t see a lot of teams do that. … We have a team that’s built for it. We have a bunch of women who came in every day and run up and down the floor really hard and train to do it so I think it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on people.”
That pace was maintained by two point guards. O’Neill started most games last season, but has relinquished that spot to Thompson, a sophomore, this year. Both players have been given the responsibility of running Kentucky’s offense, and Mitchell believes the combination can be lethal.
“It’s not to placate one or the other, or play mind games,” he said. “You’re not playing some kind of point guard controversy. They’re really trying to come together. … I was driving back after the pregame meal, and they were walking there (Memorial Coliseum) together. Our whole philosophy there is that they can become, together, the single best point guard in the country. It bodes well for us, and I’m really proud of their attitude and how they’re approaching that.”
Thompson, who finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists said that being friends with O’Neill off the court has only helped their production on it.
“Me and Jennifer have a really good relationship and that just transfers on the court,” she said. “He (Mitchell) knows that either one of us can be out on the floor at any time and he trusts the both of us equally. We just try to do our best and give Coach Mitchell whatever it is he’s looking for when one of us is on the floor.”
Kentucky did not just rely on offensive execution for the blowout win, as they forced 32 Lipscomb turnovers. The Lady Bisons also shot 30.8%, and only one player (Chandler Cooper) scored in double figures at 15.