Defense drives UK women's blowout victory


jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 8, 2010 

So much for Sunday drivers.

When Kentucky was challenged in its lone exhibition of the season, the ninth-ranked Cats shifted into a different gear.

Fueled by defense, UK scored 32 unanswered points during the second half and sped past Kentucky Wesleyan 99-55 at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.

Coach Matthew Mitchell encouraged his team to keep its eyes on the road.

"The focus was not the scoreboard at anytime," he said afterward.

But when the Panthers cut UK's lead to five points early in the second half, Mitchell called a timeout and encouraged Kentucky to step on the gas defensively.

In that 32-point spree UK forced 14 Wesleyan turnovers. For the game, the Cats scored 58 points off 40 Panthers miscues.

"It was hard to take, there's no doubt about it," first-year co-coach Caleb Nieman said of Kentucky's pressure defense. "Offensively, we didn't have enough stuff to throw at them ... They did a great job of getting through stuff and really frustrating us."

That was the plan, UK's players said.

A'dia Mathies said she was on the Kentucky bench at the end of the run and saw on the message board that UK was on a 32-0 run. She smacked teammate Brittany Henderson to point it out.

"I didn't realize we'd done that much," Mathies said. "It was very exciting to get that big run. It was great."

Mathies was one of five UK players in double figures with 12 points. She led the Cats in assists and steals with four each and added three rebounds in 25 minutes.

Henderson was a big part of the big run, scoring eight of her 10 points. She also grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots for the game.

Reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap led everyone with 20 points and 10 rebounds. She also had two assists, two steals and two blocked shots.

Dunlap agreed with her coach that the exhibition wasn't about racking up points.

"We had to make sure we were staying focused and playing hard and not focusing on the score," she said. "Not letting up at any point, just doing what we do best, which is playing defense."

All but two players scored for Kentucky, which shot 48 percent from the field and outrebounded the Panthers 44-30.

Kentucky Wesleyan's scoreless drought ended on a three-pointer by Kourtney Rhoads with 7:47 left in the game, but UK still had a 34-point lead 79-45. Kentucky extended its lead to 44 points by the end.

"We have a lot of potential if we just all come together," Mathies said.

It wasn't all Dunlap and Mathies in the win. Two players from Kentucky's highly touted freshman class were solid. Samantha Drake scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Kastine Evans had 15 points in 17 minutes of relief.

Junior Keyla Snowden added nine points and redshirt freshman Bernisha Pinkett eight points in the win.

While UK's showing wasn't perfect (it made just 22.2 percent from three-point range and turned the ball over 19 times itself), Mitchell said he was upbeat after the victory.

He was especially happy to see this year's version of the Cats embracing the defensive mindset of last year's team, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight behind its defensive pressure.

"I was happy with the energy and the press that got that going," Mitchell said.

"You know you can't rely on your press like that all the time and you're not going to have many runs like that against the competition we play, but I was pleased with the energy."

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