Sophomore Bria Goss leads UK comeback over Arkansas

February 7, 2013 

  • Next game

    Kentucky at Vanderbilt

    When: Sunday, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)

It hasn't been the easiest few weeks for Bria Goss.

The reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year hadn't scored more than eight points in the past three games.

The Kentucky guard was mired in a sophomore slump.

But she found her way out of it from the UK bench on Thursday night, scoring 16 of her team-high 17 points in the second half and overtime to help No. 10 Kentucky escape Arkansas 80-74.

"She had just been performing so poorly and couldn't get out of her own way," Coach Matthew Mitchell said in a post-game interview with the UK Radio Network.

So he put her on the bench to start the game for the first time in her short Kentucky career because he "just wanted her to try to get back to having some fun."

After the game, Goss said a quiet conversation at the hotel the night before stuck with her. Mitchell told her he believed in her and told her to believe in herself.

"I'm just getting emotional now, (thinking about) how much he cares, how much he loves me," Goss said afterward, choking up on the radio.

Goss scored the opening basket and foul shot of overtime to help UK take the lead for good.

"I'm real excited for her and definitely excited for this team," Mitchell said of his Cats (20-3, 8-2 Southeastern Conference), who have won 11 of their last 12 games over Arkansas.

That streak looked in doubt early as Kentucky fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first half.

Samarie Walker, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds, gave UK some energy to start the second half as she scored seven straight points.

"She played so tough and battled with some foul trouble at times," Mitchell said. "She took it to the bucket and made some important, important shots for us."

The most important shots of the night came from UK senior A'dia Mathies, who missed all but two of her first 11 shots to start the game. But she hit a big three-pointer late in regulation and a driving layup to tie it with 26 seconds to go to help force the overtime.

The Cats also needed two big defensive stops underneath the Arkansas basket (courtesy of Brittany Henderson blocks) in the final six seconds.

Mathies finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Kentucky. DeNesha Stallworth added 12 points, including nine in the first half, and five rebounds for UK, which won the board battle 33-26.

Kentucky, which had a 17-game win streak going early this season, had lost two of its last three coming into the game, most recently a loss at home to Georgia. The Cats' 34-game home win streak ended to the Bulldogs.

After that loss, Mitchell held two straight pre-dawn practices to toughen up his team and help it refocus on defensive fundamentals.

It didn't look all that successful early on, when the Cats fell behind by as many as 11 points to the Razorbacks, who shot 48.1 percent from the field in the first half. UK closed to 33-28 at the buzzer.

"The first 12 minutes of the game were an absolute disaster for us," Mitchell said. "We were completely out of sync."

But UK chipped away at Arkansas, which was led by Sarah Watkins' 25 points and five blocked shots. Quistelle Williams added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Razorbacks (15-8, 3-7).

With the win, Mitchell moved into a tie for second place with Sharon Fanning on Kentucky's all-time wins list.

Next game

Kentucky at Vanderbilt

When: Sunday, 4 p.m. (ESPN2)

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