Thompson, O'Neill bond so well as point guards for UK women, they're almost one Cat

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 12, 2013 

  • Matchups

    NO. 7 KENTUCKY (1-0)

    Starters: Bria Goss, 5-10, Jr., G (13.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.0 apg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Sr. (12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, So., PG; (9.0 ppg; 2.5 rpg, 5.0 apg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Sr., F (7.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Sr., F (13.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.5 apg)

    Key reserves: Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, Jr., G (11.0 ppg, 3.0) apg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, Jr., F (5.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Linnae Harper, 5-8, Fr., G (3.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Makayla Epps, 5-10, Fr., G (2.0 ppg); Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Sr., G (4.5 ppg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, Jr. (4.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, Sr., F (1.0 ppg)

    GEORGIA SOUTHERN (0-1)

    Starters: MiMi DuBose, 5-9, Sr., G (15.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Anna Claire Knight, 5-10, Jr., G (14.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Alexis Sams, 5-5, So., G (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Briana Jones, 6-2, So., F (10.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg); Sierra Kirkland, 5-11, So., F (0.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg)

    Key reserves: Angel McGowan, 5-9, Fr., G (7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Danielle Spencer, 6-3, Sr., F (2.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg)

  • Wednesday

    Georgia Southern at Kentucky

    When: 11 a.m.

    Records: Ga. Southern 0-1; UK 2-0

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

They room together.

They sit on the bus to and from games together.

The armrest is the only thing keeping them apart on airplanes.

So far this season, despite seemingly competing with each other for Kentucky's starting point guard spot and minutes on the floor, sophomore Janee Thompson and junior Jennifer O'Neill have been inseparable.

It could be a "quarterback controversy" on some teams that have equally talented players vying for the same position, but UK coach Matthew Mitchell said it's just not that way with Thompson and O'Neill.

He's instead selling them on being "two really good players playing the same position and working hard to become one really good point guard."

Two games into the season, they already are.

In seventh-ranked Kentucky's first two games, the duo combined to score 40 points, pass out 16 assists, and nab seven rebounds and five steals while shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three-point range.

Mitchell, whose team has its home opener Wednesday at 11 a.m. against Georgia Southern, said Thompson and O'Neill are in a unique situation.

"A lot of times you are just hoping the backup can come in and steady the ship," he said Tuesday. "Neither one of these kids would hold the ship steady; they can move it forward fast."

O'Neill, who started 32 games last season, has come off the bench in Kentucky's first two games this season, but she has played four more minutes than Thompson.

If O'Neill minds the new role, her stats don't show it. She's hitting 60 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from long range.

Thompson's shooting numbers aren't as good (although not bad at 47.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent on three-point shooting), but she has grabbed three extra rebounds, passed out four more assists and turned the ball over five fewer times.

Senior guard Kastine Evans said it's remarkable how unselfish the two players are.

"They are trying to make each other better, and kudos to their character," Evans said. "They cheer each other on all the time."

Thompson has gotten the starting nod in the first two games because she has had a slight edge in practice.

"There's not a tremendous amount of difference in either one of them, so as you try to figure out who is going in the game first, it comes down to practice," Mitchell said before the two-game road trip that started the season.

"Jennifer hasn't had terrible practices, but she hasn't practiced as sharply as Janee. That's really not a knock on Jennifer, but a compliment to Janee."

If the players can keep pushing each other, Mitchell said, Kentucky could have a remarkable season.

"They are just really trying to become one mind at the point guard position and being very competitive, but not with each other, trying to help the other bring the best out," he said.

Seeing 2020

Trying to get an early jump on recruiting, UK will host "Class of 2020 Day" at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday. More than 2,000 sixth-graders and their teachers will be there.

"It gets our future students on campus and helps us show them what a special place Kentucky is," Mitchell said.

His players are excited because the screams and screeches of 2,000 or more sixth graders is a good pick-me-up for a morning start.

"We get the crowd into the game, but (the kids) get us into the game by cheering so loud," forward Samarie Walker said. "We could miss a shot and they're still excited by just being there, so it makes it really fun."

Parking logistics

Because of limited parking with school in session, UK is encouraging those without valid university parking passes to park in the K-Overflow Lot, across Alumni Drive from Commonwealth Stadium and have the free shuttle service drop them in front of Memorial Coliseum. The shuttle will begin running at 9:30 a.m.

For complete info on special parking arrangements, go to UKathletics.com/wbbgameday.


Matchups

NO. 7 KENTUCKY (1-0)

Starters: Bria Goss, 5-10, Jr., G (13.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.0 apg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Sr. (12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, So., PG; (9.0 ppg; 2.5 rpg, 5.0 apg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Sr., F (7.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Sr., F (13.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.5 apg)

Key reserves: Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, Jr., G (11.0 ppg, 3.0) apg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, Jr., F (5.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Linnae Harper, 5-8, Fr., G (3.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Makayla Epps, 5-10, Fr., G (2.0 ppg); Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Sr., G (4.5 ppg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, Jr. (4.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, Sr., F (1.0 ppg)

GEORGIA SOUTHERN (0-1)

Starters: MiMi DuBose, 5-9, Sr., G (15.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Anna Claire Knight, 5-10, Jr., G (14.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Alexis Sams, 5-5, So., G (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Briana Jones, 6-2, So., F (10.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg); Sierra Kirkland, 5-11, So., F (0.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg)

Key reserves: Angel McGowan, 5-9, Fr., G (7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Danielle Spencer, 6-3, Sr., F (2.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg)


Wednesday

Georgia Southern at Kentucky

When: 11 a.m.

Records: Ga. Southern 0-1; UK 2-0

Radio: WLAP-AM 630

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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