UK women swamp Ga. Southern, 103-38

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 13, 2013 

  • NEXT GAME

    Central Michigan at Kentucky

    When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Bernisha Pinkett went through a long-range shooting slump for a long, long time.

After hitting three three-pointers in a game early last season, Kentucky's senior guard hit 19.4 percent the rest of the season.

Dating to last season, Pinkett had missed 15 in a row.

So when she nailed her first three-pointer on Wednesday morning in No. 7 Kentucky's home opener, a wide smile crossed her face.

Lots of players played well and had big numbers in Kentucky's 103-38 shellacking of Georgia Southern on Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum, but none of them probably needed it more than Pinkett.

"When you have been a valuable three-point shooter and that shot is no longer falling, the psychology of that situation is difficult to handle," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I have been very proud of her hanging in and just sticking with it."

It wasn't always easy. She took some time off this summer to deal with some personal issues but came back to her team feeling renewed, she said.

It showed on Wednesday when the reserve had a game-high 19 points, including three three-pointers, in the victory over the Eagles (0-2).

"Being able to go out there (today) and actually see my threes start to fall, I felt really good about it," said Pinkett, who hit three of her four attempts and added four steals. "I think Coach is really proud of me for that."

Pinkett was one of six Kentucky players in double figures in front of an extra rowdy crowd of 6,278, many local sixth-graders there as part of UK's "Class of 2020 Day," which introduces the middle-school set to university life.

"We have so many people and special guests on campus, who are getting to experience Kentucky for the very first time," Mitchell said afterward. "I thought our players did a great job of leaving an impression on those kids."

Senior guard Kastine Evans had 15 points. DeNesha Stallworth added 13 points and five rebounds for the Cats, who grabbed a 10-0 lead to start the game and never relinquished it.

Samarie Walker scored half of Kentucky's first 10 points and finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds. She made all five field goals she attempted.

"I honestly didn't even know I was 5-for-5 until afterward," Walker said. "It does feel good. I think I need to take more shots and be more of a threat offensively."

Walker, who had a putback at the halftime buzzer to give the Cats their largest lead of the game, had 10 points and seven rebounds in the opening half. The 36-point advantage also tied UK's largest halftime lead in school history.

The Cats led by as many as 67 points late. But what may have been more impressive was their 26 assists on 40 made baskets, six better than their season-best 20 last season.

Jennifer O'Neill and true freshman Makayla Epps had six assists each. Epps also added nine points in 19 minutes.

"They did a good job of collapsing the zone inside and then moving the basketball and being patient and passing up an open shot to give their teammate a better shot," Mitchell said.

Kentucky (3-0) shot 50.6 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from three-point range. The 103 points would've been a season high last season and the shooting percentage would've been second highest.

Mitchell has seen vast improvement offensively from his team, which spent most of the summer focused on getting better in that area.

The Cats' defense wasn't half bad either, holding the Eagles (0-2), who opened the season with a 10-point loss at Auburn, to 25.5 percent shooting, including 21.4 percent from long range.

UK held Georgia Southern without a field goal for the final 9:10 of the first half and scored 24 unanswered before the halftime buzzer.

True freshman Linnae Harper scored 13 points and Azia Bishop added a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Mitchell was pleased his team didn't let up. Not even after the press was long called off (UK even went to a zone defense during the second half).

"As a coach, what you would like to see your team do is really come out and hustle and give maximum effort and hold them to a high standard." Mitchell said, "and I thought our team did that today."


NEXT GAME

Central Michigan at Kentucky

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

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

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