Janee Thompson's career game sparks UK women to 96-74 victory

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 17, 2013 


    Lipscomb at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Thursday

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

Much like the fast-food tag she was wearing as a high school McDonald's All-American, Janee Thompson thought things would come quickly and at a low cost when she arrived at Kentucky.

But the point guard from Chicago learned the hard way that she was wrong. There were flashes of greatness, like her huge plays down the stretch in a win over Louisville.

After that, Thompson faded and spent far more minutes on UK's bench than on the court, averaging just four points and 11 minutes a game last season.

"I didn't really understand how hard I'd have to work and how hard it would be in general, just being away from home," Thompson explained on Sunday after seventh-ranked Kentucky topped Central Michigan 96-74.

Now, "home" seems to be on the floor for the Cats as their starting point guard.

She certainly seemed shoes off, hair down comfortable at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday with her 17 points, six assists, five steals and four rebounds in the win.

The points and steals were career highs for the 5-foot-7 guard, and the rebounds matched her best.

"Her speed and her aggressiveness and her attack on the offense today in transition really made a huge difference in the game," Mitchell said. "She just went by them, went to the bucket and scored some really, really important baskets for us."

It's the player he told her she could be after Kentucky's season ended in April. The coach and player spent more time together. He encouraged her to buy in.

It wasn't going to be quick or cheap.

"You can see it out there," Mitchell said. "She's working hard out there."

She wasn't the only one. Thompson was one of six players in double figures for UK (4-0), including DeNesha Stallworth's team-high 21 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. Senior guard Kastine Evans added 13 points.

Jennifer O'Neill had 11 points and Azia Bishop 10 points, nine rebounds and a career-high five blocks for the Cats, who shot 42.1 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range. Kentucky had 20-plus assists for the third straight game after doing it just once last season.

Samarie Walker had the team's lone double-double with her 10-point, 11-rebound performance, including five on the offensive glass, which Mitchell harped on at the half. That's when UK had a 25-19 rebounding edge, but were tied up 10-10 on offensive boards.

By the end of the game, UK had outrebounded Central Michigan 55-36 and by 11 offensive boards, 26-15.

"They were grabbing the ball," Central Michigan Coach Sue Guevara said of Kentucky's rebounding. "We were tipping. We're not a volleyball team. We need to grab the ball like it's a $100 bill and go after it."

Kentucky didn't have its usual huge advantages in bench points or points off turnovers, but it did just enough to disrupt the Chippewas, who were led by Crystal Bradford's game-best 23 points.

"We battled," Guevara said. "Do I think we gave Kentucky our best shot? No, I don't. But give Kentucky all the credit in the world. They just get you, they stay after you. They cause turnovers. They attack the glass."

Kentucky raced out to a 14-2 lead in the first five minutes behind six points from Evans.

The Cats were fueled in the first eight minutes by seven Central Michigan turnovers, but the Chippewas turned the ball over just four more times the rest of the half.

They got within six points on Bradford's 15-footer with 7:36 left in the opening half, but UK was able to keep a comfortable enough cushion and take a 46-37 lead into the half.

Kentucky stretched the lead to 72-53 midway through the second half, but the Chippewas (1-1) chipped away at the advantage with a 9-1 run to make it 73-62 with 8:11 to play.

Kentucky, which turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 25 times, responded with a speedy 7-2 run to pad the margin.

The Cats' point guard had a lot to do with the win in what Mitchell called a "tough, tough game."

Thompson has come a long way in a year.

"I'm much more focused out there," she said. "I try my hardest to take care of the ball and do all the little things that coach wants me to do on defense and on offense. ... It's just me being more focused and that focus gives me confidence."

Drake injured

Kentucky senior forward Samantha Drake hurt her left knee battling two Chippewas for a rebound late in the first half.

She screamed loudly as she hit the floor and grabbed for the knee that already had a supportive brace on it.

"We'll get an MRI tomorrow," Mitchell said of Drake. "We're very concerned about her. It was a tough, tough fall."


Lipscomb at Kentucky

When: 7 p.m.

Radio: WLAP-AM 630

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

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