UK women prep mentally for hostile environment

jsmith3@herald-leader.comNovember 23, 2013 

DeNesha Stallworth (11) and Kastine Evans tangled with Central Michigan's Crystal Bradford for a rebound. UK has experience on its side when it travels to Murfreesboro.

AMY WALLOT — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

  • Sunday

    Kentucky at Middle Tennessee

    When: 5 p.m.

    Records: UK 5-0; MTSU 1-2

    Series: UK leads 11-4

    Last meeting: UK won 68-46 last season

    TV: CWKYT-27.2

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

  • MATCHUPS

    NO. 7 KENTUCKY (5-0)

    Starters: Bria Goss, 5-10, Jr., G (10.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Sr. (12.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, So., PG; (10.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.2 apg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Sr., F (9.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Sr., F (15.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 spg)

    Key reserves: Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, Jr., G (9.5 ppg, 3.5 apg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, Jr., F (6.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Linnae Harper, 5-8, Fr., G (6.8 ppg); Makayla Epps, 5-10, Fr., G (3.3 ppg, 2.5 apg); Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Sr., G (9.4 ppg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, Jr. (3.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

    MIDDLE TENNESSEE (1-2)

    Starters: Ebony Rowe, 6-1, Sr., F (20.7 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 2.7 spg); Shanice Cason, 5-6, Jr., G (8.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.7 apg); Olivia Jones, 5-10, Fr., F (7.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg): KeKe Stewart, 6-1, Sr., C (6.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Laken Leonard, 5-10, Sr., G (5.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg)

    Key reserves: China Dow, 5-8, Fr., G (3.7 ppg); Janiece Johnson, 6-7, Sr., C (1.3 ppg)

Kentucky has had its share of trouble the past two times it's traveled to Murfreesboro.

When things got difficult late in games, UK couldn't do what it needed to do to escape Middle Tennessee State with a win.

Coach Matthew Mitchell knows seventh-rated Kentucky is in for a challenge, which is why he's glad he has plenty of experience this season.

"We have some veteran leadership right now," Mitchell said of his three senior starters, among others.

"It's always helpful when you have some experience to try to get yourself ready and then you can also help others get ready because some of the younger players haven't been in that environment. It will be loud and it will be tough, but that's good for this team."

At least one UK senior is excited to get another shot at the Blue Raiders, who are led by former Paul Dunbar star Ebony Rowe (20.7 points, 12 rebounds a game), on their home floor.

"I'm a senior and I've played there twice," guard Kastine Evans said. "I haven't won there yet so this is definitely a game that I'm excited to play and really go down there with a lot of intention of winning this game."

Kentucky (5-0) started the season with two games on the road and Mitchell liked how his group responded to early adversity.

Its largest challenge to date — with games against No. 4 Louisville and No. 9 Baylor on the horizon in the next 12 days — has Mitchell excited to see how his team will respond.

"I think, clearly, Middle Tennessee is the most gifted team we've played to date," Mitchell said. "They are such a good combination: always great players, always good coaching. Coach (Rick) Insell will have a plan that gives them a chance to win and then you put a terrific crowd in there and it is a formidable place to go play."

That's what forward Samarie Walker remembers about her first trip to Middle Tennessee (1-2).

"It's a really tough environment to play in," Walker said. "They have very tough players. ... We will just have to play hard and stay with it, even though the crowd is tough."

It's exactly what stands out for junior Bria Goss.

"It was a great crowd, great environment, and a great place to play," said the junior guard, coming off a season-high 18 points in the Cats' big win over Lipscomb on Thursday. "It's going to show our mental toughness when going down there."


Sunday

Kentucky at Middle Tennessee

When: 5 p.m.

Records: UK 5-0; MTSU 1-2

Series: UK leads 11-4

Last meeting: UK won 68-46 last season

TV: CWKYT-27.2

Radio: WLAP-AM 630


MATCHUPS

NO. 7 KENTUCKY (5-0)

Starters: Bria Goss, 5-10, Jr., G (10.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Sr. (12.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, So., PG; (10.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.2 apg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Sr., F (9.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Sr., F (15.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 spg)

Key reserves: Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, Jr., G (9.5 ppg, 3.5 apg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, Jr., F (6.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Linnae Harper, 5-8, Fr., G (6.8 ppg); Makayla Epps, 5-10, Fr., G (3.3 ppg, 2.5 apg); Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Sr., G (9.4 ppg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, Jr. (3.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (1-2)

Starters: Ebony Rowe, 6-1, Sr., F (20.7 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 2.7 spg); Shanice Cason, 5-6, Jr., G (8.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.7 apg); Olivia Jones, 5-10, Fr., F (7.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg): KeKe Stewart, 6-1, Sr., C (6.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Laken Leonard, 5-10, Sr., G (5.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg)

Key reserves: China Dow, 5-8, Fr., G (3.7 ppg); Janiece Johnson, 6-7, Sr., C (1.3 ppg)

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

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