UK women notes: Janee Thompson tries to fill in leadership gaps

jsmith3@herald-leader.comDecember 22, 2013 

Janee Thompson didn't have a single point in the first half Sunday, missing all five shots she attempted.

But the UK point guard did what she could to take over in the second half, finishing with a team-best 12 points in No. 5 Kentucky's 69-61 loss to No. 2 Duke.

The sophomore, who didn't start the second half, said UK Coach Matthew Mitchell urged her to play through miscues.

"I was kind of hanging my head about (mistakes) and he was really encouraging me to let stuff go, any mistakes and to be a leader," she said. "That's what I tried to do in the second half when I came out."

The bad start wasn't just Thompson, senior forward Samarie Walker said.

UK needs more leaders, she said.

"We definitely need to come out with more energy from the start, just let it fuel us throughout the whole game," she said. "We started to get down after we got down. ... We didn't get back up. Nobody was there to really pick us back up."

Cats grateful for crowd

The announced sell-out crowd of 23,706 at Rupp Arena was the largest crowd to ever see a women's basketball game in state history and among the nation's top five crowds for a single game.

Kentucky junior Bria Goss said the team felt "blessed to have the fan support that we do."

She hoped that the fans would come back despite the loss on Sunday.

"Hopefully we opened up some hearts today and hopefully, they'll come back to Memorial and see us play there," she said.

Mitchell was hoping to give the record-setting group a better ending.

"I don't want to beat ourselves up too much," he said. "We lost to a good team. They're a really excellent basketball team."

Free-throw shooting woes

Kentucky came into the game shooting 68 percent from the free throw line and Mitchell has been imploring his team to up that number.

Against Duke, the Cats saw why.

"Really, really bit us today," Mitchell said after his Cats managed to shoot just 42.1 percent from the stripe for the game, a new season low, including a dreadful 3-for-8 in the first half.

"You lose by eight and you missed 11, so you had a chance there and you let it get by," Mitchell said of the free throw shooting. "We haven't shot free throws great this year. We need to do better at that."

Senior forward Samarie Walker, who made her two attempts, echoed her coach, saying Kentucky needs to get back in the gym, especially after shooting just 44.8 percent in the previous game against East Tennessee State.

"We need to shoot better free throws," Walker said. "If we'd have made 10 more, we would've won or eight more and it would be tied up."

Drake surgery successful

Samantha Drake was noticeably absent from the collection of walking wounded at the end of the Kentucky bench, where she normally sits with DeNesha Stallworth and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers.

After the game, Mitchell said Drake had successful surgery on her torn anterior cruciate ligament on Friday after her semester ended and that she hadn't been cleared to sit on the UK bench.

The senior forward's mother took her home to Bardstown on Saturday morning for the holiday break.

"She'll rest over the next few days and we'll get her rehab cranked up," Mitchell said. "Really, really happy with her surgery and the results of it. We're expecting her to make a full recovery and help our team next year."

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

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