UK women's notes: Stallworth back for Cats, but showing some rust

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJanuary 5, 2014 

DeNesha Stallworth, Kentucky's leading scorer, went up for a shot Sunday against heavy defense by Florida. Stallworth played seven minutes after missing five games for arthroscopic surgery. She finished with four points and three rebounds.

PHOTO BY AMY WALLOT — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

Kentucky got DeNesha Stallworth back after a five-game layoff, but she didn't get the triumphant return for which she was hoping.

The senior forward and Cats' leading scorer played limited minutes in the 83-73 loss to Florida, but she showed signs that she's ready to play a bigger role.

"It was very encouraging to have her back out there," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said of Stallworth, who hasn't played since the Cats' four-overtime win over Baylor.

She had an arthroscopic procedure on her left knee and has been out since then.

Stallworth returned to the floor with 8:46 to go in the first half, but it probably wasn't under the circumstances that Mitchell wanted.

"We just started the game with such a lack of focus with some of our post players, so at that time, I just thought she could give us a lift, a boost," he said. "She got in and made some plays."

But the coach thought his senior, who finished with four points and three rebounds (all on the offensive end), showed some signs of rust.

"I thought she did well," he said. "She came in and tried to compete. It didn't seem like she was all that comfortable on defense. I thought that was a tough part, but I think she'll get back."

Kentucky's post players got in some early foul trouble, including two quick ones for reserve forward Jelleah Sidney.

The Cats' starting post players, Samarie Walker and Azia Bishop, shot a combined 5-for-17 from the field.

Bishop, who seemed to turn the corner with a productive game at Alabama, made just one of her six shots from the field versus the Gators.

Bishop and Walker combined to get 23 rebounds for the Cats, who lost the rebounding battle 42-40.

Inconsistency returns

The free throw problems that seemingly had plagued Kentucky in the nonconference schedule disappeared in the Southeastern Conference opener at Alabama, where the Cats made 86.7 percent of their shots from there.

At the time, Mitchell and his players credited a lot of extra time in the gym between semesters and UK's players shooting 100-plus free throws after each practice.

But the free throw problems returned for Kentucky with a vengeance on Sunday. UK made just 56.7 percent from the charity stripe in the loss, including missing nine of its 20 attempts in the second half.

Mitchell was puzzled.

"We've worked really, really hard and we've spent a lot of extra time," he said. "People have spent a lot of time in the gym and you just have to really show up at the line really focused and intent on your routine and making them. ... It really was tough today and a major factor in the game."

The only answer that point guard Jennifer O'Neill, who missed four of her 10 free throw attempts, had was to get back on the line.

"We need to stay with our routine, get in the gym and build some confidence."

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

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