UK women: Cats fend off Mississippi State upset bid in 81-74 overtime win

jsmith3@herald-leader.comFebruary 27, 2014 

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A season ago, Kentucky scored its largest conference win in school history over Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs made sure that didn't happen on their home court, coming back from a 13-point deficit in the second half.

But their rally wasn't enough and the No. 15 Cats pulled out an 81-74 overtime win on Thursday night. Kentucky has now won four of its last five games.

Bria Goss scored eight of her 20 points in overtime to give the Cats their seventh straight win over the Bulldogs and their fifth in a row at Humphrey Coliseum.

DeNesha Stallworth had a monster double-double with 16 points and a career-best 20 rebounds and four blocked shots to lead the Cats (21-7, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) over the Bulldogs, who they beat by 53 points last season in Lexington.

The senior forward was the first UK player since 2010 to have 20 or more rebounds in a game.

"We did a great job down the stretch," Stallworth said on UK's post-game radio show. "We never gave up. ... We just kept fighting, and that's the difference in our team now. We fight until the very last second."

Kentucky fell behind by three points to start overtime but used a 10-2 run, including the eight from Goss, to take the lead for good.

"It was just one of those things where you had to keep your composure and keep working and fighting, and the players did that," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said in the post-game radio show.

It looked like the Cats were going to run away with it early in the second half, using a 15-5 run out of the half to grab a 53-40 advantage on a Goss layup.

State (18-11, 5-10) used a 21-4 surge to dig out of the hole and lead by as many as four points with four minutes left in regulation.

Jerica James' three-pointer that rolled around almost every part of the rim before falling in with 1:19 to go gave the Bulldogs a 66-64 lead.

Goss, one of the nation's best free throw shooters, missed a key free throw with 49 seconds to go but cut the lead to 66-65.

Samarie Walker, who got a key rebound in the final second, also hit one of her two attempts from the line to force the overtime. Walker had six points and nine rebounds for UK. Fellow senior Kastine Evans added 10 points and hit the go-ahead layup in overtime.

The Cats led by as many as nine points on an Evans three-pointer midway through the first half, but the Bulldogs responded.

They chipped away at the Cats' lead to close to within three points, 38-35, at the half.

Every Kentucky player had scored at least two points at the break.

Janee Thompson had eight points and six assists with no turnovers for UK, which hit 42 percent from the field and outrebounded State 51-43.

UK's leading scorer, Jennifer O'Neill, struggled from the field, making just one of 12 shots from the field, but some of the Cats' other role players made up some of the difference.

Breanna Richardson led the Bulldogs with 17 points. Martha Alwal added 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Kentucky's season finale is against Vanderbilt on Sunday in Memorial Coliseum for Senior Night. Florida, whom UK is still fighting for the fourth seed in next week's SEC Tournament, topped the Commodores 73-68 on the road Thursday night.

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

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