After scoring 101 points Friday night, the Kentucky women’s basketball team had to adjust to a much more deliberate pace in their second game of the season. But after a somewhat sluggish start, UK went on a 19-0 run in the second quarter to pull away to a 72-34 win over visiting Gardner-Webb.
Gardner-Webb, contrary to its Runnin’ Bulldogs nickname, looked to spread the floor and dribble out the clock. And that worked — for about eight and a half minutes.
“You can kind of lose patience when they were just going five out and trying to drain the clock and attack us on the dribble,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They had to have seen us have some trouble with that on Friday night (against Sacramento State).”
After Gardner-Webb’s leading returning scorer, Tierra Hunstman, tied the game at 12 on her second three-pointer of the quarter, the Cats settled down.
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“We just got in a huddle and said we’ve got to stop them and stop her,” freshman guard Jaida Roper said. “We started talking more and picking up the defensive tempo and just got some energy about ourselves.”
Freshman forward Keke McKinney hit a three-pointer at the top of the key that broke the tie and sent the Cats on their 19-0 run, which included a 15-foot jumper by Roper.
“The second quarter, I don’t know if somebody put a lid on the rim, but I had good shooters who couldn’t make shots,” Gardner-Webb Coach Rick Reeves said. “We never really recovered. We had to get out of our strategy.”
Ten different players for Kentucky scored, including four players who reached double digits. Alyssa Rice led the way with 11 points and Maci Morris, Makenzie Cann and Roper added 10 points each.
Morris struggled from the three-point line, going 0-for-5, but made up for it on the glass by grabbing a team-high 10 rebounds.
After Sacramento State tied UK on the boards 42-42 Friday, Mitchell challenged his team to focus on boxing out in what he described as a short, intense Saturday practice. His team responded, outrebounding Gardner-Webb 53-28, including a 17-5 edge on the offensive boards.
“Shots are going to come and go. It’s what’s your going to do on the defense end of the floor. Anybody can run around and fire the ball up at the goal,” Mitchell said. “It’s what are you doing with the overwhelming majority of the game when you don’t have the ball in your hands. How hard are you going to defend? How hard are you going to box out? How hard are you going to go after rebounds?”
With two blowouts down, each played in a completely different style, Mitchell said he was pleased with his team’s progress and its depth. UK got 19 points and 76 minutes from its bench, led by McKinney’s seven points.
“From the opening tip to the final buzzer I thought there was some real areas where we improved,” he said, noting the team lost forward Tatyana Wyatt during the morning shootaround to a concussion. “For us to be able to handle Gardner-Webb the way that we did, speaks a little bit to what the possibilities are for depth.”
Hunstman was the only Gardner-Webb player in double figures, scoring 21 on 9-for-19 shooting and three three-pointers. She had 21 of Gardner-Webb’s first 26 points, but was held scoreless from midway through the third period on.
▪ Assistant head coach Kyra Elzy remained away from the team to deal with a family matter, UK said. Director of player development and former Cats point guard Amber Smith stepped into a coaching role for the day in her absence.
Kentucky at Montana
When: 9 p.m. Thursday