UK Women's Basketball

Dunlap's big day helps UK women run away

Victoria Dunlap knew she had done something special on Sunday, but she struggled to find words.

"I don't know what to say," the Kentucky junior said after her career highs of 33 points and 18 rebounds. "I just thought it would be a normal game."

The 87-66 victory over Butler was anything but that for Dunlap, whose 33 points were the most by any UK women's player since 1987.

Dunlap didn't have much to say after the win, but the crowd of 4,014 at Memorial Coliseum gave her a standing ovation when she finally exited the game for good.

Her teammates and coaches couldn't say enough.

"She a tremendous player," said senior Amani Franklin, who had a double-double of her own with 13 points and 14 rebounds. "She could go out there and do that every game if she wanted to. ... She's not a second team All-SEC performer for nothing. She should be first team."

Dunlap, one of five double-digit scorers for the Cats, scored 21 of her points in the second half, when UK needed them most.

"I'm ecstatic she was on our team and not on their team," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "She's taken her responsibility of being a go-to player to a level that's exceeded my expectations. ... I still think she can get better, is what the scary thing is."

The Cats had a 12-point lead in the first half, which dwindled to nothing after a 12-4 second-half run by the Bulldogs, who returned four starters from a 20-12 team that advanced to the second round in the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

Alyssa Pittman's three-point play as a part of her own little 6-0 run made it 52-52 with 12:17 remaining.

Coach Beth Couture thought her Bulldogs, who were led by Brittany Bowen's 16 points, were turning the corner versus the Cats.

"If we could have grabbed the lead with this crowd that was here — and it was a great crowd — it might have put Kentucky on their heels a little bit, but it never happened," Couture said.

Freshman reserve Brittany Henderson made sure of it, getting a key putback to hand the lead back to UK.

That sparked a 17-3 run that would ultimately put the game out of reach for the Bulldogs.

Henderson's shot was big, but so was Amber Smith's three-pointer 30 seconds later.

Smith returned to the game after taking a knee to the head early in the second half. She had 10 points and six assists.

"You never know what is going to ignite the rally and ignite the run," Mitchell said. "Amber's three was huge. We were struggling. We were losing some confidence offensively. We needed some points."

Transfer Rebecca Gray hit two straight three-pointers after that to extend the lead even more. The former Scott County star scored 10 points, as did freshman A'dia Mathies.

While Dunlap's stat line was impressive (she hit 10 of 14 shot attempts, snagged 18 rebounds, blocked two shots and grabbed two steals), the most important part may have been her 13-for-15 free-throw shooting performance.

The junior was a career 49.2 percent free-throw shooter coming into the game.

"It's a huge, huge thing," Mitchell said. "It looks like she's confident (up there). ... It transforms her offensive game."

For the seventh time in her career and the second time in as many games this season, Dunlap scored more than 20 points. She notched her 15th career double-double.

But she doesn't feel any pressure to keep it up.

"I don't go out there and feel like I have to get a double-double every time," she said. "I just go out there and play for my teammates and if that gets me a double-double, then great."

Franklin has confidence that Dunlap will keep up her double-double performances.

"She can go out there and get that with her eyes closed," she joked.

Notes

■ Butler's Couture battled breast cancer in the off-season. She was diagnosed last April and went through 16 weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatment. Her final treatment came just last week.

■ Lydia Watkins sat for the second straight game with a shoulder injury. The senior reserve, who is still wearing a sling, is listed as day-to-day.

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