MOREHEAD — There were text messages exchanged before the game and trash talking during it, but Amber Smith didn't let that get to her.
The Kentucky point guard let her play do the talking.
"I was definitely on a mission," Smith said. "I had two high school teammates on the other team. I was talking to my teammates saying we have to shut them down. It was about pride."
The Kentucky point guard did her part, scoring 15 points, handing out four assists and nabbing three steals in a 72-55 win at Morehead State Tuesday night.
"They were talking to me on the court trying to get me out of my game, but I wasn't going to let them," she said of former Winter Haven teammates Tiffany Hamilton and Ashley Martin.
Smith provided some necessary spark during a game that Coach Matthew Mitchell knew would be tough for his UK team, which was playing its third game in five days.
He worried his players would be tired and let one slide on the road against MSU, his previous employer and pre-season favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference.
"I know they weren't feeling in tip-top shape tonight, so for them to be able to continue to make plays and find a way to win" was great, he said.
UK turned a 10-point halftime lead into a 20-point edge early in the second half, holding the Eagles without a point for more than five minutes while scoring 12 unanswered.
But Morehead charged back and cut it to 11 points with 7:42 to play with a 13-4 run. UK answered with a Smith pull-up jumper and an A'dia Mathies three-pointer.
"If we get it under 10, I think it's a real game the last five minutes," Coach Mike Bradbury said.
But Mathies, who said she felt as if she was struggling offensively in the season's first two games, picked it up a notch and had 18 points and six rebounds.
"Being able to come out and make my first couple of threes really helped," said Mathies, who hit three three-pointers. "It really came for me tonight."
Mitchell said he was glad to see the offensive light come on for the reigning Miss Basketball out of Iroquois.
"She was tremendously aggressive and clearly one of the best players on the floor," he said. "I'm super happy with her play tonight."
Those three-pointers were something Bradbury said his team was willing to give up to focus on UK's Victoria Dunlap, who had career highs of 33 points and 18 rebounds last game.
She still was the difference maker, Bradbury said, with her 12 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and fourblocks. It was Dunlap's third double-double in as many games.
"The big difference between us and Kentucky tonight was Dunlap and just her ability to get all the rebounds," Bradbury said. "Seems like when we'd have a chance, they'd get an offensive rebound and stick it in, and Mathies would get a big three."
Morehead was led by Chynna Bozeman's 18 points, including three three-pointers and, while the Eagles wanted to get the win, Bradbury said he was glad to see his team keep it close versus Kentucky.
"If we'll play this hard and this focused, then we'll win our share of games," Bradbury said. "This game is going to pay big dividends down the road."
By the end, Mitchell was able to look around Johnson Arena and see the familiar faces at his former school.
"It was a tough day," he conceded afterward. "I'm just happy we won. Now maybe I can visit with some folks that have been so good to me."
Senior swing player Lydia Watkins still has yet to play a game this season after injuring her elbow in the exhibition versus Bellarmine. Watkins no longer had the arm in a sling, however. UK is listing her as day-to-day, with the next game coming on Sunday against Chattanooga.