UK Women's Basketball

Cats' 'D' turns up the intensity

Players like to hear their names called. They like to have flashy points totals.

But Kentucky says it's a team filled with players who don't care about any of those things at all.

UK players say they're just as happy to get a steal or a defensive stop.

"With defense you have to work at it," Keyla Snowden explained. "Coach always says defense comes from the heart and we showed we definitely have a lot of heart on this team."

It showed with an 85-50 win over McNeese State on Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.

The Cats, using an effective 2-2-1 full-court press, corralled the Cowgirls and scored 31 points off of 25 turnovers.

Kentucky caused McNeese to go nearly eight minutes without a field goal and shoot just 22.6 percent in the second half.

"Their defense causes complete chaos and really makes other teams struggle to get anything going on the offensive end," Cowgirls Coach Brooks Donald Williams said.

Victoria Dunlap, who had a game-high three steals, said havoc is the goal. It was the fourth straight time UK has held an opponent under 60 points.

"We like a challenge and it's just a challenge to stop other people from getting points," Dunlap said. "For me, it's a lot easier to play defense than offense."

Offense came relatively easily for the junior, too. She had a game-high 19 points to go with her six rebounds and three blocked shots.

Freshman A'dia Mathies added 16 points, five rebounds and two steals. The Kentucky Miss Basketball has scored in double figures in five of six games this season.

Snowden added a UK career-high 13 points, with 11 coming in the first half, when the Cats were struggling to find any offense.

Kentucky fell behind 12-9 before scoring 15 straight points as a part of an 18-2 run.

The Cats led by as many as 16 points before there was a letdown at the end and a 9-3 run by McNeese State pushed the Cowgirls within 10 points at the half.

"We just kind of settled for where we were," Dunlap said. "We were beating them, but we weren't playing that hard or getting a lot of rebounds."

Kiara Johnson's drive and layup got the Cowgirls as close as eight points to start the second half. She had 17 points and five rebounds to lead McNeese State (2-3).

After her bucket, UK's defense took over and sparked a huge 22-4 run, holding McNeese without a field goal for almost eight minutes.

That defensive intensity will be what wins games for Kentucky this season, Coach Matthew Mitchell said.

"It's going to be a key to our long-term success, being able to create pressure, whether it's in the halfcourt or full court," he said.

For the fourth time in six games this season, UK forced an opponent into 20 miscues or more. With seven minutes left in the game, the Cowgirls had 20 turnovers.

Kentucky's lead ballooned to as many as 38 points late in the second half. Williams was impressed with UK's intensity even when it had a big lead.

"Even when they're up 20 or 30 (points), they're still coming at you with the same fire in full and in half court," she said. "That's tough for teams to do."

Mitchell was just pleased to see his team come back from a lackluster first half.

"It's been three games this week with a trip to the West Coast and back, and that's why I'm happy the team responded in the second half," he said.

Amber Smith had five points and a career-high tying eight assists for UK, which remained unbeaten at 6-0 and is off to its best start since going 8-0 in the 2005-06 season.

Carly Morrow had nine points and three assists.

Amani Franklin had eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Lydia Watkins added six points and seven boards off the bench.

The crowd of 4,140 was perhaps its loudest when 6-foot-7 freshman reserve Anna Cole scored on a free throw with five seconds left in the game. With her first Kentucky point, every player that played scored for the Cats.