UK Women's Basketball

UK women roar past South Carolina in second half

Victoria Dunlap blocked a shot by South Carolina's Ieasia Walker in the first half. Dunlap led Kentucky with 20 points and eight rebounds.
Victoria Dunlap blocked a shot by South Carolina's Ieasia Walker in the first half. Dunlap led Kentucky with 20 points and eight rebounds.

Kentucky was mired in a three-game losing streak.

Any win would have been a good win.

The No. 19 Cats didn't just settle for any win. They got a convincing 66-48 triumph over visiting South Carolina on Thursday night behind a huge second-half flurry.

"We needed this a lot, just for ourselves," senior Victoria Dunlap said of the Cats' first Southeastern Conference victory. "Just to know that we can come back from a lot of (bad) things that happened and play well as a team."

There were three UK players in double figures, led by Dunlap's game-high 20 points and eight rebounds, but Coach Matthew Mitchell said it was about more than Dunlap's points or Bernisha Pinkett's career-best 18 points or A'dia Mathies' 15 points.

"(Pinkett's) performance and Victoria's performance and A'dia's performance all happened because everybody got involved and brought something tonight," he said. "Everybody did a fantastic job."

UK pared down its offense and put different players in new, more defined roles and it seemed to pay off.

But it didn't necessarily look that way early on. The Gamecocks (9-8, 1-3 SEC) carried a 33-30 lead into the break after Markeshia Grant went coast to coast for a layup as time expired.

Valerie Nainima led South Carolina with 13 points. Ieasia Walker was the only other player in double figures, scoring all 10 of her points in the first half.

The Grant drive capped a 7-1 run for South Carolina. It added to that advantage by scoring two quick buckets to open the second half.

"We had to keep fighting and not worry about what the score was," Dunlap said.

She and Mathies combined to score the Cats' next 11 points to tie it at 41 with 13:37 to play.

"We got down when we first came out of the half, but we had to keep grinding it out," said Mathies, who assumed most of the point-guard duties. She also had five rebounds and four assists.

Pinkett's three-pointer with 12:30 remaining gave UK its first lead of the second half and was part of a 23-3 run to end the game.

"I just took advantage of opportunities, when they gave me open gates to drive and open shots; I just took advantage," said Pinkett, who played extended minutes with starter Keyla Snowden out with a foot injury.

Pinkett started the spree and scored nine points in it to keep Kentucky ahead.

Kentucky (12-4, 1-2), coming off two of its worst offensive performances this season, made 54.5 percent of its shots in the win.

The offense was good but it was fueled in large part by the defense, which held the Gamecocks to a single field goal in the final 13 minutes of the second half.

A South Carolina offense that came into the game averaging just 15.6 turnovers a contest (39th best in the nation) turned the ball over a season-high 28 times. UK turned those miscues into 30 points. UK got 15 steals in the win, paced by Maegan Conwright's four. Dunlap added three.

"We killed ourselves with unforced turnovers," USC Coach Dawn Staley said. "Some of it was Kentucky. Some of it was just us. ... We tried to play a little bit faster than our skill set allows us to."

Mitchell was pleased to see his team rise to the occasion.

"We were down on the mat there with three losses in a row," he said. "They came out today and earned a very tough victory, even when it didn't look like it was going that way for them."

Snowden injures foot

Keyla Snowden did not play Thursday as she tried to rest an injury to a toe on her right foot.

Mitchell said it's still not clear if the injury is a stress reaction or a more serious stress fracture. The injury flared up at Arkansas last week and an MRI showed something in one of her toes, the coach said.

It's not clear if the team's third-leading scorer will be able to play on Sunday against Mississippi State, he said.