UK Women's Basketball

Stallworth, Walker double trouble for Kentucky opponents

Kentucky forward Samarie Walker and center DeNesha Stallworth blocked a shot by Florida guard January Miller during the Wildcats' 76-69 victory on Thursday.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky forward Samarie Walker and center DeNesha Stallworth blocked a shot by Florida guard January Miller during the Wildcats' 76-69 victory on Thursday. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Who knew a great friendship could rise from the depths of a cold tub?

Sitting in cold tubs after workouts is where Kentucky's two post players with their vastly different backgrounds and demeanors got to know each other and understand each other better.

As transfers early last season, they weren't able to travel with the team, so DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker started hanging out together.

"We used to stay here together and go places together and have our little cold tub talks," Walker explained. "That's how our relationship grew."

Now, the junior transfers have become a two-headed monster for opponents.

The duo has combined to average 23.1 points and 14.5 rebounds a game for sixth-ranked Kentucky, which will face a huge test in Memorial Coliseum Thursday night in No. 20 Texas A&M.

"They work so well with each other," UK assistant coach Shalon Pillow said of Walker and Stallworth, who are both shooting better than 50 percent from the floor and have combined for 10 double-doubles this season. "They definitely have different qualities, and they balance each other out and make a good tandem."

Stallworth and Walker are a rare dynamic post duo in women's basketball said Pillow, who coaches Kentucky's interior players.

"You don't see it that often, even if you look in the WNBA, there aren't a lot of post tandems," Pillow said of the Cats' McDonald's All-Americans. "There's usually one dominant post player and everyone works around them."

Stallworth and Walker are happy dominating together and because their games are so different.

"She's more of a finesse post, whereas I'm a power post player," Walker explained.

Stallworth, a 6-foot-3 center who transferred from California, is second on the team in scoring (13.2 points per game), rebounding (6.1) and assists (2.2). She's scored in double figures in 12 straight games for Kentucky.

Walker, a 6-foot-2 forward who transferred from Connecticut, leads UK in rebounding (8.4), steals (35) and blocks (25). She's the team's third-leading scorer, averaging 9.9 points.

Both players said Wednesday that playing with and against each other has been a big boost for their own games.

"Samarie's a beast on the offensive boards, even rebounding in general," Stallworth said. "She'll just jump over people. ... I don't like to box her out. She's like a freak athlete. It's ridiculous."

Walker is in awe of Stallworth's ability to handle the ball like a guard and make outside shots (she's made four three-pointers this season).

"She's amazing," Walker said. "She can do it all."

Walker also isn't a fan of playing against Stallworth in practice.

"I don't like guarding her at all," she said. "I don't like her posting me up; I don't like her boxing me out. We're both really physical and neither of us wants to give up ground."

Coach Matthew Mitchell said he likes how the two have connected on and off the court and what that means for Kentucky (14-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference).

"They're just really tough to guard and they're playing well together and they like each other, and they care about each other, and they have a strong connection," he said.

His duo will face a tough opponent in Texas A&M (12-4, 2-0 SEC). The Aggies have lost four games — all to opponents ranked in the top 10 at the time.

The SEC newbies have an impressive twosome of their own in 6-foot-5 junior Kelsey Bone and 6-foot-1 senior Kristi Bellock (8.8 points and 6.8 rebounds), whom Mitchell called "the best post tandem we have seen this year since the Baylor game."

Bone has been SEC Player of the Week two of the past three weeks. The transfer from South Carolina leads the league in field goal percentage (61.1 percent) and rebounding at 10 a game.

She's second in the conference in scoring, averaging 17.8 points. She's scored in double digits in 14 games this season, including her last nine.

"She's one of the best players in the country," Aggies Coach Gary Blair said. "She's finally learning to value a possession and value a shot instead of trying to hit an ESPN highlight shot every night."

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