UK Women's Basketball

UK women's basketball: Bria Goss transforming into Cats' defensive stopper

Kentucky guard Bria Goss pressured Mississippi State guard Katia May on Thursday.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky guard Bria Goss pressured Mississippi State guard Katia May on Thursday. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

It used to be when there was a need for points, Bria Goss was your go-to girl.

In high school, the Indiana Miss Basketball and McDonald's All-American averaged 21.6 points a game.

Even last season, the Kentucky guard was second on the team in points, averaging 11 a game and was named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year.

But, now, the go-to player for points is third on UK's team in scoring at 9.3 points. In league play, she's dropped to the Cats' fourth-best scorer even though she's upped her points average (10.3 in SEC).

"In high school and even at times last year, I was more of a go-to person," Goss acknowledged.

When asked if it's been a bit of an adjustment having other offensive weapons like A'dia Mathies, DeNesha Stallworth and Jennifer O'Neill surge ahead, Goss agreed emphatically.

But you won't hear Goss complaining about any of it as her fifth-ranked Kentucky team tries to go for its 17th straight win on Sunday against Auburn (13-5, 2-3 SEC) at Memorial Coliseum.

"I play the role that I need to on our team," she said. That role has turned into defensive stopper, usually at the top of the defense, trying to bother the opponents' point guard.

"If there's a night when I need to be the junk-yard dog to their point guard, then that's what I need to do. It's not always easy. ... just up in your face. I'm going to be as positive as I can as I take on that role."

In a recent win over No. 20 Texas A&M, it was Goss who held Aggies point guard Adrienne Pratcher to just one point in the decisive second half after she scored nine points early.

Goss already has 31 steals this season, compared to 50 in her 35 starts last season.

"We identify ourselves with tenacious defense," Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "She is the most tenacious right now, and so her role is invaluable, her contributions are invaluable, and we wouldn't be close to the team we are now without her."

The nuances of Kentucky (17-1, 5-0) have changed slightly. The Cats have more scoring options. They have evolved to more of an inside-out type of team with the emergence of Stallworth and Samarie Walker.

Because of the Cats' added artillery, opponents are having to reassess where they "deploy the troops," Mitchell said. Goss "may be down on the list, but that's good for Kentucky because she would be a player — if you overlook her — she is going to burn you.

"We are in a good spot right now with our roster and our players and if you overlook Bria Goss, that probably isn't going to be very good for you."

'We Back Pat' week

Kentucky will have its now annual 'We Back Pat' game on Sunday, in an attempt to bring awareness and recognition to The Pat Summitt Foundation and its fight against Alzheimer's disease.

Each school will wear "We Back Pat" warm-up shirts, as UK has since its Missouri game, and there will be other various ways to raise awareness of the disease with which Summitt was diagnosed two summers ago. The week's efforts include 17 games in 14 cities.

In a release, Summitt said she was humbled and honored that SEC schools had taken on her cause.

"The 'We Back Pat' Week not only brings public attention to our cause, but it also helps raise funds that will be awarded by our foundation in the form of grants to organizations who battle this disease every day," she said.



Starters: A'dia Mathies, 5-9, Sr., G (14.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.1 apg); Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, So., G (9.1 ppg; 2.2 rpg, 2.4 apg); Bria Goss, 5-10, So., G (9.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Jr., F (9.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.2 spg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Jr., F (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 apg).

Key reserves: Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Jr., G (4.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, Fr., PG (4.6 ppg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, So., F (3.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Jr., G (3.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, Jr., F (2.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg); Brittany Henderson, 6-2, Sr., F (1.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, So., F (1.9 ppg).


Starters: Hasina Muhammad, 6-1, So., G (16.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.5 spg, 2.2 apg); Najat Ouardad, 5-1, Sr., G (5.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Blanche Alverson, 6-3, Sr., G (12.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg); Tyrese Tanner, 6-1, Jr., F (13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 spg); Peyton Davis, 6-5, Jr., C (6.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

Key reserves: Chadarryl Clay, 5-7, Fr., G (2.1 ppg); Cabriana Capers, 6-1, Fr., F (1.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg); Tra'Cee Tanner, 6-3, Fr., C (7.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg).