UK Women's Basketball

When bench comes in, energy goes up for Kentucky women

Kentucky center Azia Bishop drove to the basket between Pepperdine guard Bria Richardson, right, and center Tessa Emerson in the first half Tuesday at Pepperdine.
Kentucky center Azia Bishop drove to the basket between Pepperdine guard Bria Richardson, right, and center Tessa Emerson in the first half Tuesday at Pepperdine. AP

Azia Bishop's 17 points last weekend was an anomaly.

The sophomore reserve scored more points on her own than the Cats' entire bench contributed in seven of the eight Southeastern Conference games this season.

It's been quite a reversal for UK, which has prided itself on having a bench that almost always puts up big numbers.

At this point last season, the UK reserves had scored 22 or more points in all but four games. This season, the bench has chipped in that many points just seven times (and four came in the first six games).

But don't think for a minute that Matthew Mitchell is displeased with his bench production. It's not all about the points.

In previewing the Cats' game against No. 13 Georgia on Sunday, the Kentucky coach said the role of the bench has changed a bit, compared to last year when it outscored the Bulldogs' reserves 34-0 in a win at Athens.

"Really, defense and rebounding and hustle, where we can keep the pace of the game at a high level, (that is) the most important thing we need from the bench," Mitchell said Friday.

Overall, UK's bench is outscoring its counterparts this season, 417-270, but the margin in conference play is 111-107.

"What I really think we need from our bench this season is dependability, that you know they're going to bring defensive energy," Mitchell said. "That's what I want to see. When the bench goes in, I want to see us get a little bit sharper defensively because you're bringing out a fatigued player and replacing her with a fresh player.

"I'd like for our defensive energy to maybe bump up just a little bit. I need consistent effort from them all defensively, and then anything we can get scoring (is a bonus)."

Getting more energy from the bench in general has been a talking point this season, junior reserve Kastine Evans said.

"It's definitely something Coach continues to talk about, has been talking about the whole season, the production of the bench, what needs to be done, even if you're not playing 36 minutes," she said. "If you're playing five minutes, two minutes whatever it is, that you come in and produce, not bring us down but increase the level of play."

That bench might be even more important down the stretch when eighth-ranked Kentucky (19-2, 7-1 SEC) faces four ranked opponents in Georgia, No. 15 South Carolina, No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 9 Tennessee. Five of the Cats' last seven games are on the road.

Evans knows UK will need more than just defensive energy from its backups as the season winds down. The junior guard expects to see bigger numbers from herself and others like Bishop and guards Janee Thompson and Bernisha Pinkett.

"Down the stretch, as the season gets on and bodies wear out, people aren't going to be able to play 38 minutes, 39 minutes, even 35-36 minutes all the time," she said.

The Bulldogs (18-3, 6-2) seem to be a little healthier and deeper this season, but Kentucky still will try to gain the edge with its bench bulk, building off its combined 27 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals last Sunday.

"You just have the mind-set that when you get in the game, that you need to produce, even if it's just for a couple minutes," Evans said. "That's what all of us have."

Special honors at halftime

In conjunction with National Girls and Women in Sports Day, UK will honor each of its first women's varsity head coaches at halftime on Sunday.

Each coach will be given the Susan B. Feamster "Pioneer Award," presented annually by UK's first women's basketball coach for providing exceptional leadership and paving the way for others. Honorees include Suzie Stammer (field hockey), Betty Rider (golf), Leah Little (gymnastics), Delphine Nemeth (volleyball), Claudia Young (tennis) and Harold Barnett (track and field).



Starters: A'dia Mathies, 5-9, Sr., G (15.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.1 apg); Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, So., G (9.9 ppg; 2.1 rpg, 2.6 apg); Bria Goss, 5-10, So., G (9.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Jr., F (9.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 spg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Jr., F (13.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.3 apg).

Key reserves: Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Jr., G (4.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, Fr., PG (4.4 ppg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, So., F (3.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Jr., G (3.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, Jr., F (2.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg); Brittany Henderson, 6-2, Sr., F (1.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, So., F (1.9 ppg).


Starters: Jasmine James, 5-9, Sr., G (11.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 spg); Tiaria Griffin, 5-7, Fr., G (7.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg); Shacobia Barbee, 5-10, Fr., G/F (6.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.6 spg); Merritt Hempe, 6-2, Fr., F (4.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg); Jasmine Hassell, 6-2, Sr., F (12.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg).

Key reserves: Khaalidah Miller, 5-9, Jr., G (9.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg); Anne Marie Armstrong, 6-3, Sr., G/F (7.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Tamika Willis, 6-2, Sr., F (1.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg); Marjorie Butler, 5-8, Fr., G (2.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Erika Ford, 5-9, So., G (6.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg).

SEC Standings

Conf. All

Tennessee 8-0 17-4

Kentucky 7-1 19-2

Texas A&M 7-1 17-5

Georgia 6-2 18-3

South Carolina 6-2 18-3

LSU 4-4 13-8

Vanderbilt 4-4 14-7

Arkansas 3-5 15-6

Missouri 3-5 14-8

Alabama 2-6 12-9

Auburn 2-6 13-8

Florida 2-6 13-9

Mississippi St. 1-7 9-12

Mississippi 1-7 8-13

Sunday's games

Alabama at Florida, 1 p.m.

Georgia at Kentucky, 2 p.m.

Tennessee at Missouri, 2 p.m.

Arkansas at Mississippi St., 3 p.m.

Auburn at South Carolina, 3 p.m.

Mississippi at Vanderbilt, 3 p.m

Monday's game

Texas A&M at LSU, 9 p.m.


No. 13 Georgia at No. 8 Kentucky

When: 2 p.m. TV: CWKYT-27.2

Records: Georgia 18-3 (6-2 SEC), Kentucky 19-2 (7-1)

Series: Georgia leads 34-13

Last meeting: Kentucky won 69-64 on Jan. 19, 2012, at Athens, Ga.

Radio: WLAP-AM 630