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After nerve-wracking home wins, UK Hoops leaves no doubt vs. Mississippi State

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DeNesha Stallworth had a season-high 25 points to go with six rebounds and four assists in UK's 100-47 victory over Mississippi State on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) DeNesha Stallworth had a season-high 25 points to go with six rebounds and four assists in UK's 100-47 victory over Mississippi State on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
In its first two home Southeastern Conference games, Kentucky had to scratch and claw to the final buzzer. Florida and Texas A&M took the defending conference champions to the wire, but the Wildcats came away with a pair of victories.

The Cats allowed for no such last-minute drama on Thursday night against Mississippi State.

"We're really pleased tonight to get a victory and certainly proud of our players," UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "They worked really hard and played real hard and it was a good night for us."

A good night indeed.

No. 5 Kentucky (17-1, 5-0) dominated in all facets against the Bulldogs (8-10, 0-5 SEC) en route to a 100-47 win, UK's largest margin of victory in SEC play ever. DeNesha Stallworth and A'dia Mathies led the way for the Cats, tallying 25 and 21 points respectively and nearly combining to outscore the visitors on their own.

The night was particularly gratifying for Stallworth, who had a season-high scoring performance with her father Chris in attendance. He made the trek from Stallworth's hometown of Richmond, Calif., delighting his daughter - a self-proclaimed "daddy's girl" - after playing a central role in her ultimate decision to transfer to Kentucky.

"I'm just very excited for him to be here and for me to do good really means a lot," Stallworth said.

Stallworth, however, was far from the UK player to excel. Bria Goss (13 points) and Kastine Evans (12) joined her and Mathies in double figures as the Cats shot 50 percent (37 of 74) from the field and topped the century mark for the second time this season. UK scored 35 of its points off 26 offensive rebounds while dominating the glass to the tune of a 46-20 margin.

"I think we just jumped pretty high today," Mathies said with a smile. "We just got it done. We were attacking the boards relentlessly tonight and we just played a good game."

Mitchell believes the reason UK ended up playing such a good game was because the Cats didn't assume it would happen. A look at the SEC standings and the teams' rosters would have led anyone to conclude Kentucky had an advantage going in and the Cats weren't isolated from that fact.

"We thought that we had clearly an advantage tonight in the game from size and speed and athleticism," Mitchell said. "I just tell them simple things like this: The only was anybody's going to know that is if you go do it."

The path to executing began with a little homework.

"The thing I loved more than probably anything was the way they prepared," Mitchell said. "They were really sharp preparing for this game. And we were 4-0 coming in and Mississippi State was 0-4 and I didn't detect that that was really a factor in their preparation."

In the early going, the Bulldogs played like they hadn't paid any attention to the teams' records either. With 9:10 left in the first half, a Kendra Grant and-one cut UK's lead to five points. The Cats didn't bat an eye.

"We know we're going to get everybody's best shot the first four minutes or the first couple four-minute segments of every game. ... We felt like if we just continued to keep playing great defense and keep doing the things we should have been doing, we'd eventually break the lead open," Mathies said.

With a 43-9 burst that closed the first half and spanned the first 4:48 of the first half, the Cats did just that. Once the outcome was well in hand, UK didn't relent as it built the lead over the final 15-plus minutes even as the starters sat out the final five minutes.

"That's the thing that's impressed me most about this team lately is they're just hustling," Mitchell said. "They're really hustling and it sounds very simple and it is simple, but it's not easy to do."

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