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Point-guard duo turns up offensive pressure in rout of Lipscomb

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When people think about Kentucky's "40 minutes of dread" style of play, defense is the first thing that comes to mind.

That was certainly the case on Thursday night, as Greg Brown lamented the way the Wildcats "mentally drain" opponents with their pressure after his Lipscomb team committed 32 turnovers in Memorial Coliseum.

But there's a side of UK's signature style that is ignored at times. The Cats don't only apply constant pressure with the way they hound their opponents; they also do it with the way they constantly push the ball.

"Well that's just the goal for us is to put 40 minutes of pressure on you and not just defensive pressure," Mitchell said. "I think the offensive push and the push on misses and makes us hard to deal with."

Sure, UK scored 40 points off Lipscomb's 32 turnovers. Of course, the Cats made the Bisons pay for their mistakes in a 116-49 victory on Thursday.

This Kentucky team, however, doesn't need a traditional fast-break opportunity to get out and run. Every new possession is a chance for a quick basket, whether it comes from a live-ball takeaway, a defensive rebound or even an opponent's basket.

After Thursday's offensive explosion -- which fell just five points shy of the school record for points in a game of 121 -- UK (5-0) is averaging 97.2 points, including 102.8 over its last four games. Against Lipscomb, the Cats had an astounding 92 offensive possessions. For the sake of comparison, the fastest-paced men's college team averaged just 73.2 possessions per game a season ago.

On average, UK's possessions lasted just 12 seconds, with the Cats often shooting before the 10 seconds women's teams now have to cross midcourt. That all begins with Kentucky's two-headed point-guard monster of Janee Thompson and Jennifer O'Neill.

Mitchell opted before the season to split minutes between the two equally, and they have responded. On Thursday, they combined for 27 points and six assists. On the season, they are averaging 20.0 points, 7.4 assists and 3.4 steals as a tandem.

"I'm just really proud of Jennifer and Janee for understanding that that's real, that the goal of that is real," Mitchell said. "It's not to placate one or the other or play mind games so one's not upset."

Mitchell restated his goal after the Lipscomb win that he wants Thompson and O'Neill to, together, become the top point guard in country. Thompson smiled as if to suggest she's heard that a few times before when asked about it postgame, but it's a challenge she's accepting.

"He knows that either one of us could be on the court at any time and he trusts the both of us equally," Thompson said. "So we just try to do our best and give Coach Mitchell whatever it is he's looking for when one of us is on the floor."

The two have come to complement each other well on the court, but that starts well before tip-off.

"I think that starts off the court," Thompson said. "Me and Jennifer have a really good relationship and then that just transfers onto the court."

That's not just idle talk or a quote that sounds good in a press conference either.

"They're really trying to come together," Mitchell said. "I saw them today at pregame meal sitting beside each other. Walked over to CATS (UK's tutoring center), I was driving back after pregame meal, they're walking, they're together."

Together, Thompson and O'Neill are guiding an offense that is clicking on all cylinders. The Cats dished out 22 assists against Lipscomb, marking the fourth straight game they have topped the 20-assist mark.

"That's almost unheard of," said Bria Goss, UK's leading scorer with 18 points. "I've never heard anything like that before, but that just kind of shows you where we are as a team right now."

Goss was one of eight Wildcats to score in double figures, something that had never before happened in school history.

"All of the players are working hard and have put our team in a good position," Mitchell said. "We need to stay very humble, work very hard and stay hungry in practice every day. When we do that we will have a lot of opportunities to win some big games this year and play well."

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