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UK Hoops delivers complete effort on 'Class of 2020 Day'

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The noise was fairly constant, but it came to a crescendo in the final minutes.

With more than 2,000 sixth graders in Memorial Coliseum for UK Hoops' annual "Class of 2020 Day," the Wildcats were approaching the 100-point mark against Georgia Southern on Wednesday. The kids, eager to see a third digit on the scoreboard, erupted when Bernisha Pinkett hit a 3-pointer to put UK past the century mark with 1:07 left.

"I think it was pretty awesome," Bernisha Pinkett said. "The kids gave us a lot of energy. They were yelling and screaming, making us want to work even harder so we could score more points to make them yell and go crazy."

UK would score once more to close out a dominating 103-38 victory and move to 3-0 on the season. Pinkett led six Wildcats who scored in double figures with 19 points as UK forced 35 turnovers.

"I thought that was a terrific effort from our team to come out on an important day where we have so many people and special guests on campus, who are getting to experience Kentucky for the very first time," head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I thought our players did a great job of leaving an impression on those kids that were here at the game today."

The Cats have had more than their share of blowout victories in their recent run of success under Mitchell, but rarely have they turned in an effort as consistent as this one. In spite of an early wakeup call for the 11 a.m. ET tipoff, UK was solid for 40 minutes.

"I think we just came out today knowing that we were going to win this game but we couldn't take any steps back or come out lackadaisical because they could catch up or make 3s or do anything," Pinkett said. "So we just wanted to focus and stay strong."

More than anything else, that's why Mitchell was happy following the game.

"As a coach, what you would like to see your team do is really come out and hustle and give maximum effort and hold them to a high standard and I thought our team did that today," Mitchell said. "I am very, very grateful to our players for working so hard and giving such a great effort today."

It also didn't hurt that shots were falling for the Cats.

UK hit 40 of 79 (50.6 percent) from the field, including Pinkett's 7 for 9. The senior buried three of her four attempts from beyond the arc, which was a welcome development for a player who shot under 26 percent from deep last season.

"I haven't been knocking down shots as I did in the past and Coach Mitchell always has faith in me and he recruited me as a shooter," Pinkett said. "So just being able to go out there tonight and actually see my 3s start to fall, I felt really good about it."

But as good as Pinkett was from the outside, it was what UK did inside the arc that gave her space.

With the visitors playing a zone defense and UK's strength now in the interior with DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker -- who combined for 25 points and 14 rebounds in just 42 minutes -- the Cats followed their game plan.

"We are trying to get the ball in the paint every possession and whether it comes out of the paint and creates a shot is something that can happen," Mitchell said, "but we just have such a focus on making sure we either pass the ball into the paint or we got our feet in the paint off of a drive."

By doing that, UK piled up 26 assists as a team -- most during the Mitchell era -- led by Jennifer O'Neill and Makayla Epps, who each had six. The Cats have also now dished 25 or more assists in back-to-back games.

"I thought they did a good job of collapsing the zone inside and then moving the basketball and being patient and passing up an open shot to give their teammate a better shot who might be more open," Mitchell said.

And they did it all in spite of not being able to hear each other at times.

"It was one point in the game where Bria (Goss) and I were trying to communicate but we couldn't hear each other because they were screaming for whatever reason," Walker said. "I don't know what we did, but they were screaming. It was fun playing in front of them and I wish they were here every game because it's really fun."

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