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Then a freshman, Thompson had the best game of her first season at UK almost exactly a year ago. On an evening when her teammates could hardly make a shot, she scored 13 points in just 16 minutes.
Thompson saved her best for last, scoring the game's final six points in a 48-47 comeback win, the last coming on a broken-play 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left and the shot clock about to expire. It's a play she won't soon forget.
"I remember that I was dribbling a lot," Thompson said, laughing, "and I was really just trying to make something happen and the shot clock was running down and I had to make a play."
Even if she did somehow forget, her teammates would surely remind her quickly, but not so much for the shot itself. They enjoy how Thompson reacted. In her words, she "looked a mess" as she celebrated.
"I don't have it on DVD, but I've seen it a million times and my teammates like to make fun of the reaction after I hit the shot," Thompson said. "So I see it a lot."
Makayla Epps remembers it too.
"Janee hits that 3 and literally almost threw my remote through the TV," Epps said. "I was ecstatic."
Epps, now a freshman, is set to play her first game in the in-state rivalry on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. She wouldn't mind making her debut in a fashion similar to Thompson, but the game will hardly serve as an introduction to UK-U of L. Not only did Epps grow up Lebanon, Ky., she also came to Kentucky after originally verbally committing to play at Louisville.
She attended multiple UK-U of L games as a fan, including the one two years ago in Memorial when the Wildcats won 74-54.
"At the time, I was a (junior) so I was like, 'This is nuts,' " Epps said. "I was loving it. It was a heck of a game. Kentucky-Louisville, regardless of who it is or what you are, this is going to be a crazy game to you."
Adding to the crazy is the fact that Kentucky and Louisville enter the matchup as two of the nation's top teams. No. 7 UK is 7-0 with each victory coming by double digits, while No. 4/3 Louisville sports the same record and wins over LSU, Oklahoma and Florida State.
It's only December, of course, but whichever team comes out on top will have an early resume win as both bid for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. On Wednesday, UK announced that tickets to the game were sold out, meaning a capacity crowd will be there to watch.
UK fans in attendance will likely see shades of their own team in U of L, as the Cardinals play at a pace and apply pressure similar to the Wildcats. Kentucky is averaging 98.1 points and forcing 26.9 turnovers a game, while Louisville has averages of 88.4 points and 21.1 turnovers in the same two categories.
"You have to be ready to handle a double-team and sometimes triple-team," Mitchell said. "They are bringing some people at you, so you have to be prepared for that. It's unlike anything we've seen up to this point. They are clearly the best defensive team we've faced."
U of L isn't half-bad on offense either.
The Cardinals boast a balanced attack, led by Shoni Schimmel. The senior helped carry Louisville to the national championship game a season ago and headlines seven players scoring more than eight points a game with averages of 12.9 points and 4.7 assists in 2013-14. The senior guard is on the watch list for every major national award for good reason.
"Schimmel, what a terrific career she's had," Mitchell said. "She's a really, really good player. She can make deep shots and handle the basketball and is a real smart defender."
UK's effectiveness in limiting Schimmel could go a long way toward determining Sunday's outcome. Kentucky and Louisville have matched up each of her first three seasons. In the two UK wins, she totaled just 30 combined points on 11-for-33 shooting. In U of L's lone victory, Schimmel scored 26 on 9-of-18 shooting.
"We'll just have to make her earn everything, which is what we've always tried to do, is to try to make her work hard to get everything," Mitchell said. "Rarely can you shut a player like that down. You have to make her work and make them really, really play hard throughout the course of the game."
Playing hard, in Mitchell's estimation, will be the deciding factor when it comes to both guarding Schimmel and for the game in general.
"I think the intensity level of the game will be terrific and we'll have to see if we can exceed their level of intensity and exceed their level of play," Mitchell said. "We'll see if we can play a little bit harder and see if we can find a way to win."
By no means would a loss prevent Kentucky from accomplishing its goals this season, but the Cats also don't hide from how much this game means.
"It's a big game," Mitchell said. "I think any time we get together in any sport it's certainly important for our fans, so no matter what the records are I think it's an important game, very important for us at Kentucky."
The Braves weren't afraid to run with the Wildcats. They took advantage of holes in the UK press and scored in transition. And for the 34:47 outside that first-half spurt, the Wildcats only outscored the Braves by 15.
But fortunately for UK, there's no ignoring a 25-0 run.
"It was a devastating run for Bradley," Matthew Mitchell said. "Just really hard for them to recover from that."
It began halfway through the first half. UK's lead was a tenuous five points as the visitors were proving Mitchell right about how formidable an opponent Bradley would be.
It ended with 4:33 to go before halftime. In a flash, Kentucky was up 51-21 and well on its way to a 117-77 victory to move to 7-0 on the season entering a Sunday matchup with archrival Louisville.
"That stretch, we got kind of rattled a little bit with their pressure," said Bradley assistant Skyler Young, who was filling in for head coach Michael Brooks after the birth of his son. "We had some turnovers, but more importantly I feel we had some bunnies and layups that we had to make to stop the bleeding of that run."
UK scored 16 points off seven Bradley turnovers during the back-breaking run. The Braves missed all seven of their shots from the field, while UK shot 8 for 9. Six different Wildcats scored, led by Jennifer O'Neill, who scored eight of her 14 points during the stretch.
In Mitchell's estimation, the run was all about defense.
"We finally got some good traps set and hustled enough to get some good traps set," Mitchell said. "I think today the pace was such that that was really the only time in the game where we had enough energy and substitutes came in off the bench and were able to get into Bradley's conditioning."
As impressive as the run was, the Cats didn't even process that it happened until after the fact.
"Actually, we're not aware of what's going on," said DeNesha Stallworth, who had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. "We just try to break it down and win every four minutes at a time, just play hard and play Kentucky basketball."
A matchup with No. 4/3 and archrival Louisville will tip it off, while games against No. 9 Baylor, No. 25 DePaul and No. 2 Duke follow.
But as intimidating as the December schedule may be, Matthew Mitchell isn't thinking about it. Not yet. The Wildcats have another tough opponent to think about first.
"There's not one thought in our mind but Bradley Braves," Mitchell said. "They are a very dangerous team, very tough team and (have) more than enough talent to make plays to win the game."
Bradley may enter Tuesday's game -- which tips at noon ET in Memorial Coliseum -- at 2-3, but Mitchell has been impressed by the Braves in scouting them. They boast a win over Illinois and a starting lineup featuring five players who are averaging at least 9.4 points per game.
"Their starting five is very, very impressive," Mitchell said. "We need to do everything we can to make our depth a positive factor in the game for us and this'll be a tough challenge for us tomorrow at noon."
Kelsey Budd, in Mitchell's mind, is the standout. The senior point guard has made 51 consecutive starts and is averaging 15.2 points, 3.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds.
"As you watch our personnel tape on her, she's able to make all the plays, get to the basket, push it in transition, get to the basket," Mitchell said. "She's able to hit the mid-range jumper, she has deep range from 3, so she can really push the ball."
Like the Central Michigan team UK defeated last Sunday, Bradley won't be afraid to run with the Wildcats. For that reason and a few others, the Braves have UK's undivided attention.
"Those are really good teams (UK will face in December), but the main focus right now is Bradley and taking it one game at a time," Bria Goss said. "Right now, we have a tough team in front of us and we're going to look at them as the top team in the nation."
Goss benefiting from more Mitchell attention
Mitchell has never been afraid of self-critique.
On Tuesday alone, he admitted to not using statistics well enough in evaluating his team and even questioned the way he handled Goss last season.
The junior guard was an immediate impact player, so Mitchell didn't feel the urgency to lead her that he did with other Cats who had a tougher time.
"She showed up and she just really had a great work ethic and did everything that you ask her to do, very little problems," Mitchell said. "Sometimes I don't do great with those players because, SEC Freshman of the Year, great success, I don't know that I did a great job of helping her until it was sort of too late last year and being more aware."
By no means did Goss have a bad season as a sophomore (she averaged 8.8 points while consistently taking on the toughest defensive assignments), but she shot just 38.5 percent from the field. But through six games this season, Goss is shooting 50 percent and scoring 11.7 points a game.
Mitchell attributes that improvement to Goss's work ethic, above all else, but also says a little added attention from her coaches has helped as well. That started with an offseason meeting during which Mitchell asked her to outline her goals and has continued throughout the season.
"It's just constantly trying to make sure that we stay connected and checked in with her and she's doing a terrific job and I'm so happy," Mitchell said. "When someone works hard like that and they see rewards from that hard work, it makes me very happy for Bria."
Goss never felt neglected but she does acknowledge the change over the offseason has helped.
"Over the summer we worked hard and I was in the office more, just building relationships," Goss said. "There will be times when Coach will take me out to eat and just talk. That carries over to the court and I think our bond has become stronger."
Mitchell talks 2014 signing class
On Tuesday, UK officially announced its four fall signees for the class of 2014.
Jaycee Coe, Ivana Jakubcova, Alexis Jennings and Alyssa Rice will join the team next fall and comprise a class that currently ranks among the top 20 nationally according to every major outlet.
"Not only do you have to have a high level of talent, you have to have the desire to be in this atmosphere and in the environment every day where we are really trying to push young women to be their best," Mitchell said. "We are so thrilled with the four players that we signed."
This was an important class for Mitchell because he will lose four seniors to graduation following the season, including starting post duo Samarie Walker and DeNesha Stallworth. In Jennings and Rice, Mitchell sees shades of Walker and Stallworth.
"What I really loved about the high-school players, Alyssa Rice and Alexis Jennings, is they have very good size, big post players, strong, but have the athleticism and the speed for us to continue to play an up-tempo style," Mitchell said. "Those are not the easiest players to find. It really is a small group of players each and every year."
Coe, a shooting guard, fills a need as well.
"Losing Kastine, losing Bernisha, two players who have throughout their careers made significant contributions," Mitchell said, "but both of them have been able to make shots from the perimeter and help us there and Jaycee Coe is one of the elite-level shooters in this class and what a high-character young woman she is."
Jakubcova -- a 6-foot-6 junior-college center -- doesn't have a facsimile on UK's current roster, but is still a welcome addition.
"She has great size and is really, really tall but still mobile," Mitchell said. "She is not a plodding, slow post. She has some great length and can be disruptive around the basket just with her size. The thing we liked most about her is her skillset. She can really run and catch and has great hands. You know, 15- to 17-foot range that is just knockdown deadly and we feel like she can make the 3 enough to keep people honest."
After Kentucky's 116-49 win over Lipscomb on Friday, the Wildcats talked about their near-record-setting night.
They reflected on their impressive streak of four consecutive games with 20-plus assists. They were asked about how eight different players had scored in double figures.
But in the middle of all that, Bria Goss snuck something interesting in as she responded to a question about their improvement at the foul line in the second half.
"Usually when we go into the locker room, Kastine (Evans) makes a list of points of improvement and things we're already doing well," Goss said.
It's a common visual, a coach going to the whiteboard at halftime to highlight areas for a team to improve. For a player to do it is another story, even a senior leader like Evans.
It turns out, however, that it's not a new thing for UK Hoops.
Matthew Mitchell started it a few years back as he searched for ways to maximize the 15 minutes the Cats spend in the locker room for halftime. With that goal in mind, Mitchell directed his players to gather and assess the first half as the coaches did the same on their own.
"We just wanted to make sure that no matter if you are up or down or where you are, you will have some positive points and some points for improvement in the second half," Mitchell said. "That gives the players more of a focus while we're trying to get our thoughts collected."
As the years have gone by and Mitchell has built his program, he's noticed growth in that halftime routine. More and more, the Cats and their coaches are on the same page.
"It's been really good to see that evolve to what the coaches talk about and we walk in and what the players have written down has really matched up well, which tells you the players are in tune with what we need to be doing to be successful," Mitchell said.
Evans is at the forefront of that, which is why it should come as no surprise that she's the player who wields the marker.
The Salem, Conn., native has accepted every role assigned to her, from coming off the bench and playing out of position in the post early in her career to now starting and serving as UK's second-leading scorer at 12.8 points per game. But regardless of what she's asked to do from a basketball perspective, she's always been a leader.
"I look to the veterans a lot to set the tone in every game and Kastine Evans is a good one as far as knowing what we need to do mentally to prepare," Mitchell said. "She's doing such a great job of that day in and day out in practice and in games. I feel good that we have some veteran leadership right now."
Mitchell will be counting on Evans' leadership this weekend, as UK (5-0) travels for a tough road test at Middle Tennessee State (1-2) on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.
"I think, clearly, the most gifted team we've played to date," Mitchell said. "Middle Tennessee has some really good players and you know they are going to be well-coached. Rick Insell is one of the best coaches in the country and certainly one of the great coaches in women's basketball right now."
UK-MTSU has become an annual series, with the Cats losing the last two times they've traveled to Murfreesboro, Tenn. For the players who were there two seasons ago, the 70-58 defeat is fresh in their minds.
"I haven't won there yet so this is definitely a game that I'm excited to play and really go down there with a lot of intention on winning this game," Evans said.
Behind Lexington native Ebony Rowe, the Blue Raiders won't make that an easy task. Rowe -- a senior forward -- is averaging 20.7 points and 12.0 rebounds.
"She's just a great, great college basketball player," Mitchell said. "I think the world of her; she has a great family, great people. I'm glad to see her have the success she's had, but I'm going to try hard for her to not have any success on Sunday, but that's hard to do with a player like that."
Rowe is certainly a Southeastern Conference-caliber player, helping to make MTSU the closest thing UK has seen to an SEC-level team this season. Add to that the fact that UK will make the same Thursday-Sunday turnaround it will have to throughout conference play and you have a challenge that could benefit the Cats down the road.
"I think it's going to be really good for us," Evans said. "Especially in the next week and a half, we have Louisville coming up, which is a great team. This MTSU team is really dynamic. They always go to the NCAA Tournament so it's always a great opportunity for us, as long as we use it how we should."
And if the Cats aren't doing that through 20 minutes, Evans will have something to put on that whiteboard.
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."