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Video: UK Hoops prepares for DePaul

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DeNesha Stallworth will miss three-to-four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her left knee on Wednesday. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) DeNesha Stallworth will miss three-to-four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her left knee on Wednesday. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
For the third time in six weeks, UK Hoops has been bitten by the injury bug.

In October, freshman Kyvin Goodin-Rogers was lost for the season due to a blood clot. Less than a month later, Samantha Drake went down for the year with a knee injury.

The latest Wildcat to be sidelined is DeNesha Stallworth, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body in her left knee.

"Not the kind of news you want to hear, but we are glad it was nothing serious," Matthew Mitchell said.

Stallworth -- a Naismith Trophy watch list selection -- is expected to miss three-to-four weeks. She was evaluated on Monday after experiencing persistent swelling following UK's four-overtime win over Baylor on Friday night and had successful surgery on Wednesday.

"Certainly when you lose someone like DeNesha everybody has to rally and really come together and work hard and pick up the slack that's created by her absence," Mitchell said. "I think that our team is certainly capable of doing that and I think they will want to do that."

Stallworth's temporary absence leaves UK with just three healthy players listed as forwards or centers on the roster. Azia Bishop -- who is averaging 6.1 points and 6.3 rebounds in 17.0 minutes of reserve duty -- is one of them and will slide into a starting role alongside Samarie Walker.

"You add another eight minutes to her and we are hoping to see those numbers go up with extra time on the floor," Mitchell said. "Now she will have to get that done. I think she is playing probably her best basketball since she has been at Kentucky."

With Stallworth out, Mitchell reports Bishop had two solid days of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, positioning the junior to take a step forward in her development.

"It is good for Azia because you fast forward a year from now, we are certainly going to need her to be in a featured role in the post," Mitchell said. "It is all good and very good that she can have this opportunity."

Jelleah Sidney also will see her role expand, while freshman Makayla Epps will shift full time to the 4 position after previously splitting time between the post and the perimeter. Though certainly not ideal, the athleticism of Sidney and Epps can impact the way the Cats play in a positive way.

"Jelleah is so active in the press and does such a good job in the press," Mitchell said. "I think we can play a little bit more up-tempo defensively and turn up the pressure a little bit. Then Makayla, being able to focus on one position for the next four weeks can really help her progress."

And in a pinch, Mitchell won't hesitate to go to a four-guard lineup with Stallworth out.

In that memorable win against Baylor, Mitchell went to that look for extended stretches, often with both halves of his two-headed point-guard monster playing together. Janee Thompson and Jennifer O'Neill combined for 63 points in 65 minutes of the 133-130 victory.

"No matter who has the ball they're a real, real threat to go to the basket or get into the paint and make the defense shrink and guard the paint and then whoever's out there and has the ball kicked to them can make 3s," Mitchell said. "They're a lethal combination when they are on the court together."

That lethal combination has gotten plenty of attention following the Baylor win, UK's second in a row over a top-10 opponent, as has Mitchell's program as a whole.

"It's been so nice around town because the game against Baylor was so exciting and people around town are complimenting us, but we're almost a week removed from it and people are still talking about it," Mitchell said. "As a player and as a coach you have to move forward and understand what's real. It's real that we won that game, but it's over and done with."

With the Baylor victory in in the rearview window, the Cats are shifting their thoughts to a tough road test at DePaul on Thursday (7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1). The Blue Demons (4-2) are averaging more than 85 points a game and have reached 11 straight NCAA Tournaments under head coach Doug Bruno.

"It's a high-octane offense and they can really spread the floor," Mitchell said. "They can get five players out on the perimeter and put stress on your defense, especially a defense like ours that likes to put pressure on a team and tries to get out in passing lanes."

DePaul is the latest in a string of challenging December opponents for Kentucky, but the first UK will have to face without Stallworth. Losing the senior forward is a blow, but not one the Cats can't absorb.

"It's like I told our team, I think we're as well-equipped to handle it as anybody because we've had some kids who have sacrificed to come here that maybe don't play as many minutes that they might at other places, but they are very good very players," Mitchell said. "We have 10 really good players available for us tomorrow night at DePaul."

And due to the relatively short-term nature of Stallworth's injury, her absence could end up benefitting Kentucky down the road.

"I think any time you have to focus and do a better job and sort of raise your level of play, I think it gives you an opportunity to be better and stronger when she comes back," Mitchell said. "I do think you have to believe that if you are going to remain positive and move forward positively."

Jennifer O'Neill scored a school-record 43 points in UK's 133-130 win over Baylor on Friday night. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Jennifer O'Neill scored a school-record 43 points in UK's 133-130 win over Baylor on Friday night. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Reflecting on the game she had just played in and won, Jennifer O'Neill realized she lost track of time.

The top-10 matchup between Kentucky and Baylor lasted an astounding four overtimes, seemingly taking on a will of its own to delay the second half of a men's and women's doubleheader as long as possible.

Wrapped up intently in every one of the 60 minutes the Wildcats and Lady Bears played on Friday night in massive AT&T Stadium, O'Neill thought it lasted even longer than it did.

"I thought it was more overtimes than four, to be honest," O'Neill said. "I thought we were going to break the Syracuse record (of six overtimes against Connecticut in 2009)."

That record was about the only one that didn't fall in a game that's a massive early favorite to be the best of the year in women's college basketball.

O'Neill scored a school-record 43 points, joining all-time great Valerie Still as the only Wildcat to score 40 or more in a UK Hoops uniform. Given that she didn't know how many overtimes the game lasted, it should come as no surprise she didn't realize she had scored so many until taking a peek at the postgame box score.

"I didn't even know I had that many points, honestly," O'Neill said.

Her coach didn't either.

"You just had to make plays tonight and Jennifer was really, really hot," Matthew Mitchell said. "I do such a bad job; I don't realize what's going on in the game sometimes. I didn't realize she had 43. I knew she was doing a good job and we were trying to get her the ball, but it's an amazing performance. We needed all of them."

No. 5/6 Kentucky (9-0) needed all of them because Baylor star Odyssey Sims was matching O'Neill shot for shot and then some. Sims poured in 47 points, living up to every ounce of the pregame praise lumped on her by Mitchell, who called Sims "the best singular talent" in the country.

Even though she had 13 points and six rebounds of her own and often had the unenviable task of tailing Sims, Bria Goss couldn't help but marvel at the back and forth between the two top scorers.

"It just really makes me excited for women's basketball in general and for more people to get involved with women's basketball," Goss said. "I think, after today, we might have some bandwagoners or just more people in general watching women's basketball."

Sims played much of the evening saddled with foul trouble and finally picked up her fifth late in the first overtime period.

"I don't know that they have a meter that could measure my happiness when she got out of the game," Mitchell said. "The happy meter was broken at that point in time because we pride ourselves on being a pretty good defensive team that gets after and we just couldn't stop her."

Happy as he may have been, the Lady Bears weren't about to back down without Sims.

Imani Wright hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds of that first overtime to prolong the proceedings. In the third extra session, No. 9 Baylor (8-1) seemed poised to take control when it grabbed a five-point lead. And in the final overtime, another potential game-tying 3 by Alexis Prince rattled out, finally giving UK its first back-to-back wins over top-10 teams in school history.

"The game was so long, you had time to play bad and you had time to play good," Mitchell said.

Though 10 players fouled out -- including seven for Baylor and six of the game's 10 starters -- there was much more good than bad. Impressive talent inside and out was on display and the result was an offensive explosion the likes of which the women's game has never seen.

"It's hard to put into words this game," Mitchell said. "It was a heck of a game."

UK and Baylor set an all-time NCAA record by scoring 263 combined points. The Cats topped the century mark for the fourth time in six games, breaking the single-game school record for most points in the process.

"Hopefully people see that we have a high level of skill and a high level of athleticism," Mitchell said. "I thought that was a real -- if you weren't coaching in it -- watching it was a real entertaining game tonight."

The talk of what UK-Baylor could do for the profile of women's college basketball is a testament to how good the game was, but Mitchell's more immediate concern is about his team. Barely a year removed from being dismantled by the Lady Bears in Waco, Texas, UK went toe-to-toe with the two-time national champions and came away with the win.

"I think we have a better team than we had last season and I'm really proud of the players," Mitchell said. "They worked extremely hard. They've practiced extremely hard for a long time. You could see the results of that just in their conditioning."

That conditioning translated directly into confidence. Other teams might deflated heading to the sideline with the score tied following yet another five minutes of overtime having elapsed, but not these Wildcats.

"We're in such good condition, every time we went into another overtime we were excited," Goss said. "Like, we get a whole 'nother five minutes. We do this. We're waking up four days a week 6 a.m. in the summer. This is what we train for. I think every time we walked over to the bench we just had this positive attitude."

That positivity turned into downright elation when the score finally went final. Since the preseason, the Cats have talked about this team being special. Getting the job done where there was every excuse not to is perhaps the clearest sign yet that they are ready to make that much more than idle chatter.

"Once the horn went off and we were going to the locker room, it was just like a big relief," said Goss, voice hoarse from reveling in the victory. "Like, this is the team, this is the year."

Video: UK Hoops celebrates Baylor win

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Well, that was something. In four overtimes, the Kentucky women's basketball team broke all sorts of records en route to its second win over a top-10 team in six days. Stay tuned for more later, but watch this video of the Wildcats celebrating the memorable win in the meantime.

And here are highlights, including a bunch of Jennifer O'Neill's school-record 43 points in UK's 133-130 win.

Live blog: UK Hoops vs. Baylor

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The UK men's basketball team will wear uniforms with silver chrome lettering vs. Baylor. The UK men's basketball team will wear uniforms with silver chrome lettering vs. Baylor.
Via Nike

On Friday, Dec. 6, the University of Kentucky and Baylor University will square off in a Men's and Women's doubleheader at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas. To celebrate the games, Nike has outfitted the Kentucky men's and women's basketball teams and Baylor's women's team in commemorative uniforms and footwear. The 80,000 capicity stadium will be retrofitted for basketball, but fans will notice some Texas "bling" embellishments on the court.

All three teams will take the court wearing Nike Hyper Elite uniforms - the brand's most advanced system of dress and lightest basketball uniform ever produced. The specially designed Hyper Elite uniforms for this match-up will feature silver chrome lettering on the jersey and short for Kentucky and gold chrome lettering for Baylor. The Kentucky men's uniform will also feature eight stars on the back of the neck to celebrate their eight National Championships.

In addition, both teams will be outfitted in custom NIKEiD footwear. The University of Kentucky men's team will have the option of wearing the LEBRON 11, KD VI, or the LEBRON Zoom Soldier. The Kentucky and Baylor women's teams will have the option of wearing the KD VI or the Zoom Hyperdunk.

UK Hoops' uniforms for the Baylor game. UK Hoops' uniforms for the Baylor game.

DeNesha Stallworth and her UK team will face Baylor at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday in AT&T Stadium. (Chet White, UK Athletics) DeNesha Stallworth and her UK team will face Baylor at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday in AT&T Stadium. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky's men's and women's basketball teams share a practice facility every day. This week, they'll share a plane, a hotel and even a stadium.

The two teams will play in a doubleheader against Baylor on Friday night in AT&T Stadium -- the home of the Dallas Cowboys -- turning an idea hatched by John Calipari two years ago into reality.

"He just called me one day a couple years back and had the idea and it went from there," Matthew Mitchell said.

Knowing Coach Cal could have put the event together with only the men's teams, Mitchell said it took him "about 15 seconds" to agree to participate.

"In college basketball what our men's program has done over more than a century is created a brand that is recognizable as any sports brand in the world," Mitchell said. "I just have thought you are silly if you don't try to do everything you can to be a part of that. Cal is just so supportive and so creative and thinks about things like this."

That attitude has come natural to Calipari ever since his arrival in Lexington in 2009. Whether it's tweeting support for the women's soccer team in the NCAA Tournament, offering advice to Mark Stoops about working at UK or putting together this unique doubleheader, Coach Cal is willing to do most anything to help his university.

To say thanks for that support, each UK Hoops player penned a hand-written note to Calipari on Tuesday. He appreciated it, but it wasn't necessary.

"This is not just about the basketball program; it's about this athletic department," Calipari said. "It's about a lot of athletes from all the different sports and anywhere we can come together and help each other is good."

Now, the women will go about the business of taking advantage of the opportunity Calipari helped create for them.

The Wildcats will take on Baylor at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday in a matchup of unbeaten and top-10 teams. Even though the capacity of AT&T Stadium will be limited by the court configuration, it figures to be the biggest crowd most of the Cats will have ever played in front of.

"It's going to be a lot of people there, but we just know we have to play Kentucky basketball to get the job done," said DeNesha Stallworth.

Getting the job done against the Bears won't be easy. Baylor is averaging 96.5 points per game and has won its seven games by an average of 45.5 points.

"They are a top-10 team and they have won two national championships and have been consistently good for over a decade now," Mitchell said. "They are one of the really fine women's basketball programs in the country."

For four years, a matchup with Baylor meant a matchup with Brittney Griner. The 6-foot-8 center, however, went on to the WNBA this offseason.

"Life continues after Brittney Griner and they are alive and well, I can promise you that," Mitchell said.

Her departure leaves the task of leading the Bears in the capable hands of point guard Odyssey Sims. As UK prepared for a game at Baylor last season, Mitchell went out of his way to praise Sims, even as questions about Griner flooded in. It's now easy to see why.

"Odyssey Sims is probably the best singular talent that I've seen in the country this year," Mitchell said. "She is really, really amazing. There are some other really talented players, but she is putting up monstrous numbers right now and they found a way to increase their scoring average."

Sims is averaging a staggering 27.3 points, shooting better than 50 percent from the field, nearly 80 percent from the line and almost 40 percent from 3-point range. The senior had 18 points and six assists against UK last season, when Baylor was dominant in an 85-51 victory in both teams' second game of the 2012-13 season.

Stallworth admits retribution will be on her mind "a little bit" come Friday, but not overwhelmingly so.

"We're both two totally different teams from last year, so it's just going to be a new battle and a new challenge and we're definitely looking forward to it," Stallworth said.

Recent Comments

  • Annonymous: I love my Cats. I have been one to criticize over the season as well. I am also man enough read more
  • V. Martin Ogrosky: Livin' large in the BB Title Game: UK by 6! Coach owns the state! Fill the middle and win the read more
  • mark: Not a UK fan (Bama) Would like to help JR with cramping issue. He is a class kid and I read more
  • Carly: It's their destiny to be our dy9asty! Love these boots and I'm so excited to watch them play tonight! read more
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