UK Hoops Defeats Mississippi State; Wins School-Record Fifth Consecutive SEC Game
Jan. 31, 2010
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Junior forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) posted her 19th career double-double with a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds as the Kentucky women's basketball team won its school-record fifth consecutive Southeastern Conference game with a 69-59 win over Mississippi State Sunday afternoon in Humphrey Coliseum.
Dunlap, who also became the 27th player in school history to chart 1,000 points in her career, led the Wildcats to their second straight league road win by hitting 6-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. She also moved into 10th place on UK's career rebounding list with 694.
Freshman A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) followed with 13 points, six rebounds, three steals and three assists. Junior guard Carly Morrow (Chattanooga, Tenn.) netted a trio of three-pointers and finished with 11 points.
"Victoria was the difference in the game today, but it wasn't just her," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "It wasn't just one person today, it was a team effort. We are a good team. We played with a lot of heart and I am so proud of our effort today."
It was a back-and-forth battle through the first 30 minutes of the game with six ties and nine lead changes. However, Kentucky limited Mississippi State (14-8, 5-4) to two field goals over the final 8:02 while outscoring the Bulldogs 17-8. The Wildcats made 11-of-13 free throw attempts during the stretch, including five from junior Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.). Mathies also scored five points during the run, including two free throws and a key three-pointer.
"In the later part of the first half we were breaking down fundamentally, Mitchell said. "For the first 12 to 14 minutes of the second half we were really doing a good job of not letting them get into the paint. Then it got a little dicey there for a bit. A lot of free throws and great execution down the stretch led us to victory. Defensively, we gave a whale of an effort in the second half."
It looked like it might be a long day for the Wildcats early as turnovers and poor shooting plagued them in the first half. UK shot just 32.1 percent (9-of-28) from the floor and committed an uncharacteristic 15 turnovers while forcing only 10.
The second half was a different story as the Wildcats came out with a renewed energy, paced by their leader, Dunlap, who scored 14 of her 19 points after intermission. Mathies also was key to the victory as she added nine of her 13 points in the crucial second half, including a three-pointer that pushed UK's lead to 59-53 with 3:31 remaining.
In the second half, the Cats committed just three turnovers and outshot shot the Lady Bulldogs 44.4 percent (12-of-27) to 30.6 percent (11-of-36).
"Defense has been our focus all season," Dunlap said. "I thought we stayed with our plan of pressuring them and forcing them into bad shots. We just came in and did what the coaches asked us to do and we are really happy to get this win."
Alexis Rack, the SEC's second-leading scorer, averaging 20.3 per game, was held to just 11 points on 4-of-23 shooting. Chanel Mokango led the Bulldogs with 17 points and three blocks.
Kentucky surpasses its SEC win total from last season and claims back-to-back road league victories for the first time since 2005-06.
"We have made a big move (from last year)," Mitchell said. "I could not be prouder. They are fine young women. They have worked really hard. We are a team that certainly has flaws. But we're in tune with what we need to do to have a chance to win. Not a lot of teams are willing to work that hard. This team has been. I give them all the credit."
Kentucky returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum Thursday, Feb. 4 to take on Ole Miss at 7 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live on the Big Blue Sports Network and Fox Sports South. It will mark the 31st meeting between the teams. The Rebels lead the series 20-10, including a 9-5 advantage in Lexington.