UK Hoops Posts 99-55 Exhibition Victory over Kentucky Wesleyan

Nov. 7, 2010

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Using the same up-tempo, full-court pressing style of play that helped propel itself to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight last season, the No. 9/10 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team cruised to a 99-55 exhibition victory over NCAA Division II foe Kentucky Wesleyan Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.

Kentucky’s chaos-causing defense helped spur the Wildcat offense, frustrating the visiting Panthers into 40 turnovers that led to 58 UK points. The Wildcats took control of a 47-42 game two minutes into the second half, sprinting on a 32-0 run while holding the Panthers scoreless for more than nine minutes.

“It was good day for us to get back into Memorial, with a crowd and officials, in a game situation,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We haven’t had a team yet that was a finished product in an exhibition game and we still haven’t and I don’t think you ever will have a team that is completely ready to go for that first day. (There is) certainly a lot to work on, but a lot of bright spots, too. Overall, my impression leaving the game is I’m pretty upbeat about this one.”

Reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) picked up right where she left off last season, posting a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds. The senior forward converted 8-of-12 field goal attempts to go with two blocks and two steals. Four other Wildcats scored in double figures, including 15 points from freshman Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.), 12 points from reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, sophomore A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) and 10 points each from sophomore Brittany Henderson (Pasadena, Calif.) and freshman Samantha Drake (Bardstown, Ky.).  Henderson led UK with eight points during the deciding second-half run. Mathies led UK with four assists and four steals.

“I was just happy with the energy and the press that got that run going,” Mitchell said. “Certainly, the coach in me knows you can’t rely on the press like that all the time and you’re not going to have a lot of runs like that with the competition we play. But I was pleased with the energy, and they did have to expend the energy to get it done. They played hard during that spurt so that was a positive.”

Kentucky enjoyed a 45-35 advantage at intermission thanks to its defensive prowess. The Wildcats created 28 first-half points off 20 Panther miscues. Dunlap scored 14 of her 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the first frame to lead all scorers.

Kentucky never trailed after Bernisha Pinkett’s (Washington, D.C.) 3-pointer gave the Wildcats an 8-6 lead at 17:45. Dunlap scored six points during an 8-0 UK run to give the Wildcats a 19-9 lead at 13:52. Kentucky Wesleyan pulled to within 27-24 at 8:56 on a pair of free throws by Kourtney Rhoads.  However, Kentucky immediately responded with a 12-1 spurt to build its largest lead of the first half at 41-25 thanks in part to six points from Evans.

The Cats’ biggest question mark entering the season is who will replace senior point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) who is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury. Junior Crystal Riley (Memphis, Tenn.) received the starting nod and finished with four points, two rebounds and two assists. Freshmen Maegan Conwright (Arlington, Texas) and Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) also helped fill the void of Smith, who started in all 36 games and averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 assists per game last season. Conwright came off the bench to record six points, three assists and three steals in just 16 minutes while O’Neill added five points and grabbed a rebound and a steal.

“(Conwright) looked the best today at the point,” Mitchell said. “That wasn’t hard to see. Her instincts are fantastic. That remains my biggest concern, that position. She’s fantastic in the open court, as you can see and defensively, she is just what we thought when we recruited her. We thought she was one of the best perimeter defenders in that class. That was one thing that attracted us to her. I thought she was the best of any of our options today.

“Jen has some work to do.,” Mitchell said. “I am very optimistic that it will come together for her. Jen’s pretty hard on herself and that’s holding her back. She has to let that go. She has to stop being so hard on herself in practice because it doesn’t allow her to get on to the next play. She needs to progress some defensively and offensively she needs to run the team a little bit better.”

The Panthers were led by Kristen Rowe with 14 points. Katie Behrens followed with nine.

Kentucky opens the 2010-11 regular season against Morehead State on Friday, Nov. 12 at Memorial Coliseum. The 11 a.m. EST tip-off marks the nation’s first Division I women’s basketball game of the new season.

Season and single-game tickets are on sale now. Season tickets in the upper level chair backs, lower level bleachers and general admission season ticket areas are only $45. Lower level chair backs are $60 for the season. Single-game reserved seats are $7 (regardless of age) while general admission tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for youth/seniors. UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification.

To purchase tickets, visit the Joe Craft Center in person, call 1-800-928-2287 or go online at UKathletics.com.