What do you do when your signature strategy for your team does not work? What do you do when your bread and butter, die hard defense is struggling? Shoot the ball. Shoot it all day long. And when you get tired of shooting, then you go back to playing your defense. And that is exactly what Kentucky did. The Hoops Squad defeated a pesky Marist Red Foxes squad that shot a serious game og basketball today, frustrating the vaunted UK 40 Minutes Of Dread defense most of the game. The Cats prevailed 78-56, but don't look at that score too closely, this was a battle from the opening tip off. The women today showed some things we have been begging to see from the men, and they used every one of them to defeat Marist. The women were 18-21 from the FT line for a scorching 85.7%. They were led by Jennifer O'Neill and DeNesha Stallworth, who time and time again buried Marist with one key basket after another when UK really needed it.
The women were not statistically very good on defense today as I said above, but they played it when they needed it most in the last five minutes of the game after Marist had cut the lead to 8. UK played a scrappy game themselves as A'Dia Mathies recovered from one painful bangup after another, taking a head shot to the floor that I was sure gave her a concussion, and then getting her wrist bent in a direction it is not intended to go after that. She bounced back from those injuries and still came close to a double double with 10 pts and 7 rebounds, but it was Stallworth and O'Neill who were running the show today and making life hard on the women from Poukeepsie, New York. Matthew Mitchell got T'd up in the game after showing some frustration that was not typical of the UK coach. But O'Neill had his back as she also posted 4 steals and four 3pt baskets, all career highs. She is the Player of The Game for UK, but Stallworth had her moments as well. UK looked a step out of sync the first half, and slowly got back into the groove defensively in the second, but they played smart, and they played hard.
Marist's 24 second half points were more than UK allowed for the whole game against Alcorn State, but Marist is not Alcorn State. They have now played four of the best Women's teams in the country hard both at home and away, and it showed in their never quit approach to the game. I expected them to make UK a bit uncomfortable, but not to come in and live from the 3pt line. Marist shot 41.7% from the arc and 44.4% overall. Not too shabby. Mitchell preached for the women not to get overconfident before the game and it was a smart call. This was a game that last year's team might have lost. With no consistent second scorer last year, had A'Dia gone down to injury earlier, the Cats would have struggled. Not this year. The scoring and minutes are balanced, the women know their roles, and they play like a team on both sides of the ball. All in all, another impressive win for UK. They now await Florida to start the SEC portion of their schedule on Thursday night Jan. 3rd at 7PM. The game will be on SportsSouth TV.