Two days after John Calipari announced he had come to the conclusion that his Kentucky team could not “whomp on” its opponents, Matthew Mitchell’s fifth-ranked ballclub put on an Advanced Whomping-On clinic, obliterating Mississippi State, 100-47.
The win ran the Wildcat’s homecourt winning streak to a school-record 32 games. The victory also extended the women’s overall streak to 16, likewise a school record (tied with Duke for longest unbeaten string in the country). If that’s not enough, it was UK’s largest Southeastern Conference victory in school history.
The visitors had no answers for the Wildcats’ suffocating pressure, which forced 35 State turnovers, the most errors forced by an SEC team so far this season. “It is just not really, really complicated,” Mitchell said. “It is just a lot of work and denying the ball one pass away and putting a lot of pressure on the ball.”
The Bulldogs hung with the Cats (17-1, 5-0 SEC) for the first eight minutes, trailing just 18-12. And at the under-eight timeout, it was only 25-17, Wildcats. But by the time the turnovers had settled, Kentucky had ripped off a 21-7 run to close the first half, taking a 46-24 lead to the locker room. Forward DeNesha Stallworth poured in 18 first-half points, putting her in double digits for the 15th consecutive game.
Any thoughts MSU had of coming back vanished in the first two minutes of the second half as the Cats scored the first eight points of the period, slipped off to a 54-24 lead and that was that. By the time Kentucky had built a 60-26 lead (with 15:52 to play), Stallworth had reached a new career-high with 23 points. She finished with 25, along with four rebounds and two steals, and she did it in front of her visiting father.
“Yes, my dad is here,” said the native of Richmond, California. “I’m a daddy’s girl. He is also staying for the Auburn game, and it’s very exciting for him to be here. It means a lot that he is here.”
He saw quite a show as the Wildcats never let up. With 7:24 left to play, UK’s Bria Goss went for a loose ball rebound, reaching in to try to snatch the ball away from one of the State players. She succeeded only in producing a held ball, with the possession arrow pointing at the Bulldogs. Goss smacked her hands together angrily – and her team by then had doubled up the visitors, 82-41, yet was still showing what looked to be maximum effort.
“I don’t think they play hard for me, I think they play hard for Kentucky,” Mitchell said. “We try to make certain that everybody that is here comes in with their eyes wide open as to what this is about.”
After that, it was only a matter of whether or not the Wildcats would reach the century mark, which they did on a three-pointer by Bernisha Pinkett with 44 seconds left. It was just the second time this season MSU had surrendered more than 66 points, a mark Kentucky left crumpled on the side of the road with 14:32 left in the game.
The Cats shot an even 50 percent from the floor, 41.2 from beyond the three-point arc. And when they had to have the ball, they went and got it, outrebounding MSU 46-20. Reserve forward Brittany Henderson led the way on the boards with eight – in just 12 minutes.
Kentucky had more offensive rebounds (26) than the ‘Dogs had total rebounds. Said guard A’dia Mathies, “We jumped pretty high tonight.” Mathies finished with six boards, along with 21 points (3-for-5 beyond the arc). “Coach always tells us that the champions in the SEC are great offensive rebounding teams and are great rebounding teams in general,” she said. “So we just go in there and try and crash the boards on both sides and we tried to block out so they couldn’t get the ball and we came out on top tonight.”
Kendra Grant had 11 points and Carnecia Williams 10 for Mississippi State (8-10, 0-5), which lost its fifth straight overall and sixth in a row to Kentucky. It was also the Bulldogs' second consecutive lopsided loss on the Wildcats' home floor, following a 48-point defeat last January.
Point guard Jennifer O’Neill had another solid, balanced effort with seven assists, six points and four steals. “Just another spectacular night for Jennifer O’Neill, just a spectacular night of basketball for her,” Mitchell said. “There is nobody that I have seen, and I haven’t seen everybody, but there is nobody I have seen that is pushing the basketball up the court like Jennifer O’Neill. She is a weapon right now, man. She can get that ball to the other end so fast and she can do it two at a time in the game when everyone else is trying to catch a break or two. Lot of good stuff for us on offense tonight.”
Mississippi State shot a respectable 46 percent from the field, but the Bulldogs could get up only 39 attempts to the Wildcats’ 74. That’s because MSU turned it over those 35 times, including 10 by point guard Katia May and six by forward Martha Awal in just 18 minutes.
The Wildcats impressed first-year MSU coach Vic Schaefer, who at one point was a mentor to Mitchell. On this night, the pupil impressed the teacher.
“Matthew has done an unbelievable job,” Schaefer said. “He’s done a great job, got great players, great system and I think his kids play extremely hard. In this game, it’s not what you do, but how you do it that separates you from a lot of people.
“There’s a lot of good teams around the country. There’s very few great teams. Coach Mitchell has got that here at Kentucky right now. It’s not what they do, but how they do it that separates them.”
Next up for the Wildcats is Auburn Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Coliseum. It will be televised live by the UK-IMG network.