SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The University of Kentucky women’s basketball team forced 25 turnovers and junior forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Wildcats to a 68-54 win over Santa Barbara on Wednesday afternoon in the Thunderdome.
Again, UK’s stifling defense was the name of the game as the Wildcats held their fourth-straight opponent to under 50 percent shooting and forced their third opponent this season into 20-plus turnovers. UK recorded 12 steals in the game and scored 22 points off 25 UCSB turnovers.
“I was very happy with our defense,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We asked our team to give a great effort and they did. We knew Santa Barbara would be tough but we felt like we had the ability to pressure them and we did a great job of that today.”
The Cats forced the Gauchos (0-4) into 13 turnovers by halftime, helping UK take a 37-30 lead at the break. Dunlap hit 6-of-7 from the floor for 13 points in the opening stanza while also charting two steals and a block. Freshman A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) followed with six points and four rebounds while Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) dished out five of her season-high seven assists at the break.
“Our guards worked hard all day long in pressuring their ball-handlers,” Mitchell said. “Being solid and tough on defense is going to be key for us. Our team will continue to work and develop our fundamentals so we can be a tough defensive team.”
UK led by as many as nine points (25-16) in the opening half before the Gauchos went on a 6-0 run to pull back within three, 26-23 with 3:50 to go. A three-pointer by Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) pushed the lead back to seven (31-25) but five-straight free throws in the final minute pulled UCSB to within four (34-30) with 43 seconds left. Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.), who finished with a career-high nine points, countered the Gauchos’ run with a three-pointer, giving UK a seven-point advantage heading into the locker room.
The Cats continued their defensive intensity in the second half, jumping out on a 7-2 run to go up 12 points with 16:16 remaining. Junior guard Carly Morrow (Chattanooga, Tenn.) contributed five of her seven total points during the spurt. The Wildcats’ lead never dipped below 10 points the rest of the game.
Nine of 10 Wildcats that saw action scored at least three points in the game. Senior forward Lydia Watkins (Hopkinsville, Ky.) came off the bench for a season-high 10 points as UK’s bench outscored USCB’s reserves 26-8. Mathies finished with six points and a team-high six rebounds.
UK shot 41.9 percent from the floor (26-of-62), including a 36.4 percent mark (4-of-11) from three-point land. The Cats held UCSB to a 48.8 percent shooting percentage (21-of-43) and did not allow a three-pointer in the game (0-of-10).
Valentine, who came in the game averaging a team-high 18.0 points for the Gauchos, was limited to just seven baskets today. She and teammate Emilie Johnson finished with 14 points while Meagan Williams had 11.
UK returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum Saturday, Nov. 28 vs. McNeese State. Game time is 1 p.m. EST and any fan that shows their UK vs. Tennessee football game ticket will receive free admission, while supplies last.