UK Hoops’ stifling defense earns exhibition win over Eckerd

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Senior forward and All-America candidate DeNesha Stallworth scored a game-high 17 points as the No. 7/8 Kentucky women’s basketball team downed Eckerd College, 83-35, in an exhibition contest Sunday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum.

With the win, the Wildcats improved to 6-1 in exhibition games under head coach Matthew Mitchell. The contest marked the first ever meeting between the two programs.

“What a great opportunity to be back in Memorial Coliseum today,” MIitchell said. “It is so much fun to play in that building. We had a great crowd (today). I can’t think that there are many places better to play college basketball than Memorial Coliseum. It was great to be back in there for the first time. Really, really pleased with the effort from the players today. I thought they worked extremely hard and played really hard. It was not the prettiest game that we have ever played here or probably end up playing this season, but I thought they gave great effort. Defensively, we tried to do some things that we have worked really, really hard on. I am really, excited about their willingness to work and all the other things that we can work on in practice and fix in practice. I think they have the attitude to get that done. So, it was a good day for the Wildcats.”

Kentucky started the game quickly by scoring the first 23 points of the game and holding Eckerd scoreless for the first 10:43. Despite the early push, UK led just 33-15 at the half. However, Kentucky would come out of the locker room with a little more energy. Senior Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) scored seven straight points at one point during a 16-0 run to blow the game wide open.

The Wildcats would go on to outscore Eckerd College 50-20 in the second half on 42 percent shooting from the field (16-of-38).

UK’s frontcourt of Stallworth, Walker and Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) combined to score 36 of the 83 points. Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) tied a game-high with six rebounds to go along with her 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Walker was one of three Wildcats to finish in double-figures with 12 points and six boards. Bishop chipped in seven points, four rebounds and two steals.

Freshman Makayla Epps (Lebanon, Ky.) scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting in her first game in a Wildcat uniform. Linnae Harper (Chicago) also made her UK debut, as she registered eight points, four rebounds and four assists. Senior Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) led all players with six assists.

All 12 players that suited up for Kentucky played at least nine minutes, scored a basket and grabbed at least two rebounds.

As a team, UK struggled from the field as the Wildcats shot just 37 percent (30-for-81), including 4-of-27 (14.8 percent) from behind the arc. Around the basket is where UK inflicted the most damage by outscoring the Tritons 44-14 in the paint.

The Wildcats’ defense caused headaches all afternoon for the Tritons, as UK forced 41 turnovers, while turning those turnovers into 43 points. Of the 41 turnovers, 16 were steals by the tenacious Kentucky defense.

Eckerd was led by Liga Vente with 13 points and two blocks, while Ivana Grbic grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Monticello, Ky., native Kayla Bowlin scored eight points and dished out two assists in her return to the Commonwealth.

“What a great opportunity to play at Kentucky,” Triton head coach Paul Honsinger said. “Being a Division II school and traveling all this way in one of our player’s backyard. We are really grateful to Kentucky for bringing us here, and hosting us here. The atmosphere, pre-game and fans are something our players don’t have every day. It is great to come and give our best effort. It is something our players will never forget and we are thankful for that opportunity.”

UK will travel to New York for a two-game road trip. The Cats will visit Marist in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. ET and Wagner in Staten Island, N.Y., on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. ET.


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