No. 5 Kentucky 100, Mississippi St. 47
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)
DeNesha Stallworth's night started with the Kentucky forward receiving a specially-marked game ball recognizing her recently surpassing 1,000 career points.
Stallworth ended it with her Wildcats career high, scoring 25 points to help No. 5 Kentucky move to 17-1 for the best start in school history with a 100-47 rout of Mississippi State on Thursday.
After missing her first three shots, Stallworth made 9 of her final 12 for her best game with Kentucky. She fell five points short of her career high achieved against USC as a California freshman in January 2010. She's in her first season with the Wildcats after sitting out last season following her transfer.
''I rushed a couple of shots,'' said Stallworth, who also had six rebounds and four assists. ''I have to continue to play tough and play through contact, so that's something I have to work on.''
Stallworth's performance keyed a night of milestones for the Wildcats, who moved past the 1982-83 team which opened 16-1.
Kentucky's 53-point victory margin was its largest over an SEC opponent in school history, while its 35 turnovers and 17 steals were also SEC highs. The Wildcats scored 42 points off turnovers.
A'dia Mathies added 21 points and Bria Goss had 13 as Kentucky (17-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) also extended its school-record winning streak to 16 games and its record home streak to 32.
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.
''That's a great basketball team out there,'' first-year Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer said of Kentucky. ''We lost to a great team and we were pretty outmanned.''
While the domination was nothing new for a Kentucky squad that has defended its floor well for nearly two years, the Wildcats had to fight to win their previous two home games against Florida and Texas A&M.
Kentucky, which plays four of its next five games at home, shot 50 percent (37 of 74) from the field and outrebounded the Bulldogs 46-20. The Wildcats' 26 offensive rebounds alone were more than Mississippi State.
''Coach always tells us that great offensive rebounding teams win the SEC,'' said Mathies, who had six rebounds along with Samarie Walker and Stallworth. ''We want to be a good rebounding team in general, so we went out and crashed the boards on both sides and blocked out so they won't get the rebounds. It worked pretty well tonight.''
Kentucky had just one shot blocked by a Mississippi State squad that came in averaging an SEC-best 5.4 per game. Bulldogs center Martha Alwal (2.4) entered the game with eight double-doubles this season, just one behind league leader Kelsey Bone of Texas A&M.
While that appeared to present a problem for Walker and Stallworth, both players asserted themselves from the opening tip and didn't let up. Alwal didn't score and had just four rebounds.
The Wildcats already had three offensive rebounds only 37 seconds in, and Walker and Stallworth combined for their first eight points. Goss followed with a three-point play for an 11-2 lead.
But the first half clearly belonged to Stallworth, who scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed three rebounds. Walker had six points in the half and finished with nine after combining for five points in the past two games. She also had six rebounds.
Kentucky's defense harassed Mississippi State into 17 first-half turnovers, leading to 18 points. The Wildcats' pressure also forced two shot clock violations, culminating in a 46-24 halftime lead.
Mathies opened the second half with consecutive 3-pointers for Kentucky, which mounted a 27-2 run for a 67-26 lead.
All but one player scored for Kentucky, which also got 21 points from its reserves. Kastine Evans added 12 points for Kentucky and Brittany Henderson had eight rebounds.
Wildcats forward Azia Bishop also made a sooner-than-expected return from a left wrist injury sustained three games ago against Alabama. Expected to miss four contests, she checked in just before halftime and had four rebounds and two points in nine minutes.
After shooting just 40 percent in their four previous SEC games, Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell was happy with his team's best game from the field and second 100-point effort this season.
''(We were) really good at the 3-point line tonight and really good at that free-throw line tonight,'' said Mitchell, adding that his team was ''pretty good making layups and trying to get in there and drawing some contact and making some shots in the paint.
''Just not a lot to complain about on offense.''