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No. 5 Kentucky loses F Stallworth for 3-4 weeks

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)

Kentucky starting forward DeNesha Stallworth will be sidelined up to four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

Stallworth had surgery on Wednesday to remove loose cartilage in her left knee. She was averaging 14.2 points and 7.0 rebounds for the fifth-ranked Wildcats (9-0).

Azia Bishop will start in her place for Thursday night's game at DePaul (4-2). Jelleah Sidney also will get extra playing time, with Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell saying he plans to use a four-guard lineup.

The team lost reserve forward Samantha Drake for the season after she tore her left anterior cruciate against Central Michigan.

Mitchell says the Wildcats' depth has prepared them to handle Stallworth's absence.

''Everybody in the country has some type of adversity in different ways,'' Mitchell said during a news conference. ''I think we're as well-equipped to handle it as anybody. We have 10 really good players available for us tomorrow night against DePaul and we have to embrace this as an opportunity to get better.''

Stallworth scored 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made four steals in Kentucky's 133-130, quadruple overtime victory over No. 9 Baylor on Friday. Mitchell said her knee kept swelling after the game and kept her from practicing Monday and Tuesday before having the surgery.

While the coach said Stallworth's injury was news he didn't want to hear, the damage isn't serious and he expects her to return ''as good as new'' in time for the beginning of Kentucky's Southeastern Conference schedule.

In the meantime, the 6-foot-3 Bishop, 6-2 Sidney and freshman guard Makayla Epps will assume bigger roles for a Wildcats team coming off consecutive wins over top-10 teams.

Bishop has been a key reserve for Kentucky with per-game averages of 6.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and a team-high 11 blocks. Sidney has played in every game and averaging career bests of 3.1 rebounds and 2.8 points including a career-high nine against Bradley.

Epps, 5-10, is averaging 5.3 points and coming off scoring nine points against Baylor. She can play several spots and is being counted to provide support for forward Samarie Walker.

Kentucky will need everybody to weather the absence of one of their best players.

Said Mitchell, ''we feel good about our prospects of handling this piece of adversity.''

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