No. 6 Kentucky 90, Delaware St. 50
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)
The Kentucky women played the type of game they needed to in preparation for Tuesday's showdown against top-ranked Baylor.
A'dia Mathies scored 16 points and the No. 6 Wildcats routed Delaware State 90-50 Saturday in the season opener.
The Wildcats looked sharp throughout as they tuned up for the daunting task of facing Brittney Griner and the defending NCAA champion Lady Bears, who have won 41 straight games.
Kentucky shot 54 percent against the Hornets, including 10 of 22 from 3-point range - an area in which the Wildcats struggled last season despite ranking 17th in Division I with 74.0 points per game.
The Wildcats forced 32 turnovers and their plus-9 turnover margin fell right in line with the style of play sixth-year coach Matthew Mitchell has installed in Lexington. Last year, Kentucky finished second in the country with a 9.29 turnover margin.
''The first part of building our team and our defensive identity starts with that ... is with a high level of intensity,'' Mitchell said. ''And that starts with their attitude and their willingness to really put themselves out there and make mistakes, because we made a ton of mistakes today, but it's all part of the process. It's what you have to do.''
Kentucky forced the Hornets into turnovers on their first three possessions, and by the time they took their first shot they were already down 7-0. The Wildcats stretched the lead to 20-4 and didn't allow Delaware State to connect on consecutive field goals until less than a minute was left in the first half.
''I finally got the jitters out, my first Division I head coaching game,'' said first-year Hornets coach Tamika Louis. ''Just the opportunity to have a chance to play against the No. 6 team in the country on their home floor, it doesn't get any more exciting than this.''
Kentucky finished with 53 points off 32 turnovers.
DeNesha Stallworth had 11 points and two rebounds in her Kentucky debut after transferring from California. Center Samarie Walker had eight points and six rebounds three days before she will face a stiff challenge in the paint from Griner.
Kentucky's bench was at full strength after a handful of injuries hobbled the team in its one exhibition game. Point guard Maegan Conwright played after an ankle injury kept her sidelined for Tuesday's preseason game against Bellarmine. She did not appear to be playing at 100 percent, but she still had seven points and four rebounds in 19 minutes.
Samantha Drake also played after sitting out Tuesday's exhibition with concussion-like symptoms. Drake had three rebounds in six second-half minutes.
Tierra Hawkins had 28 points for the Hornets, who had only one assist in the game.
Mathies, the Southeastern Conference's preseason player of the year, also had six assists and four steals. She was adamant in the postgame news conference that, with a young team, paying mind to each game at hand is paramount. Still, the upcoming game against Baylor is only one game, she said.
''With a team like that, they're going to show you what you're good at and exploit your weaknesses, too,'' Mathies said. ''It'll help us improve the rest of the season. I think if we just go out there and play Kentucky ball, we should be able to beat anybody.''