No. 7 Kentucky 80, Pepperdine 62
MALIBU, Calif. (AP)
DeNesha Stallworth had about 25 family members travel from her home in Northern California to watch her and No. 7 Kentucky make a rare trip to the Golden State.
She didn't disappoint them.
Stallworth scored 17 points and Bria Goss added 16 to lead Kentucky over Pepperdine 80-62 on Tuesday night. Stallworth scored 13 points in the second half and the Wildcats (9-1) pulled away from the Waves (3-6) for their eighth consecutive victory.
Stallworth's family was waiting for her afterward.
''All of them are down here and I cannot wait to get to them,'' she said.
Kentucky led by only four at halftime but opened the second half with a 16-4 run. Stallworth scored 11 points during that stretch despite picking up her third foul in the opening minute. She scored on an end-to-end drive and a short jumper and then converted inside to make it 55-39.
Stallworth got open for a layup and Samarie Walker scored back-to-back uncontested layups to give the Wildcats their biggest lead, 65-43.
A'Dia Mathies had 13 points and Walker finished with 10.
Kentucky went away from its signature full-court press and largely used half-court man-to-man defense in the second half.
''We came out aggressive and just stayed focused and not let the game get away,'' Stallworth said. ''It was definitely challenging with the fouls being called early and me and Samarie getting into early foul trouble. We just tried to keep our composure and stay together as a team.''
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said it was a focal point to get the ball to Walker, a Cal transfer who led the Bears in scoring two seasons ago and has given the Wildcats another dynamic player in the post.
''It helps her to go to her early and get her involved early,'' Mitchell said. ''We've been trying to do that the last few games. I think she really, really feeds off that. She's done a beautiful job. She's really played good basketball the past 5-6 games.''
Shay Cooney-Williams led Pepperdine with 14 points and reserve Kelsey Patrick had a season-high 10 along with eight rebounds. Bria Richardson came off the bench and also scored 10 points for Pepperdine, which committed 22 turnovers and was outscored 27-0 on the fast break.
Pepperdine closed the first half on a 14-5 run to pull to 37-33 at the break.
Patrick completed the run with a pair of technical free throws after she was elbowed by Azia Bishop on a flagrant foul. Richardson led all scorers with 10 points in the first half, including a left-hand layup to bring Pepperdine to 17-14 and a pair of free throws in the final two minutes.
Jade McNorton also sank two free throws in the final two minutes and grabbed a rebound to set up Pepperdine's last possession.
''I just felt Pepperdine played with great intensity and great energy,'' Mitchell said. ''They were so great just going to the basket. We just talked about one thing: trying to keep the ball in front of us. Stay in between the ball and the goal - real, real simple concept. We knew we could do that if we could get focused and sit down. For whatever reason, we didn't really hustle in the full-court press tonight so we had to go with our half-court man-to-man.''
Kentucky forced 13 turnovers in the first half but couldn't connect from outside, shooting 3 for 14 from beyond the 3-point line and 35 percent from the field. Mathies and O'Neill made 3-pointers and Stallworth scored on a floater to give Kentucky a 32-19 lead before the Waves began to rally.
But it was a different story when the second half began.
''We let them go inside too much,'' Patrick said. ''They definitely started hitting more shots in the first half. I'm super proud of the way we played. Everything we've done up to this point really came out in the first half - just how far we've come. Overall, we won the rebounding war. We've shown a lot of improvement and done a lot of good things.''
Pepperdine leading scorer Robie Mayberry scored two points on 1-for-8 shooting in 14 minutes. She picked up two fouls in the first half.
Kentucky took an 11-0 lead on O'Neill's layup and forced Pepperdine into nine turnovers in the first 11 minutes.
It was the first meeting between the teams since 1991.