No. 7 Kentucky beats Central Michigan, 96-74

Kentucky players knew it was just a matter of time before Janee
Thompson showed her versatility.

And after Sunday’s all-around performance that helped beat
Central Michigan, the Wildcats guard will be expected to keep it
up.

Thompson recorded career highs of 17 points and six steals while
tying a best with four rebounds to complement DeNesha Stallworth’s
21 points as No. 7 Kentucky pulled away for a 96-74 victory on
Sunday.

After averaging four points per game last season, the 5-foot-7
Thompson opened the season with 13 at Marist before tailing off the
past two contests against Wagner and Georgia Southern. The starting
point guard went all out against CMU, scoring 11 points while
trying to get everybody involved.

Asked what has helped this season, Thompson said, ”just knowing
what to expect now. At times I didn’t understand how hard I would
have to work and how hard it would be in general. … Just having
the year of experience has helped me.”

Thompson’s contributions were certainly needed as the Wildcats
had to work harder and longer to keep the stubborn Chippewas at
bay.

Thompson and Stallworth each scored 11 in the second half, but
the guard made her biggest contribution during Kentucky’s 19-10
scoring spurt after leading just 46-37 at the break. She scored
seven points during the run that ultimately provided a cushion as
the Chippewas fought back to make it interesting, getting within
80-68 on Jewel Cotton’s third straight basket with 5:53
remaining.

Stallworth added six points down the stretch to create some
distance from CMU. Kastine Evans added 13 points, Jennifer O’Neill
11 and Samarie Walker and Azia Bishop 10 each for the Wildcats
(4-0). Walker also had 11 rebounds.

Stallworth shot 6 of 8 from the field, made 9 of 10 free throws
and grabbed six rebounds as Kentucky outrebounded CMU 30-16 in the
period and 55-36 overall.

”I knew what we were going to have to do if we were going to
compete with them,” Central Michigan head coach Sue Guevara said.
”One was to handle the pressure and the other was to not allow so
many offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, that did not happen.”

Bishop, a reserve forward, had nine rebounds along with five
blocks for the Wildcats.

None of that would’ve been possible without Thompson.

”Is this the Janee Thompson I was looking for? The answer to
that is yes,” said Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell, adding that he
”butted heads” with Thompson as a freshman. ”She’s using her
gifts at a very high level. I thought her speed and her
aggressiveness in the attack on offense today in transition really
made a huge difference.”

Crystal Bradford scored a game-high 23 points for Central
Michigan (1-1) before fouling out with 2:35 left.

The Wildcats forced 28 turnovers but also committed 21.

Niki DiGuilio added 14 points and Cotton 12 for CMU, which shot
27 of 66 (41 percent).

Unlike previous routs of Wagner and Georgia Southern by margins
of 39 and 65 points respectively, Kentucky had to work harder
against a Central Michigan team coming off a 44-point drubbing of
Massachusetts in its opener.

The Chippewas quickly fell behind 12-2 and trailed by as many as
14 at 41-27, but they steadily fought back both times, twice
getting within six midway through the first half but and mostly
staying within single digits. Their defense forced the Wildcats
into some of their uncharacteristic 13 turnovers, and didn’t back
down from Kentucky’s inside duo of Stallworth and Walker.

Diguilio’s three shots from the beyond the arc helped, but 33
percent shooting prevented CMU from getting too close. Bishop had
something to do with that with 5 blocks that made the Chippewas
think twice about penetrating.

Kentucky lost forward Samantha Drake to a left leg injury in the
closing seconds of the first half. She spent the rest of the game
on the bench with the leg wrapped and will undergo an MRI on
Monday.