LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has found a winning formula for his 20th ranked Wildcats: defending all possessions. It’s a message he tries to reinforce every game.
A’dia Mathies scored 21 points, Victoria Dunlap added 18 and Kentucky forced 18 turnovers while extended its home winning streak to 15 games with an 80-66 win over Mississippi on Thursday night.
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“He always tells us it’s about defense,” said Dunlap, who leads the Southeastern Conference in steals. “That’s always what he says wins games. Fundamentals on defense.”
The Wildcats (19-3, 7-2) also harassed Mississippi guard Bianca Thomas into a 4 for 19 shooting performance, including 3 of 12 from 3-point range. Thomas, who came in ninth in the nation in scoring at 21 points per game, finished with 17.
“As we go forward, I’m saying the same things I said early on – that we need to keep doing the little things,” Mitchell said. “That message doesn’t seem to be getting boring.”
Ole Miss (14-8, 5-4) held its only lead at 6-5 early in the first half before the Wildcats went on a 14-2 run to pull away. Kentucky led 41-28 at halftime.
Mississippi, which shot only 23 percent (19 of 59), trailed by as many as 23 late in the game.
“I felt their pressure affected us greatly,” Mississippi coach Renee Ladner said. “It affected our shots, our normal shots.”
With every drive to the basket, Thomas was confronted with a flurry of hands slapping the ball away.
“We had possession after possession,” Ladner said. “We just didn’t do anything with it.”
Despite having a height advantage, the Rebels were outscored 36-20 in the paint.
“I think our chemistry is good and our intensity on defense is good,” Dunlap said. “We can let bad things happen during the game because we know we can get back in it.”