No. 7 Kentucky 96, DePaul 64
DeNesha Stallworth is tough enough to guard by herself. Pair her with Samarie Walker, and it's easy to see why No. 7 Kentucky is off to such a great start this season.
Stallworth had 17 points and 13 rebounds and Walker added 18 points and 10 boards to lead the Wildcats to a 96-64 victory over DePaul on Friday night.
It was the second double-double of the season for each half of Kentucky's strong inside tandem.
''DeNesha and I try to push each other as much as we can in practice and on the floor,'' Walker said. ''Off the court we have a great relationship where we talk to each other about how we can motivate each other and all that.''
Stallworth, who passed 1,000 career points, said Walker helped smooth her transition to the Wildcats after transferring from California.
''I feel like we feed well off each other,'' she said. ''If I miss, Samarie will get the rebound and if Samarie misses, I try and get the rebound. It's pretty even.''
Stallworth was 7 for 13 from the field and Walker made 7 of 11 shots. But Stallworth also helped set the intense pace for the Wildcats by fighting hard for rebounds, grabbing eight offensive boards.
''I think the last four games, she's been getting better,'' coach Matthew Mitchell said. ''She started the game with great energy, got a great offensive board early in the game and I think our first bucket that way, and I think she just continues to get better and better and that's a great sign for our basketball team.''
Kentucky (7-1) shot 49 percent from the field in its sixth consecutive victory. A'dia Mathies had 17 points and nine boards, and Jennifer O'Neill scored 13.
The Wildcats also improved to 3-0 against the Blue Demons in the first game between the schools since 1984.
Kentucky got off to a fast start in its lone home game this season at Rupp Arena, scoring 23 straight points for a 25-2 lead in front of a record-breaking crowd of 18,488. The previous mark for a home game for the Kentucky women's team was 14,508 on Dec. 8, 2011, against Duke.
''Kentucky did a great job of putting us in the place they put us in,'' DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. ''We never recovered.''
Jasmine Perry scored 16 points for the Blue Demons (6-3). Lexington-area native Anna Martin had 14 points and Brittany Hrynko finished with 13.
DePaul shot just 40 percent and committed 21 turnovers. The Blue Demons lost to their first ranked opponent this season.
Kentucky was coming off a 48-47 comeback victory at No. 6 Louisville on Sunday, a sloppy game saved by freshman Janee Thompson's winning 3-pointer with 8.4 seconds left.
This one was a runaway from the start, with the Wildcats establishing a fast pace that the Blue Demons struggled to match in their first road game.
O'Neill scored six seconds into the game. Stallworth's follow made it 4-2 32 seconds later and started Kentucky's run of 23 consecutive points.
''The hot start came from these two in the first four minutes, just getting on the boards and getting offensive rebounds and putting them back,'' said Mathies, gesturing toward Stallworth and Walker. ''I wasn't surprised but it was definitely a great feeling to come out and be able to make a quick run to give us a little cushion.''
DePaul put together a 10-0 run to close to 40-24 in the first half. But the Blue Demons couldn't keep up with the Wildcats, especially Stallworth, who had 11 points and seven rebounds to help Kentucky carry a 51-33 lead into the break.
Unfazed by Penny or Katherine Harry in front of her, Stallworth fought her way to the basket and was just as fierce in Kentucky's pressure defense that made it hard for DePaul to inbound the ball early on.
The Wildcats kept up the pace in the second half, holding the Blue Demons to 34 percent shooting.
''You're happy to be up 18 against a good team like that,'' Mitchell said of the halftime lead. ''I didn't think 18 was a real big lead against that team. I just encouraged them to come out in that first four minutes and it was a three- or four-point victory in that first segment.
''The next four-minute segment was a two-point victory and that sort of settled us down.''