No. 5 Kentucky loses F Stallworth for 3-4 weeks

Kentucky starting forward DeNesha Stallworth will be sidelined

up to four weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

Stallworth had surgery on Wednesday to remove loose cartilage in

her left knee. She was averaging 14.2 points and 7.0 rebounds for

the fifth-ranked Wildcats (9-0).

Azia Bishop will start in her place for Thursday night’s game at

DePaul (4-2). Jelleah Sidney also will get extra playing time, with

Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell saying he plans to use a four-guard

lineup.

The team lost reserve forward Samantha Drake for the season

after she tore her left anterior cruciate against Central

Michigan.

Mitchell says the Wildcats’ depth has prepared them to handle

Stallworth’s absence.

”Everybody in the country has some type of adversity in

different ways,” Mitchell said during a news conference. ”I think

we’re as well-equipped to handle it as anybody. We have 10 really

good players available for us tomorrow night against DePaul and we

have to embrace this as an opportunity to get better.”

Stallworth scored 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and made four

steals in Kentucky’s 133-130, quadruple overtime victory over No. 9

Baylor on Friday. Mitchell said her knee kept swelling after the

game and kept her from practicing Monday and Tuesday before having

the surgery.

While the coach said Stallworth’s injury was news he didn’t want

to hear, the damage isn’t serious and he expects her to return ”as

good as new” in time for the beginning of Kentucky’s Southeastern

Conference schedule.

In the meantime, the 6-foot-3 Bishop, 6-2 Sidney and freshman

guard Makayla Epps will assume bigger roles for a Wildcats team

coming off consecutive wins over top-10 teams.

Bishop has been a key reserve for Kentucky with per-game

averages of 6.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and a team-high 11 blocks.

Sidney has played in every game and averaging career bests of 3.1

rebounds and 2.8 points including a career-high nine against

Bradley.

Epps, 5-10, is averaging 5.3 points and coming off scoring nine

points against Baylor. She can play several spots and is being

counted to provide support for forward Samarie Walker.

Kentucky will need everybody to weather the absence of one of

their best players.

Said Mitchell, ”we feel good about our prospects of handling

this piece of adversity.”