No. 7 Kentucky beats Central Michigan, 96-74

Central Michigan learned an early-season lesson at No. 7

Kentucky. The Chippewas hope it pays dividends down the road.

CMU fell to the Wildcats 96-74 after rolling past Massachusetts

105-61 in the season opener a week ago. The Wildcats jumped out to

a 14-2 lead early and though the Chippewas pulled within six points

three times in the first half, they came no closer in the first of

six ranked nonconference opponents.

”If you look at our schedule, in our league, we have to win

three games in March,” Central Michigan head coach Sue Guevara

said. ”That’s what we have to do to get to the tournament. We’re

only a one-bid league. It’s only a schedule that’s going to help us

get better. But like I tell my players: It’s not for the meek and

the mild.”

Kentucky demonstrated that, outrebounding Central Michigan

55-36, and also forced the Chippewas into 28 turnovers.

It still took some time for Kentucky (4-0) to put away CMU

(1-1). The Wildcats only led 46-37 at halftime over the preseason

Mid-American Conference favorites, and they didn’t build a 20-point

lead until the final minute of the game.

”I knew what we were going to have to do if we were going to

compete with them,” Guevara said. ”One was to handle the pressure

and the other was to not allow so many offensive rebounds.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.”

Kentucky’s depth took a toll on CMU. The Wildcats used all 12 of

their players in the first half, and six players finished in double

figures for the Wildcats.

Senior Crystal Bradford came off the bench to score a game-high

23 points for Central Michigan on 9 of 15 shooting, moving past the

1,000-point mark for her career. She was limited to 22 minutes by

foul trouble, though, and fouled out with 2:35 to go.

Senior guard Niki DiGuilio finished with 14 points while

shooting 3 of 6 from 3-point range for CMU.

Senior forward DeNesha Stallworth led Kentucky with 21 points

while adding six rebounds. Senior forward Samarie Walker had 10

points and 11 rebounds for her 12th career double-double.

Janee Thompson added a career-high 17 for Kentucky.

Kastine Evans added 13 points, Jennifer O’Neill 11 and Samarie

Walker and Azia Bishop 10 each for the Wildcats (4-0).

Unlike previous routs of Wagner and Georgia Southern by margins

of 39 and 65 points respectively, Kentucky had to work harder

against CMU.

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 Kentcky’s inside duo of Stallworth and Walker.

Niki 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 was a little bit better from the field, hitting 15 of

34 (44 percent) including five 3-pointers. The Wildcats also

controlled the lane, outscoring the Chippewas 18-8 through 20

minutes and outrebounding them 25-20.

”Do I think we gave Kentucky our best shot? No, I don’t,”

Guevara said. ”But give Kentucky all the credit in the world,

because they get after you, they stay after you, they cause

turnovers, they attack the glass. I vote in the Top 25, so I might

have to vote them higher.”

”Good opponent today. Central Michigan really fought hard and

drove the basketball at us all day.”