UK star forward Victoria Dunlap was listed as probable on whether or not she would play in Tuesday’s game against Tennessee Tech.
Dunlap played, but Tennessee Tech probably wishes she didn’t.
Dunlap lead all scorers with 30 points (three points shy of her career high), and she had nine rebounds and led UK (6-1) to a 77-53 win over Tennessee Tech (5-2, 1-0 Ohio Valley Conference).
“Victoria is going to have to assert herself consistently depending how many minutes she gets,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “In the past there was enough experience where she could get her work done, get the game in control and mentally check out, but she can’t do that now.“
UK started the game looking like a team out for revenge after an embarrassing 52-78 loss at Louisville on Sunday. UK held the Golden Eagles to only one field goal in the first eight minutes. After Tennessee Tech connected on its second field goal, the Cats went on a 14-2 run to seize an 18-point lead 10 minutes into the game.
However, the Cats then became complacent. To end the half the Cats went scoreless for nearly five minutes until Victoria Dunlap’s fade away 17-footer pushed the UK lead to eight at halftime.
“We had another lull there (at the end of the first half) and you can see how bad we can be,” Mitchell said. “They had a 12-0 run and if we don’t play hard Tennessee Tech would have had a great chance to win the game.”
Dunlap did a little bit of everything to give UK a comfortable lead, but with 5:06 left in the game Dunlap went down with an injury, her third time doing so in her last three games. Dunlap said the she was just cramping up, but nonetheless she didn’t return.
After Dunlap went out, the Cats didn’t falter. Sophomore guard A’dia Mathies picked up the slack and finished with her second double-double of the season. Most of Mathies’ 17 points came late in the second half and she finished with 10 rebounds.
“I was being more aggressive (in the second half),” Mathies said. “I think in the first half I was being shy, I’d get a little contact and I wasn’t being strong enough when I went up, so in the second half I tried to be more aggressive.”
That aggressive attitude allowed Mathies to get six steals that contributed to the Golden Eagles’ 29 turnovers. UK had 29 points off those turnovers, but none were more important than a sequence in the second half.
Dunlap scored an easy layup; UK stole the ensuing inbounds pass, scored and repeated again, sparking an 8-0 run by UK, thanks to a timeout from Mitchell.
“We weren’t playing aggressive and we needed to go to black trap and we became more aggressive forced turnovers and picked up the intensity,” Mathies said.
That intensity led to 20 offensive rebounds that led to 26 second-chance points.
12 players saw action for UK against the Golden Eagles, nine of them scoring.
“We are depending on those kids to step up and play,” Mitchell said. “There’s no other option here but for them to improve if we want to be anywhere close to being the team I’m thinking we can be.”