Showcasing the depth and cohesiveness that was missing against No. 8 Louisville Sunday, No. 7 UK Hoops (7-1) blew past DePaul (6-3) 96-64 Friday.
Dubbed the “Pack the House” game, the Cats and the Blue Demons played before 18,488 fans at Rupp Arena, a new attendance record for UK women’s basketball.
After a strong opening six minutes, the Cats opened up the game with a 25-2 run.
“I was very excited to see that opening run, because we were prepared to slug it out tonight against a really, really tough opponent,” UK coach Matthew Mitchell said. “That was a great, great opening run, a way to open the game and get the crowd into it early.”
A large part of the early push, and the Cats’ victory overall, was the post play of junior centre DeNesha Stallworth and junior forward Samarie Walker.
The starting duo combined for 35 points and 23 rebounds as each player recorded a double-double.
“They need to be weapons for us,” Mitchell said of Stallworth and Walker. “That needs to be one of the toughest post tandems in the country, and for us to realize our potential, we need some more games like that. But I was really pleased with our post effort tonight, especially out of the two starters.”
With a prolific front court in top form, Mitchell was left with addressing the point guard position, a role he says “still needs to develop.”
The Cats put in a full team effort on distribution, with 10 no fewer than 10 players appearing in the assists column of the box score. In total, UK dished the ball to scorers 15 times.
After saying he wasn’t sure who would start at the point, Mitchell sent redshirt sophomore guard Jennifer O’Neill out for the opening tip.
O’Neill scored 13 points, including making three of her six attempts from behind the arc. Mitchell was pleased with her offense, but noted that parts of her game were still lacking.
“It’s still a work in progress. I was so happy that Jennifer came out aggressive on offense. That’s her strength right now,” he said. “I’m happy with that. I just need a little more toughness at that position and I’m sure they are going to work on it and I’m sure we’ll get there.”
Joining Walker, Stallworth and O’Neill in double-figure scoring was senior guard A’dia Mathies, who bounced back from injury issues in the Louisville game to lead all scorers with 18 points.
Overall, UK’s biggest statistical advantages over DePaul were bench points (29 -8) and second-chance points (24-11).
Keeping in line with their regularly deep rotations, all 13 Cats played Friday, with only junior forward Samantha Drake failing to score.
In the shortest turnaround of the season thus far, the Cats play next on Sunday in the more familiar surroundings of Memorial Coliseum.
Tipoff against Middle Tennessee is scheduled for 1 p.m.