Matthew Mitchell told media this week he was switching up his lineup based on effort in practice. This week’s lineup was Jennifer O’Neill, Kastine Evans, Bria Goss, Jelleah Sidney and Samarie Walker- the first time the Cat’s used this lineup all season. This was Sidney’s first career start. The mix-up must have worked because the Wildcats defeated the Razorbacks 68-58. Kentucky is now 16-4 for the season and 4-3 in the SEC.
Kentucky was down in the second half down by 10 at one point, but they didn’t stay that way for long. Senior Jennifer O’Neill said that was a test for their team progress, “It was extremely important because that’s something that we’ve been struggling with for the past few games. The biggest thing was, when we were down 10, we played with poise. We didn’t panic and we didn’t look to rush things. We played with poise and a sense of urgency.”
Jennifer O’Neill led the team in scoring with 21 points. This is O’Neill’s 14th game with double-digit scoring and second game with 20 or more points. She had a season-best six rebounds and a career best six defensive rebounds. She also had her sixth game with 5 or more assists and a career best from the arc shooting 5/9 on the 3. Janee Thompson contributed 13 for her 12th double-digit game this season. Bria Goss also had her ninth double-figure game and second straight with 10 points.
Sophomore point guard Janee Thompson said her second half scoring spurt was fueled by feeding off her teammates, “I was just trying to be aggressive. Actually, seeing my teammates do well and seeing (Jennifer O’Neill) knock down all of those shots, seeing Bria (Goss) do so well got me excited. That made me play harder. Just the energy and the atmosphere on the entire bench was different and there was no room for anybody to be low-energy today.”
Today was also alumni day in Memorial Coliseum. Coach Mitchell said he was proud of how his team fought in front of former UK Hoops players, “With the way we have been acting and feeling sorry for ourselves that was a critical juncture down 10 with no life whatsoever. So you give credit to those kids that went out there and flipped that 20-point swing and I did need to see that. That was huge and really, really big. What we have to do is get everybody feeling that way and everybody working like that. Really happy with the freshmen on the bench, playing three minutes apiece, but they were exuberant and happy after the victory, that is what we need. We need to really play together and work hard so I was very happy to see that happen. Then the alumni, what a special day for them. They just came back yesterday and today for a two-day event and had a great time. They just brought such great positive energy and talked about how grateful they were for the experience. I thought it was really good for our players to spend some time and after practice we just went in there and had a lot of time we were able to spend with different people. That was very special and I am ecstatic we were able to honor them with a victory.”
As I wrote about earlier this week, Coach Mitchell and his foundation are donating $2 to the Pat Summitt Foundation for each fan attending the two games this week. With 4,722 fans vs. Alabama on Thursday and 5,396 vs. Arkansas, the total was $20,236. Coach Mitchell announced today he would double the amount, making the grand total $40,472 towards Alzheimer’s research. The Cats travel to Athens on Thursday to take on the Dawgs. The game will air on Fox Sports South at 9 pm ET.