January 18, 2013 11:28:33 AM
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- DeNesha Stallworth's night started when she received a specially marked game ball recognizing her recently surpassing 1,000 career points.
Stallworth capped it with a performance to remember, scoring a season high 25 points to help the No. 5 University of Kentucky women's basketball team defeat Mississippi State University 100-47 on Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.
After missing her first three shots, Stallworth made nine of her final 12 for her best game with Kentucky, which moved to 17-1 for the best start in school history. She fell five points short of her career high achieved against the University of Southern California as a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley in January 2010. She's in her first season with the Wildcats after sitting out last season following her transfer.
"I rushed a couple of shots," said Stallworth, who also had six rebounds and four assists. "I have to continue to play tough and play through contact, so that's something I have to work on."
Stallworth's performance keyed a night of milestones for the Wildcats, who moved past the 1982-83 team which opened 16-1.
Kentucky's 53-point victory margin was its largest against a Southeastern Conference opponent in school history, while its 35 turnovers and 17 steals were also SEC highs. The Wildcats scored 42 points off turnovers. Kentucky's previous largest margin of victory in a SEC game was an 88-40 victory against MSU on Jan. 8, 2012. Its three largest margins of victory in SEC games have come in its past three games against MSU.
A'dia Mathies added 21 points and Bria Goss had 13 as Kentucky (5-0 SEC) also extended its school-record winning streak to 16 games and its record home streak to 32.
Kendra Grant had 11 points and Carnecia Williams 10 for MSU (8-10, 0-5), which lost its fifth straight, and sixth in a row to Kentucky. The loss was MSU's third worst in a SEC game in program history. It eclipsed a 92-41 loss to Vanderbilt in its first SEC game this season.
"That's a great basketball team out there," MSU first-year coach Vic Schaefer said of Kentucky. "We lost to a great team and we were pretty outmanned."
While the domination was nothing new for a Kentucky squad that has defended its floor well for nearly two years, the Wildcats had to fight to win their previous two home games against the University of Florida and Texas A&M University.
Kentucky, which plays four of its next five games at home, shot 50 percent (37 of 74) from the field and outrebounded MSU 46-20. The Wildcats' 26 offensive rebounds alone were more than MSU.
"Coach always tells us that great offensive rebounding teams win the SEC," said Mathies, who had six rebounds along with Samarie Walker and Stallworth. "We want to be a good rebounding team in general, so we went out and crashed the boards on both sides and blocked out so they won't get the rebounds. It worked pretty well tonight."
The Bulldogs hung tough in the early stages. After falling down 11-2, MSU battled back with six straight points and trailed 16-12 after a Candace Foster layup with 13 minutes, 16 seconds left in the half. MSU continued to shoot well early and closed within 22-17 on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Kendra Grant with 9:10 left in the half. Kentucky turned the up the full-court pressure and scored the game's next 11 points. The Wildcats forced 16 first-half turnovers and led 46-24 at halftime. From there, the Wildcats opened the second half on a 19-2 run and cruised to the victory.
"Kentucky is very good," Schaefer said. "In the first half, we tried to spread them out and get in some one-on-one situations. Anytime you screened, we knew they were going to double us. (UK coach) Matthew (Mitchell) has done a great job at Kentucky. They have great players, a great system and their kids play really hard. In this game, it's not what you do, but how you do it that separates you from a lot of people."
The first half belonged to Stallworth, who scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbed three rebounds.
Kentucky's defense harassed MSU into 17 first-half turnovers, leading to 18 points. All but one player scored for Kentucky, which also got 21 points from its reserves. Kastine Evans added 12 points for Kentucky and Brittany Henderson had eight rebounds.
Wildcats forward Azia Bishop also made a sooner-than-expected return from a left wrist injury sustained three games ago against Alabama. Expected to miss four contests, she checked in just before halftime and had four rebounds and two points in nine minutes.
After shooting just 40 percent in their four previous SEC games, Wildcats coach Matthew Mitchell was happy with his team's best game from the field and second 100-point effort this season.
"(We were) really good at the 3-point line tonight and really good at that free-throw line tonight," said Mitchell, adding that his team was "pretty good making layups and trying to get in there and drawing some contact and making some shots in the paint.
"Just not a lot to complain about on offense."
Said Schaefer, "We lost to a good team today. I was proud of several of my kids because I thought they competed most of the night. Right now at Mississippi State, we are trying to teach our kids competing and toughness."
MSU will play host to Texas A&M University at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Humphrey Coliseum.
n No. 9 Tennessee 75, Auburn 66: At Auburn, Ala., Meighan Simmons scored 29 points and Tennessee rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half.
The Lady Vols (14-3, 5-0) used a 40-15 run to take control of a game they'd trailed most of the way en route to their seventh consecutive win.
Kamiko Williams' drive with 10:05 left gave Tennessee its first lead -- 49-47 -- since the game's opening basket.
Taber Spani had 12 points for the Lady Vols and Ariel Massengale added 11.
Hasina Muhammed and Blanche Alverson scored 15 points apiece to lead Auburn.
n No. 13 Georgia 57, Arkansas 53: At Fayetteville, Ark., Shacobia Barbee had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Georgia overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Arkansas.
Georgia (16-2, 4-1 SEC) had a 9-8 lead before the Razorbacks went on a 22-10 run to close out the first half and take a 30-19 lead into the break.
The Bulldogs fought back in the second half and took a 47-46 lead a Barbee's with 4:10 to go. Georgia never trailed again from that point on, outscoring the Razorbacks 38-23 in the second half.
James had 13 points and Jasmine Hassell finished with 12 for Georgia.
Sarah Watkins led Arkansas (13-5, 1-4) with 14 points, five rebounds, and four blocked shots.
n No. 19 South Carolina 66, LSU 59: At Columbia, S.C., Ieasia Walker scored 24 points, surpassing 1,000 for her career to lead South Carolina.
Aleighsa Welch added 14 points and Ashley Bruner had 13 for the Gamecocks (15-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference), who led 36-28 early in the second half before the Lady Tigers (11-7, 2-3) battled back to tie the game at 48 with 8:14 remaining.
Walker had a steal and layup to make it 59-55 before Bruner's steal led to two free throws by Welch that gave South Carolina a 61-55 lead with 1:01 left.
Theresa Plaisance led LSU with 18 points, Bianca Lutley had 16 and Adrienne Webb 14.