After a tough win over Middle Tennessee State on Friday night, the 8th ranked Kentucky women are back in action this evening against the Belmont Bruins in Memorial Coliseum. Tonight’s game is on the SEC Network, so take a break from watching Jim Harbaugh yell at the 49ers and check out the Cats. UK is 9-1 on the year looking for their sixth straight win in one of just a few more non-conference tuneups before SEC play begins in January. Mitchell switched up the starting lineup for the first time all season on Friday, and it helped Kentucky get off to a quicker start than they have in most games this season. Look for Mitchell to keep the pedal to the metal and push the pace against the Bruins tonight.
Belmont enters tonight’s game with a record of 2-6 under second year head coach Cameron Newbauer. Newbauer served as assistant for Louisville coach Jeff Walz and Georgia coach Andy Landers prior to arriving in Nashville, so he’s familiar with Coach Mitchell and his style of play. The Bruins lone wins on the season came against Denver and Lipscomb, while they have notably lost to Louisville and Vanderbilt earlier this year. BU also features Lexington native from Lexington Christian Academy, Katelin Bundy.
#8 Kentucky Wildcats vs. Belmont Bruins
FINAL KENTUCKY 71 BELMONT 55 It wasn’t always pretty, but it was surely entertaining. The Cats get their 10th win of the season tonight against a very well coached Belmont Bruin team who was motivated and energized out of their minds tonight. Azia Bishop had a monster, all-around performance for UK tonight, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. Kentucky will get a full week of practice this week before traveling to Durham, NC next Sunday to take on the 13th ranked Duke Blue Devils.
2nd Half 3:28: Freshman Alexis Jennings has her second straight double-digit scoring game tonight with 10 points, eight of them coming in the second half as Kentucky has made a more concerted effort to get into the post. The Cats built a 15 point lead, their largest of the game, but Belmont ya know…doesn’t quit playing. They sure don’t look like a 2-6 team at all and will likely be a factor in the OVC this season. Cats looking for one final push, leading 63-52.
2nd Half 6:59: Kentucky looks a little more settled on offense, finally establishing the post and using Alexis Jennings and Alyssa Rice to make some impressive moves down low. Belmont (like always) continues to drive the basketball however, and Kentucky hasn’t been able to stop them that well today at all. Bishop is nearing her career high with 15 points, while sophomore Linnae Harper has been a nice source of energy tonight with 12 points and seven rebounds. Cats lead 56-45.
2nd Half 11:50: I think somehow Coach Mitchell’s frustration with today’s game is being transmitted over to me on press row because I know have a splitting headache…in terms of the game, the Cats are now on a 7-0 run after the Bruins trimmed the lead down to just three points, capped off by another 3-pointer for Kyvin Goodin-Rogers. Confused as to where Jennifer O’Neill has been tonight? Yeah, me too. The leading scorer for the Wildcats has yet to record a point, and has spent a lot of time on the UK bench. Kentucky trying to pull away, up 48-38.
2nd Half 15:55: Well, the game’s still goin’ and we’re still looking for that big Kentucky run…Belmont has kept up that same energy seen in both their players and their coach, and they just refuse to back down. Kentucky looks a little out of sorts on offense, unsure of who they want to give the ball to and when, and the Bruins have taken advantage. In terms of Kentucky games, tonight has been fairly clean, with UK only forcing 10 miscues from BU and giving the ball away seven times themselves. Kentucky hanging on 39-34.
HALFTIME KENTUCKY 34 BELMONT 27 It wasn’t necessarily a score Mitchell is happy with at halftime, but I have to say it was a very entertaining half of basketball. Both teams were scrambling all over the court and leaping for rebounds, so the hustle is there, but the execution was lacking a bit. Senior Azia Bishop led the Cats with 10 points and looked as good as I’ve seen her all season. Look for Kentucky to come out with a big run in the second half (I hope), but don’t be surprised to see Belmont fight the entire 40 minutes.
1st Half 3:55: Kentucky has left a lot to be desired so far in this game, that’s for sure, but senior Azia Bishop has stepped up after not getting the starting nod for the second game in a row. She currently leads the Cats in scoring with 10 points and is using a finesse and tough usually uncommon for her. Mitchell has to be pleased with her response to starting the game on the bench, but he still looks to be uncharacteristically in agony on the sideline with UK’s play in this first half of action. Bishop just ran the length of the court to save a ball for Kentucky, and I have to say: she’s killin’ it. Cats still looking for that big run however, only winning 26-20.
1st Half 7:57: Mitchell just clutched his head in his hands, and that about sums up the first half for Kentucky so far. UK’s head man is clearly displeased with the execution from the Cats, and they’re letting the under-talented Belmont hang around longer than he would like. The Bruins aren’t afraid to take the ball to the rim with aggression, while Kentucky has spent too much time dancing around the perimeter without accomplishing anything. The Bruins are also out-rebounding UK 13-10 on pure effort alone. Kentucky still leading 20-16.
1st Half 9:40: Gotta hand it to Belmont, they’re fun to watch just because you can tell they love the game of basketball and they love the opportunity to knock off a top-1o opponent on their home floor. Coach Newbauer surely has Kentucky well scouted from his time at both Georgia and Louisville, and while Kentucky has had a few bright spots on offense, the Bruins are not backing away. Azia Bishop has looked good inside, as she should against the smaller and less talented post-players from BU. Makayla Epps has also had a few pretty moves, but is trigger happy from the 3-point line so far. Kentucky looking for some more balance and consistency but the Cats lead 16-14.
1st Half 15:51: Not the start Kentucky wanted tonight. Belmont has come out with fire and energy, and while they aren’t necessarily executing all of their plays, they have had enough spunk so far to keep this game competitive in the first four minutes. Mitchell quickly subbed in his starting five for a whole different five players less than two minutes into the game, clearly unhappy with the energy his Cats brought to the floor early. Freshman shooting guard Jaycee Coe was one of the new entries into the game, marking the quickest entry into a game she’s had all year. Kentucky leads 5-4.
TIPOFF: In a #KSRFashion update, Kentucky assistant coach Tamika Williams is sporting a pair of bright, metallic gold heels for the game tonight, and I’m a fan. A pretty decent sized crowd has filed into Memorial so far, which I’m sure Mitchell is happy with. In other news: I have wondered all year where another UK assistant coach, Christian Stefanopoulos has been. She hasn’t been on the bench for any games this season, and she isn’t announced on the PA at the start of the game. I’m gonna have to investigate…Bruins win the tip, and off we go.
10 Minutes till Tip: So far it’s a sleepy, late arriving crowd to Memorial tonight. A Sunday night is a tough slot for a game (especially in the winter), but if you didn’t make the trip out tonight make sure to tune in on the SEC Network. The cheerleaders are practicing behind me, peppy as usual, but Hayley isn’t here tonight to laugh with me. I’m expecting a throttling of Belmont tonight, a team that can’t simulate the talent in any position on the court that the Cats have.