“I wanted them to hustle first and focus second,” he said.
It worked. The Wildcats limited Missouri to 2-of-20 from behind the arc and 35.3 percent from the field in a 69-43 win. The Tigers average 9.9 3-pointers per game.
DeNesha Stallworth scored 17 points and A’dia Mathies added 14 to help Kentucky (16-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) extend its school-record winning streak to 15 games. The team scored the first six points of the game and never trailed, winning its 16th game this season by at least 18 points.
The reigning SEC Player of the Year and this year’s preseason conference player of the year, Mathies is used to the attention. But Mitchell talked after the game about Stallworth’s unselfishness despite leading the team in scoring Sunday.
“She doesn’t care about anything else but winning,” he said. “But she does recognize that she does need to play well for us to win. She just can hurt you in so many ways.”
Stallworth’s layup with 10:08 left in the first half gave Kentucky an early 23-4 lead. Missouri, which started only 1-of-9 from the field, countered with the next nine points but could get no closer, snapping its 11-game home winning streak.
Mitchell said he worried about his team relaxing, but attributed the 4-minute scoring drought to rushing after missed shots.
“I just thought we got a little unsettled offensively and took a few bad shots,” he said.
Sydney Crafton led Missouri (12-6, 1-3) with 11 points and nine rebounds. The Tigers now get a much-needed week off after facing their third top-10 team in four games spanning 10 days.
“We can’t be defined by that scoreboard,” said coach Robin Pingeton, whose team lost those three games by an average of 34 points. The Tigers shot only 19.7 percent from the field in their last game Thursday at No. 9 Tennessee.
Twelve of Missouri’s 13 players only have one year or less of playing experience, and Pingeton believes her team is learning game-by-game.
“Now we know what to expect,” Crafton said. “So going into these other games, we should know what to expect and how to react and what it takes. I like it.
“It can only get better from here.”
Morgan Eye, whose 4.1 3-pointers per game also rank first nationally, scored on all three attempts inside the arc but failed to make any of her four shots from long range. Kulas scored nine points but only shot 4-for-16 from the field and 1-for-8 on 3-pointers.
Jennifer O’Neill added 11 points for Kentucky, which made all of its 12 free throws attempts. The Wildcats gradually extended their lead in the second half, and the widest margin occurred after O’Neill’s layup with 27 seconds remaining.
Kentucky leads the country with a plus-10.3 rebounding margin, but only outrebounded the Tigers 40-37. The Wildcats won the turnover battle, 15-11, though, and benefitted from 16 second-chance points and taking 16 more shots than Missouri.
“Coach emphasized that before the game, just crashing the offensive boards,” Mathies said. “That we felt like we had more athleticism than them.”
Kentucky started 4-0 in SEC play for the second consecutive season, having won its first 10 conference games during the 2011-12 season. Much of that success flows from the team’s full-court press. Asked if Missouri’s emphasis on 3-point shooting can work in the SEC, Mitchell replied by evaluating his own team.
“I’m absolutely convinced that, sometimes when you play a different style in our league, good things can happen for you,” he said. “We, three years ago, adopted a very radical style compared to the rest of the teams in the league and it’s been very successful for us.”
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