No. 8 Kentucky rebounds from loss, trounces Samford

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Samantha Drake is glad to have new teammate Samarie Walker down in the paint with her, giving No. 8 Kentucky yet another option in its varied attack.

Drake scored 18 points and Walker added 10 as the Wildcats rebounded from their first loss of the season by routing Samford 90-61 Wednesday night for Kentucky's 31st straight nonconference home victory.

"It's a big help," Drake said. "I don't have to have all the pressure on me. Having another forward out there gives us a chance to have another big scorer inside."

Kentucky (11-1) never trailed against Samford (6-5) after falling at No. 3 Notre Dame on Sunday. Against the Bulldogs, everyone got involved with coach Matthew Mitchell using all 13 players on his bench in the first half.

"I thought the players really had quality work the last couple of days coming off that disappointing loss. I thought we were able to refocus pretty well and get going. The improvement in the post game could help down the road," Mitchell said. "The last two days were real productive for us from a practice standpoint because we really did just try to slow things down and have not only our guards trying to find our post players."

Paige Anderson led Samford with 24 points, but the Bulldogs only managed to hang around for the first 3½ minutes before Kentucky used a 9-0 run to take a 10-point lead. Kentucky's frenetic defense forced 28 turnovers that the Wildcats converted into 35 points.

"They are a very good team that has a tremendous style of play that's a little different," Samford coach Mike Morris said. "You don't see it every day. They're deep. They can make you look very bad."

Kentucky, which leads the nation in turnover margin and is second in scoring, managed to shoot 54.7 percent, its highest mark of the season.

Azia Bishop scored 13 points, Keyla Snowden 12, and Bria Goss and Kastine Evans had 11 apiece for Kentucky. Walker, a transfer from Connecticut who was eligible for the first time against the Irish, also had seven rebounds in her first game at Memorial Coliseum in front of 5,311.

"I was really excited at first, obviously about my first home game," said Walker, who got a loud ovation when she checked in for the first time. "When the crowd started cheering, I wasn't expecting that."

Kylie Black's 3-pointer cut Kentucky's lead to 11-10, but the Wildcats went on a 9-0 spurt capped by consecutive baskets by Snowden. Kentucky needed less than 2 minutes to open up a 20-10 lead by capitalizing on three straight Samford turnovers.

"We weathered the storm the first 3 minutes, then they're subbing five in, five out so much and that's really tough on us," Anderson said. "We're still working into roles going into conference play and that's what a game like this is about. That's what coach said, we schedule these games to get better."

Samford's 10th mistake and Kentucky's subsequent basket by Walker put the Wildcats ahead 30-14 with 11:23 left in the half. Kentucky pushed the lead to 40-20 a little over four minutes later and led 55-28 at halftime. It marked the most points the Wildcats have scored in the first half this season.

Kentucky led 60-30 less than 2 minutes into the second half and led by as many as 36 points in the first matchup ever between the two schools.

Ruth Ketcham scored 14 points and Jazmine Powers had 12 points for Samford.

Next up for Kentucky is a nonconference road game at Middle Tennessee State next Wednesday before opening Southeastern Conference play at Florida on Jan. 1. The Wildcats return home to play Arkansas on Jan. 5, beginning a three-game homestand that concludes with a game against No. 6 Tennessee on Jan. 12.

"I'm really, really happy. I can't tell you how happy I am to be 11-1 with one more (non)conference game," Mitchell said. "If we can find some way to beat Middle Tennessee -- and that'll be a real challenge down there, we'll have to work hard -- that'll be fantastic. But I'm ecstatic right now."