No. 7 Kentucky rallies to top No. 4 Louisville

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky players didn't need to hear coach Matthew Mitchell's halftime tirade to understand how bad rival and No. 4 Louisville was beating them. The Wildcats felt it with every missed shot, turnover and loose ball they failed to grab.

Mitchell's one-on-one with DeNesha Stallworth struck a nerve with the senior forward, who took charge after a poor start to lead another stirring comeback in a battle for Bluegrass State supremacy.

Stallworth scored 15 second-half points and Jennifer O'Neill hit a critical jumper with 40.8 seconds left, rallying seventh-ranked Kentucky from a 14-point deficit to beat the Cardinals 69-64 on Sunday.

"He just basically told me that I'm not playing how I could be playing, relax and stop being so selfish because I wasn't helping my team," Stallworth said of the halftime talk. "I took that personally and just tried to contribute more to my team, whether that's rebounding or scoring points, doing little things like that."

After missing her first six shots with one free throw in the first half, Stallworth made six of her last nine and grabbed six of her eight rebounds in the final 20 minutes. O'Neill's jumper provided a 67-62 lead to bring a roar through sold-out Memorial Coliseum and help her finish with 12 points after a scoreless first half.

It also sealed the Wildcats' second consecutive comeback over Louisville, which seemed improbable at the break.

Kentucky (8-0) also erased a big lead last year in a 48-47 win in Louisville. This time, the Wildcats were down 36-27 at halftime but went up 51-45 with 9:42 left behind Stallworth, O'Neill and Bernisha Pinkett, who sank two 3-pointers in the 24-9 run.

Louisville (7-1) bounced back to tie the game three times and trailed 64-62 with 2:14 to go. Stallworth made a free throw, then O'Neill's jumper from the top of the key sealed the Wildcats' third straight win over the Cardinals in the 50th meeting between the schools.

"I thought they played very, very tough and we were extremely fortunate to win," Mitchell said. "(I'm) really excited that we were able to turn around a difficult start and play a tough second half and find some way to win.

"Good day for us, we need to get better and learn from it and move forward because the road doesn't get any easier," Mitchell added.

Kentucky faces No. 9 Baylor on Friday night in Arlington, Texas.

The Wildcats improved to 32-18 against Louisville and won their 16th straight over the Cardinals at Memorial and 43rd consecutive nonconference home game.

Stallworth's 16 points and eight rebounds led the Wildcats, who were 8 of 17 on 3-pointers. Janee Thompson added 13 points.

In the second half, Kentucky forced 10 of its 24 turnovers while holding the Cardinals to 28 percent shooting and out-rebounding Louisville 26-21. The Wildcats' bench also outscored Louisville 28-11.

O'Neill led that effort but the Wildcats got six points each from Pinkett and freshman guard Makayla Epps on 3-pointers. Azia Bishop added four points and seven rebounds.

"We've got a really deep team and lot of talent on our bench," said Thompson, a sophomore guard who decided last year's game with a 3-pointer in the final seconds for the one-point win. "Anybody on our bench can come in and contribute, and I think that's what they were trying to do. It did really help, it gave us a spark and that boost that we needed."

Shoni Schimmel scored 17 points and Sara Hammond 12 for Louisville, which struggled with foul trouble in the second half. Hammond fouled out soon after bringing the Cardinals within a basket late in the game.

Kentucky took over from there, leaving the Cardinals to what wonder what might have been -- again.

"I thought we did a great job of rebounding in the first half, controlled the boards, controlled the tempo of the game and played it exactly how we wanted to play it," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "And then, we just came out in the second half and missed a lot of point-blank shots we normally don't miss and started to give up offensive rebounds because we were getting frustrated. That's a bad combination."