Goss leads No. 9 Kentucky women over Missouri

KEITH TAYLOR Associated Press Published:

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has taken note of Missouri's progression in its second season in the Southeastern Conference.

The Tigers (13-4, 2-2, Southeastern Conference), gave host Kentucky all it could handle before the Wildcats pulled away in the second half for an 80-69 win Sunday.

"It's amazing to me how far coach (Robin) Pingeton has brought that team in one year," Mitchell said. "They are really tough and they are a very, very difficult matchup for us. I was extremely concerned coming into the game and knew it would be a battle to get the victory."

Pingeton said her team "played with great poise" all while "in the process of building a program."

"This is part of the process and we want to continue to build it day-by-day," the fourth-year Missouri coach said. "I think we're a much-better team than a year ago and a much-better team than we were two weeks ago. I'm obviously disappointed (with the loss) but very proud of our kids, too."

Kentucky (14-3, 2-2) had a tough time with Missouri forward Bri Kulas, who led all scorers with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Kulas did most of her scoring in the first half, scoring 20 points as the Tigers led by eight three times in the half before Kentucky rallied back to end a two-game conference losing streak and record the 700th win in school history.

The Wildcats scored most of their points in transition, scoring 28 on 17 Missouri turnovers. Kentucky also had 21 second-chance points and outrebounded the Tigers 42-38. Pingeton said Kentucky's pressure played a role in her team's inability to sustain the lead.

"To be in the ball game against a great Kentucky team, we had to limit ourselves to 14 or less turnovers," Pingeton said.

Bria Goss scored 20 points and had a clutch three-point play with 3:34 left that helped the Wildcats (14-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) get back on track following back-to-back losses to Florida and South Carolina.

"This is a huge win," Goss said. "Missouri is a really good team and for us to come out (and play) the way we did and battle back, get that confidence back is really good for us."

Janee Thompson followed Goss with 16 points, Jennifer O'Neill and DeNesha Stallworth each had 11 and Samarie Walker finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds to round out five Kentucky players in double figures.

Goss was 10-10 from the free-throw line and just missed a double-double with eight rebounds for the short-handed Wildcats.

Kentucky was without senior guard Kastine Evans, who sat out because of an undisclosed leg injury. Evans, the team's third leading scorer (11.2 points per game) leads the team in three-point field goals with 25.

Missouri (13-4, 2-2) led by eight three times in the first half but Kentucky rallied each time. Trailing 24-16 with 7:32 remaining in the first half, the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 16-2 for a 32-26 lead. Kentucky pushed the margin to 35-28 on a 3-pointer by Goss and led 37-31 at the half.

A timeout by Mitchell before the decisive scoring spree ignited the Wildcats.

"He (Mitchell) told us to just let everything go, just play and be confident," Goss said.

Missouri managed just one field goal in the last eight minutes of the first half and shot 39 percent for the game.

Kentucky scored six of the first eight points of the second half and led 43-33 with 18 minutes remaining. The Tigers pulled to within five twice in the final 20 minutes but couldn't get any closer.