ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands (AP) Kentucky struggled early in all three of its games at the Paradise Jam. For the second night in a row, the Wildcats found a way to rally and beat a quality opponent.
Jen O'Neill scored 17 points and Janee Thompson added 15 to help the No. 9 Wildcats top South Florida 61-57 on Saturday in the final game of the Paradise Jam. Kentucky trailed Oklahoma by seven late in the game Friday night before rallying for the overtime victory.
''We dug down and played good defense and that really carried the way for us,'' Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. ''USF was a little tired on their jump shots there at the end and that helped.''
On Saturday, the Wildcats trailed by seven in the second half before tying the game at 55 on Makayla Epps' layup with 33 seconds left. After Courtney Williams missed for South Florida, Thompson hit the first of two free throws.
Kentucky got the rebound and Bria Goss was fouled. She hit both her free throws to give the Wildcats (6-1) a 60-55 lead with 8 seconds left to seal the win.
''All five of our guards are attacking guards,'' Epps said. ''Regardless of who is in front of us, I believe that we can drive to the basket. Jen O'Neill played great. She gave us her signature `boom' tonight. It got me fired up. When she starts going to the basket and Janee (Thompson) and Bria (Goss) is going to the basket, it just gets everybody motivated and gets everybody going.''
Williams scored 23 points to lead South Florida (5-2).
South Florida: This was just the second meeting ever between the schools. Kentucky won the inaugural contest routing the Bulls 93-65 in the first round of the Lady Kat Invitational in 1983.
Kentucky: Improved to 3-1 this season and 36-57 under Mitchell when trailing at the half. ... Azia Bishop had four points and 10 rebounds for her second double-figure rebounding game this season.
Kentucky: hosts Northern Kentucky on Wednesday.
South Florida: hosts Stetson on Wednesday.