No. 8 Kentucky women beat Belmont 71-55
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky senior Azia Bishop hasn't started the past two games for the eighth-ranked Wildcats. She doesn't seem to mind her new role.
Bishop came off the bench and scored a season-high 15 points and had 12 rebounds in Kentucky's 71-55 victory over Belmont on Sunday night. Kentucky improved to 10-1 with its sixth straight victory.
''Coming off the bench is more comfortable for me, because I can see the flow of the game, come into (the game) and know what I have to come in and do,'' Bishop said. ''My main focus was to bring energy on the court.''
Bishop did just that and finished 7 of 12 from the field and came within two points of matching her career high.
She was 5 of 6 from the field and scored 10 points in the first half to help the Wildcats take a 34-27 lead. Bishop, who started Kentucky's first nine games before settling into a reserve role in the past two contests, also had three rebounds, a block and a steal in the first half.
''When you can get some production from Azia, that's always good,'' Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. ''She's (came off the bench) for three years and we just need production from her. I loved her fight.''
Janee Thompson and Linnae Harper each added 12 points, and Alexis Jennings had 10.
Kentucky was without senior guard Bria Goss (8.1 points per game) and Mitchell said Goss injured her thumb during the team's shootaround Sunday.
''She tried to give it a go, we were just concerned about her health and decided to sit her,'' Mitchell said.
Taylor Mills led Belmont (2-7) with 13 points. Sierra Jones and Jordyn Luffman-Hartsfield had 10 each.
Kentucky, which never led by double digits until the second half, pulled away slowly in the final 20 minutes but never settled into a comfort zone. Belmont narrowed a 34-27 deficit to 41-38 with 14:38 remaining, but the Wildcats used a 13-3 run to push it to 54-41 with 7:57 remaining. The brief spree gave Kentucky breathing room.
Mitchell said Belmont ''certainly earned our respect.''
''I hope they go on and have a great season,'' Mitchell said. ''Belmont was tough today.''
Behind the play of Bishop, the Wildcats scored 30 points in the post and got 44 points from their bench.
Belmont: The loss to the Wildcats was the first of four straight road games for the Bruins. The four-game trek ends Dec. 22 at No. 16 Georgia. The Bruins fell to 1-3 overall against the Wildcats. Belmont leading scorer Frankie Joubran (12.3 ppg) scored just two points in the first half and finished with six points.
Kentucky: The Wildcats won their ninth straight home game and 49th consecutive nonconference game at Memorial Coliseum. Kentucky forced 21 turnovers and scored 25 points off those miscues. Kentucky's top scorer, Jennifer O'Neill (16.2 ppg), finished with three points.
Belmont: Visits Cleveland State on Tuesday.
Kentucky: Is at No. 13 Duke on Sunday.