"We really grinded it out tonight. It wasn't pretty at times, but we did the things we had to do to win. we found a way to beat a good team. Our bench helped us on the perimeter and our defense was a real key."
That was how Kentucky coach Mickie DeMoss described a 71-56 victory over previously unbeaten Florida International. UK went to 5-0, remaining undefeated.
On defense, the uk frontline virtually shut down Florida International's leading scorer and rebounder, Lasma Jekabsone, holding her to just 2-11 FG shooting. "Kentucky has a lot of depth and size and they just wore us down," said Florida International coach Cindy Russo.
When Sarah Elliott fell and hit the floor hard 2:30 into Thursday night's game, the entire stadium held heir breath. She gamely got up and limped down the court, but the grimace on her face was telling. She left the game and was attended to on the sideline, "Fortunately, it was a minor ankle injury," said coach DeMoss, "we were extremely worried that she had reinjured her knee. She started the game well and I was disappointed to see her have to leave the game, but fortunately we were able to get her back in there."
Elliott would not return to the game until just 6:29 remained in the first half, with the Cats holding a slim 22-18 margin where she played out the half somewhat tentatively. In the second half Elliott would team with Jennifer Humphrey on a 2-player "high-low" offense that resulted in eight Wildcat points for Humphrey. "We were really ineffective at stopping the high-low game of Kentucky," said coach Cindy Russo, "they beat us with that all night long."
Although Russo called out the high-low game from the Kentucky women's big players, it was the sparkplugs off the bench that were the stars on Thursday night. I'd really have to give a lot of credit to our bench," DeMoss said, "Alcius and Pfeiffer really gave us the lift we needed when we needed it most."
Nastassia Alcius was the Cats' most valuable player tonight. At the 15:25 mark in the second half, with Kentucky trailing for the first time all night, 39-38, Alcius hit a clutch three that sparked a 15-3 run over the next 6 minutes. She scored seven of those 15 points and created two of her career high five steals in that stretch, "That's my job," said a beaming Alcius after the game, "that's why my teammates call me 'energy'. It's my job to come off the bench and provide the team a lift."
Jenny Pfeiffer, coming off the bench, played 23 minutes of near-flawless basketball, scoring a game-high 14 points on 4-7 FG shooting (2-2 from 3-point range) and 4-4 from the charity stripe, "It felt really, really good to be out there tonight and being a factor in our win." Pfeiffer, who has scored in double figures in four of five of the Wildcats' games this season, said this game was solid but does not neccesarily rank among her all time best, "I think this was a good game for me, but I have had better and I have had worse."
DeMoss obvious pleased with her team's effort, said, "It's been a great start, getting through the month of November (undefeated). we were 4-0, Florida International was 4-0. One of us was going to go home tonight with a loss. I am really pleased with what we have done so far."
Before the game coach Mickie DeMoss had said she was looking to see who would step up as her go-to scorers. She did not find that answer Thursday night as eight players scored and four of those scored in double figures. But on this night DeMoss did not seem to mind that a primary scorer did not emerge, "As long as we have players that step up each night, it's hard to worry much about it," DeMoss said with a smile, "right now what we are doing is working for us."
UK is now 25-11 in the DeMoss era while playing at home.