LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — DeNesha Stallworth scored 21 points and Janee Thompson added a career-high 17 to help No. 7 Kentucky pull away for a 96-74 victory over Central Michigan on Sunday.
Stallworth scored 11 in the second half with help from 5-foot-7 sophomore guard Thompson, who added seven of her 11 points after intermission. A 19-7 Kentucky scoring spurt coming out of the break provided a cushion as the Chippewas fought back to make it interesting, getting within 80-68 on Jewel Cotton's third straight basket with 5:53 remaining.
Stallworth took over from there for Kentucky, scoring six points down the stretch to create some distance from CMU. Kastine Evans added 13 points, Jennifer O'Neill 11 and Samarie Walker and Azia Bishop 10 each for the Wildcats (4-0).
Crystal Bradford scored a game-high 23 points for Central Michigan (1-1) before fouling out with 2:35 left.
Stallworth also grabbed eight of her 11 rebounds in the second half as Kentucky outrebounded CMU 30-16 in the period and 55-36 overall. She shot 6 of 8 from the field and made 9 of 10 free throws.
Bishop, a reserve forward, had nine rebounds along with five blocks for the Wildcats.
Besides her career high in points including six free throws, Thompson chipped in bests of six assists, six steals and four rebounds.
The Wildcats forced 28 turnovers but also committed 21.
Niki DiGuilio added 14 points and Cotton 12 for CMU, which shot 27 of 66 (41 percent).
Unlike previous routs of Wagner and Georgia Southern by margins of 39 and 65 points respectively, Kentucky had to work harder against a Central Michigan team coming off a 44-point drubbing of Massachusetts in its opener.
The Chippewas quickly fell behind 12-2 and trailed by as many as 14 at 41-27, but they steadily fought back both times, twice getting within six midway through the first half but and mostly staying within single digits. Their defense forced the Wildcats into some of their uncharacteristic 13 turnovers, and didn't back down from Kentcky's inside duo of Stallworth and Walker.
Niki Diguilio's three shots from the beyond the arc helped, but 33 percent shooting prevented CMU from getting too close. Bishop had something to do with that with 5 blocks that made the Chippewas think twice about penetrating.
Kentucky was a little bit better from the field, hitting 15 of 34 (44 percent) including five 3-pointers. The Wildcats also controlled the lane, outscoring the Chippewas 18-8 through 20 minutes and outrebounding them 25-20.
Bishop had a hand in everything, getting to the line and even dropping a 3-pointer to help keep Kentucky ahead.
Kentucky lost forward Samantha Drake to a left leg injury in the closing seconds of the first half. She spent the rest of the game on the bench with the leg wrapped and will undergo an MRI on Monday.