LEXINGTON (AP) — Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell was relieved after his ninth-ranked Wildcats ended a two-game losing streak.
"I'm as happy with this win as any we've had in a long time," Mitchell said after the 80-69 victory over Missouri on Sunday. "We needed this win."
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. Mitchell lauded his team for stepping up in the absence of Evans and said he expects one of his senior leader to return for Sunday's game at Auburn.
"The champion that she is and the competitor that she is, she tried to battle in practice Friday and Saturday, but I would tell something was really wrong with her Saturday," Mitchell. "It's something we've been able to manage her whole career, so we're hopeful with this week off, we'll have her back on track. We don't anticipate this being long term."
O'Neill replaced Evans in the starting lineup, for her first start of the season. O'Neill made three of Kentucky's six 3-pointers in the contest.
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.
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.
"Our players fought hard today," Mitchell said. "We bounced back from a real tough two-game slide that we had. To come back home and get a win when we didn't have everybody available was really, really great for us. We're excited for the victory."
Bri Kulas led the Tigers (13-4, 2-2) with 27 points and 14 rebounds. Kulas had 20 in the first half as Missouri led by eight three times in the first frame. Morgan Eye added 14 points for Missouri.