Keyla Snowden's late basket saves UK women against Green Bay

jsmith3@herald-leader.comMarch 19, 2012 

AMES, Iowa — Each point, each possession was painful.

Kentucky seemed to have complete control and then chaos ensued in the form of turnover after turnover.

Green Bay forced the second-seeded Cats into a season-high 34 miscues and came back from 17 points down to take the lead in the final two minutes.

But then senior guard Keyla Snowden found a small crack of light in the smothering Phoenix zone and managed to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play at Hilton Coliseum.

The ball bounced on every part of the rim.

"I was praying," Snowden said when asked what went through her mind.

Her shot and then two subsequent free throws lifted the second-seeded Cats over Green Bay 65-62 and propelled them to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

On Sunday, the Cats will face No. 11 seed Gonzaga, which upset No. 3 seed Miami.

Sophomore forward Samarie Walker scored 15 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Cats (27-6). Snowden had 13 points and A'dia Mathies 10, all in the first half. Kastine Evans also added 10 points in the win.

An emotional Matthew Mitchell said afterward there was no way to draw up the big play to win the game.

"We just had to let the players make plays," he said. "I just kept believing and telling them to believe in each other."

He didn't have a chance to draw anything up since Kentucky used its final timeout with five minutes left in the game.

The second half was a stark contrast to the first half, when UK had a seemingly comfortable 17-point lead against Green Bay.

But the Phoenix rose up and used a 13-2 run early to cut the Cats' lead to five points midway through the second half.

"We got them to speed up and play fast the way they did it to us in the first half," said Green Bay's Sarah Eichler, who had 16 points.

Senior Julie Wojta added 16 points and eight rebounds. She had 10 steals, all in the second half for the Phoenix (31-2), who saw their 11-game win streak snapped.

UK answered the runs several times before the Phoenix finally got the lead, their first of the game, on Megan Lukan's made free throw with 1:56 to go.

"It felt like we had all the momentum going our way," Wojta said later.

But Kentucky was able to get some of that momentum back, taking several big charges in the waning minutes.

"We made some plays," Mathies said. "Our defense made some plays. We got defensive stops. We won with defense."

Green Bay (31-2) nearly won with its defense, which had Kentucky matching its season high of 27 turnovers by midway through the second half.

The Cats threw the first punch to start the game, using a 16-2 run to grab a 21-6 advantage early in the half. Five players scored in that spree and UK's defense forced the Phoenix to miss eight straight shots.

They didn't get to double digits until just more than 10 minutes into the half on Hannah Quilling's made free throws.

UK's speed and athleticism caused problems for the Phoenix, who shot 26.7 percent in the first half to 55.6 percent for the Cats.

"That was a beautiful half of basketball," Mitchell said.

It was followed by an ugly half of basketball, which included two of the nation's top defensive teams forcing each other into a combined 58 turnovers.

"Before the game, we talked about trust," Mitchell said afterward. "To trust in their ability, their preparation, their instincts. ... They wanted to win and they did it."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com, ukfootball.bloginky.com

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