UK women hold off Texas A&M for 70-66 win

jsmith3@herald-leader.comFebruary 18, 2013 

  • Kentucky at LSU

    When: 3 p.m. Sunday

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Breathe in. Breathe out.

Coach Matthew Mitchell looked up at the scoreboard and breathed a sigh of relief.

He had just watched his No. 8 Kentucky team nearly give away all of its 14-point lead against No. 10 Texas A&M.

But he also watched the Cats make a couple of clutch plays at the end to get a huge 70-66 win on the road at Reed Arena. The win snapped the Aggies' streak of eight straight wins and 12 in a row at home.

The victory, UK's fourth in a row, puts the Cats in second place in the Southeastern Conference race with three games to go, just one game behind league leader Tennessee.

"It was a fantastic night for our program and a fantastic game," Mitchell said. "I told them what was on the line and they didn't shy away from it."

It wasn't some monstrous effort from a single player that helped UK (23-3, 11-2 SEC) escape with the victory. It was a series of little things, including 13 points — all in the second half — from senior star A'dia Mathies.

"Players have to make plays in this kind of game," Mitchell said. "This kind of game is more about players than any kind of coaching you could do."

It was a tip of an offensive rebound by DeNesha Stallworth to Bria Goss, who scored late to keep UK in control.

"It was just a hustle play," Mitchell said. "If you want to be a championship team, you've got to do those kinds of things."

It was a UK defense scoring 29 points off of 18 Texas A&M mistakes and holding one of the league's best players, Kelsey Bone, to just nine points. The 6-foot-5 star had scored 27 points against the Cats in the first meeting and was coming off a 31-point game against Florida.

It was Kentucky breathing in and breathing out, managing to keep its composure as a 14-point lead dwindled to two with four seconds to play.

"It was really, really thunder coming down on us when they made their run," Mitchell said of the 6,814 at Reed Arena.

UK seemed to be in control of the game before the Aggies scored 10 unanswered points and pulled within 60-56 with 6:21 to play. Then Courtney Walker caught fire, scoring Texas A&M's final 10 points of the game.

"None of our offense was working," Coach Gary Blair said. "I just told her to do her best Michael Jordan act and she was doing it."

Walker had 20 points and six rebounds for the Aggies (20-6, 10-2). Kristi Bellock added 12 points and 15 boards.

"This is definitely a tough loss," Bellock said. "Coming off eight straight wins and them being the last team that we lost to, it was just a tough loss. We're very, very upset with ourselves and how much harder we could have played."

DeNesha Stallworth had 12 points, 12 rebounds and a school-record seven blocked shots in the victory.

"I knew my team really needed me tonight and I thought it was really important for me to step up," she said.

Her biggest play came with 30 seconds left when, after a missed three-pointer, she tipped the rebound to an open Bria Goss, who hit a layup to extend the UK lead to four. Goss later collected a rebound at the other end, after an intentional free-throw miss by the Aggies in the waning seconds, and calmly made two free throws.

Kastine Evans added 12 points. Jennifer O'Neill and Samarie Walker had nine points each and did their jobs, with O'Neill passing out six assists and the forward Walker grabbing 11 rebounds.

After starting the game with a 9-2 advantage, the Aggies went cold as UK's defense heated up, holding the home team without a basket for more than five minutes.

In that span, Kentucky went on a 10-2 run and pulled ahead 19-17 on an Evans jumper, its first lead since the opening basket. Backup point guard Janee Thompson had six of UK's points in that run.

Five straight points by Adrienne Pratcher late in the first half helped the Aggies cut the Cats' lead to 34-33, but Kentucky answered with back-to-back three-pointers from Goss and Evans to take a 40-34 lead at the break.

"It was a beautiful first half of basketball by our team," Mitchell said. "They made some critical defensive plays when the momentum was maybe getting ready to swing Texas A&M's way. It was just a beautiful half of basketball."

It was a breathtaking game for the coach in more ways than one.


Sunday

Kentucky at LSU

When: 3 p.m.

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

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