Kentucky women trounce Vandy, advance to SEC tourney semis

jsmith3@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2013 

  • No. 7 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Georgia

    When: 6 p.m. Saturday

    What: SEC Tournament semifinals

    Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.

    TV: ESPNU

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

    Records: Kentucky 26-4, Georgia 25-5

    Series: Georgia leads 35-13

    Last meeting: Georgia won 75-71 on Feb. 3 in Lexington

DULUTH, Ga. — Kentucky ran at Vanderbilt in waves.

They weren't delicate, calming, comforting curls.

They were unrelenting, constant, chaotic surges.

And No. 7 UK rode those waves into the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals with a 76-65 win over Vanderbilt on Friday night at Gwinnett Center.

"We just wanted to come out here and make a statement," senior guard A'dia Mathies said. "Just know that we're looking forward to winning the championship."

A few games back, after the Cats lost at Louisiana State, Coach Matthew Mitchell decided to alter his substitution pattern by swapping in five players at a time to get his bench more involved.

So four minutes into Friday's game, five players came off the Kentucky bench and built on the 8-2 lead the starters had established.

Eight minutes in, the starters were back in again.

"If our players will recognize that we're stronger when all of us come together and really give great effort, I think that it can be a great factor," Mitchell said of the Cats' depth.

Kentucky's bench outscored Vanderbilt's 32-12 and helped force the Commodores into 23 turnovers, which UK turned into 24 points. The defense was relentless at times, forcing Vandy's point guard into nine turnovers.

"We certainly are planning on depth to be a factor in the tournament," Mitchell said. "We want it to be."

It certainly was in this game where no Cat played more than 26 minutes, but six players managed to score seven points or more.

Mathies, the co-SEC Player of the Year, led the way with 16 points, three rebounds and five steals.

Junior forward DeNesha Stallworth added 14 points, six rebounds and three steals for Kentucky, which won its sixth straight over Vanderbilt.

"They keep them fresh," said Jasmine Lister, the point guard. "They all go hard the entire time they're in, so you've got to give them credit for that. ... We just have to keep playing harder and harder, not let that get into our heads that there's new people coming in to guard us."

Not only were they fresh, they were motivated.

UK was disappointed it didn't win its second straight regular-season SEC title.

It was hungry for the ultimate consolation prize: an SEC Tournament trophy, something UK hasn't won in more than 30 years.

They looked like a team on that sort of mission early, scoring nine unanswered points after the Commodores scored the game's first basket.

Vanderbilt cut the Cats' lead to four points on a Lister three-pointer with 9:28 to go in the first half before UK surged ahead, leading by as many 17 points with 2:21 to go.

Kentucky grabbed that advantage on an Azia Bishop shot in the lane off a pretty pass from Stallworth to cap an 8-0 run.

UK led 38-23 at the half.

"We had some stretches in the game where it was pretty noticeable that we were able to get some baskets because we were maybe a bit fresher," Mitchell said.

Stallworth had 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals before the break. Mathies had 11 points and matched her season high with five steals all before halftime.

Early in the second half, the Cats (26-4) scored 11 unanswered to grab their largest lead, 52-30, on Bishop's putback.

Then Kentucky went without a basket for six straight minutes and Vanderbilt (19-11) used a 13-2 run to cut the Cat lead to 11 points with 9:23 to go. Lister had seven points in that run.

Then guard Kastine Evans hit a three-pointer in the left corner to give UK some more breathing room.

Tiffany Clarke led the Commodores with game highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds. Lister added 17 points and four assists.

Off the Kentucky bench, Samantha Drake and Bishop each scored nine points. Freshman Janee Thompson added seven points, and sophomore Bria Goss had five points and three assists.

"There aren't a lot of teams that have rosters like that where they can sub in five at a time," UK starter Jennifer O'Neill said. "We know we can win like that."


Saturday

No. 7 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Georgia

When: 6 p.m.

What: SEC Tournament semifinals

Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.

TV: Fox Sports South

Radio: WLAP-AM 630

Records: Kentucky 26-4, Georgia 25-5

Series: Georgia leads 35-13

Last meeting: Georgia won 75-71 on Feb. 3 in Lexington

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

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