UK women must wait for tourney fate

DULUTH, Ga. — Now the waiting game begins for Kentucky.

The Cats have a week before they find out their NCAA Tournament destination and next opponent.

It has been four long years since No. 19 Kentucky has advanced to the Big Dance, so it seems sort of like asking a little kid to wait an extra week for Christmas, but Coach Matthew Mitchell can't wait to wait.

"We need it badly," he said of his team getting down time. "It will be outstanding for us, help us get refreshed."

Mitchell, who described UK as "not the healthiest basketball team right now," said getting a week off to rest will do wonders for a team that had to play nine straight SEC weekends because its bye came in the first week of the season.

"We will benefit tremendously and I think we'll be a very difficult team to play against in the NCAA Tournament," Mitchell said.

Even a hurt Kentucky team impressed Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt.

"They have a toughness and are very relentless on the defensive end and on the boards," she said.

Mitchell's players already are looking ahead to Selection Monday and moving on to the second part of the post-season.

"We're really looking forward to making a deep run into the NCAA Tournament coming up," freshman A'dia Mathies said.

Playing the part

Mathies and Victoria Dunlap came into the conference tournament wearing lofty titles.

Just a day or two before the tournament, Dunlap was named the league's Player of the Year and Mathies its Freshman of the Year.

They both wore those monikers well.

"I don't know that there were any doubts about their selections, but I think in front of the entire SEC and country, people can know both of those players are the real deal," Mitchell said of the duo, who both made the All-Tournament Team.

Dunlap finished the event averaging 22.3 points, seven rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals. Mathies added 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Other selections included Tennessee's Alicia Manning and Shekinna Stricklen. Alyssia Brewer was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Henderson's big minutes

Both of UK's senior forwards Amani Franklin and Lydia Watkins have been battling injuries all season.

In this tournament, they both made contributions, but freshman backup Brittany Henderson showed she's going to be an asset come NCAA Tournament time.

She played 13 minutes and chipped in five rebounds, two points and two blocks for Kentucky, which struggled to rebound against a much bigger Volunteers team. The Cats lost that category 51-32.

"Brittany Henderson got in there and got some tough, tough rebounds," Mitchell said. "I am always impressed with her. She's a gritty player. ... She just embodies what we are trying to be here at Kentucky."