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Mathies has big second half to spark UK win over Vols in her final home game

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — A’dia Mathies scored 13 second-half points, including back-to-back 3-pointers during Kentucky’s 19-6 run, to help the No. 10 Wildcats pull away from No. 8 Tennessee for a 78-65 victory on Sunday. Mathies, Kentucky’s No. 2 career scorer, finished with 16 points in her home finale at sold-out Memorial Coliseum. Jennifer O’Neill added four 3-pointers for 16 points as Kentucky (25-4, 13-3) claimed the No. 2 seed for this week’s Southeastern Conference tournament.

Kentucky set the tone throughout but emerged from a 36-32 halftime lead with a big run set up by three steals and two rebounds by Samarie Walker (10 points). That put the Wildcats up 55-38 and they stayed safely ahead to make Matthew Mitchell the program’s winningest coach with 139 victories.

Regular-season champion Tennessee (23-6, 14-2) played without center Isabelle Harrison, who sustained a right knee injury Thursday. Point guard Ariel Massengale, who was also questionable with a knee injury, started and finished with five points. Meighan Simmons led the Lady Volunteers with 17 points.

DeNesha Stallworth and Bria Goss each added 12 points for Kentucky, which was outrbebounded 43-37 but dominated the offensive boards 19-10 and forced 31 turnovers and recorded 15 steals.

Tennessee committed 19 first-half turnovers alone and managed just 18 points in the paint. The Lady Volunteers still trailed just 36-32 at the break by taking advantage of the Wildcats’ 31 percent inaccuracy, which might have doomed them if they hadn’t created twice as many opportunities (44 to 22) as Tennessee.

But after taking its largest lead at 30-17 on Azia Bishop’s layup with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, Kentucky was outscored 19-6 behind 3-of-11 shooting. Bishop made two of those baskets in the final 25 seconds, including one as the horn sounded at the end of the half. Officials confirmed it upon review and awarded Walker a one-and-one on Graves’ third foul away from the ball; she missed the free throw.

Kentucky came out of the break with nine straight points and the run to eventually stretch its lead to 57-38.

Before the game Mathies and Henderson were honored in a pregame ceremony in which Mitchell held his emotions in check as he bid farewell — at home, that is — to Kentucky’s winningest class. The two entered the game with a 108-25 record during which the Wildcats went from mediocrity to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and two Elite Eight berths.

Mitchell passed Terry Hall on Kentucky’s win list.

No. 10 KENTUCKY 78, No. 8 TENNESSEE 65
Jones 0-3 0-0 0, Williams 4-6 0-0 9, Massengale 2-4 0-0 5, Simmons 4-15 9-10 17, Burdick 3-8 4-5 11, Graves 4-5 4-5 12, Spani 3-8 5-6 11. Totals 20-49 22-26 65.
O’Neill 5-12 2-2 16, Mathies 6-17 1-3 16, Thompson 0-4 0-0 0, Pinkett 0-1 0-0 0, Stallworth 4-13 4-4 12, Goss 5-9 0-0 12, Walker 5-9 0-1 10, Drake 1-4 0-2 2, Evans 1-8 0-0 2, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, Bishop 4-5 0-0 8. Totals 31-82 7-12 78.
Halftime—Kentucky 36-32. 3-Point Goals—Tennessee 3-10 (Williams 1-1, Massengale 1-1, Burdick 1-1, Spani 0-3, Simmons 0-4), Kentucky 9-26 (O’Neill 4-8, Mathies 3-6, Goss 2-3, Pinkett 0-1, Bishop 0-1, Thompson 0-2, Stallworth 0-2, Evans 0-3). Fouled Out—Burdick, Thompson. Rebounds—Tennessee 43 (Burdick 11), Kentucky 37 (Stallworth 8). Assists—Tennessee 6 (Massengale, Simmons 2), Kentucky 20 (Evans 5). Total Fouls—Tennessee 17, Kentucky 20. A—7,965.

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  1. Judi Cole

    Congratulations, Lady Cats on the win over a big rival! The full house today surely appreciated this great team that fights until the end. Hoping that youir efforts are rewarded with a long tourney run.

  2. Ben

    What will it take for KY hoops to break into the elite teams in Women’s basketball? Unlike men’s basketball, there seems to be 4 to 6 teams that are superior to all the other teams! Even really good teams like KY.

    1. Lori Metcalf

      Ben, they are still severely outsized. The recent success of the program should help them get some better players in future classes. They need a strong inside presence to dominate.

      1. Karen Sprinkle

        Lori, that’s exactly right. The elite teams in women’s basketball seem to have a great 6’4″ or taller player in the post. UK’s style of play can negate that some by limiting the number of possessions in which the opposing team has a lot of time to work the ball into the post, but in a grind it out game, the elite teams feed the post and with limited size, it’s hard to stop.

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