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A’dia Mathies

By GARY GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

A’dia Mathies didn’t start thinking about the WNBA until her Kentucky career began winding down. And when her Wildcats playing days ended, she didn’t dare think about what team might draft her.

Well, Mathies’ dream came true Monday night when the Los Angeles Sparks chose her with the 10th overall pick. The 5-foot-9 Louisville native joins a team that reached the Western Conference finals last year, led by all-WNBA forward and 2008 Most Valuable Player Candace Parker. With her ability to score, handle the ball and defensive prowess — skills that earned Mathies consecutive Southeastern Conference player of the year awards — she is Kentucky’s highest WNBA draft pick ever.

Mathies becomes Kentucky’s second first-rounder in the past three years, following Victoria Dunlap’s No. 11 selection in 2011.

“When you’re younger, you always write down, ‘I want to go to the WNBA,’ but when you get older you kind of forget about it,” Mathies said Tuesday of her thought process. “At least, I did. Just coming here to see how close I am to the opportunity and then seeing players that I played against in the WNBA, I feel like I can be there. I’m just glad I got selected, and I’m ready to work.”

Mathies heads to a Sparks team she said usually thought of when pondering the next level. But the uncertainty of when she’d be selected and by whom left her with an open mind as she and her family watched the draft unfold at her grandmother’s house.

Projected as an early second-round choice by some draft sites, Mathies grew more anxious late in the first round before excitement took over when her name was announced. Going to L.A. and reuniting with her brother there made it even better.

“Once they got up into (picks) seven, eight, nine, my heart starting beating fast on every single pick they was calling,” she said. “I’m just excited to get picked by L.A. … When you think about the WNBA, you automatically think of the Sparks. Just to be going there, my brother lives there, I miss him and am just very excited right now.”

Mathies is just a few weeks removed from finishing her Kentucky career as one of the Wildcats’ greatest players. Second all-time in women’s scoring with 2,014 points, she’s one of just five Wildcats to break 2,000 at Kentucky. Only Valerie Still (2,763), Hall of Famer Dan Issel (2,138), Kenny Walker (2,080) and Jack Givens (2,038) have scored more.

Mathies ranks in the top 10 on 13 lists, including No. 1 with 140 games played, 139 starts and 320 steals. This past season she led Kentucky in scoring (16.1 points per game), 3-pointers (73) and a .422 percentage from long range while ranking second in steals and assists.

Now comes the next phase of raising her game to get minutes on a Sparks roster boasting a strong, deep backcourt in all-WNBA second teamer Kristi Toliver, Alana Beard and Lindsey Harding.

Kentucky assistant athletic director Ukari Figgs believes that’s just a matter of Mathies continuing to show her versatility.

“I think A’dia’s going to be somebody that can come in and do a little bit of everything,” said Figgs, who helped the Sparks win the 2001 championship during a five-year WNBA career. “That’s what makes her special. Playing professional basketball, you have to be pretty versatile to make an 11-player roster. She can back up the point guard, she shoots well enough to play the 2 guard position and defensively she can guard an array of guards on the perimeter. She puts herself in a good position to be able do a little bit of everything.”

Not only that, Mathies must display her talents pretty quickly. Right after graduation on May 5 she heads west for the opening of training camp; Los Angeles begins the regular season May 26 against Seattle. It will be a whirlwind for sure, but with a track record of making plans come together in a hurry, Mathies is confident of following through on her dream.

“I think I can definitely help, especially playing for UK and the way we play up-tempo,” she said. “I think I can be a great asset to the team and really help them out a lot. … Right now, I’m on cloud nine.”

Kentucky's Kastine Evans, left, and Connecticut's Kelly Faris, right, scramble for the ball during the second half of a regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Kentucky’s Kastine Evans, left, and Connecticut’s Kelly Faris, right, scramble for the ball during the second half of a regional final game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Bridgeport, Conn., Monday, April 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut is headed back to a familiar place – the Final Four.

Breanna Stewart scored 21 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 17 to help top-seed UConn rout Kentucky 83-53 on Monday night and advance to a record sixth-straight national semifinal.

The Huskies will face either Notre Dame or Duke in the national semifinals on Sunday in New Orleans. The Irish and Blue Devils play Tuesday night. UConn (33-4) broke a tie with Stanford (2008-12), LSU (2004-08) and itself (2000-04) by reaching the Final Four again.

It was the second straight season that UConn beat Kentucky in the regional finals. The Huskies topped the Wildcats by 15 last year 105 miles to the north of Bridgeport in Kingston, R.I.

This game wasn’t as close. Kentucky stayed close for the first 10 minutes with their “40 minutes of dread” defense. Then UConn turned up its own defensive intensity.

The Huskies trailed 23-22 with just 9 minutes left in the first half. That’s when Stewart – honored as the outstanding player of the Bridgeport Regional – and UConn’s “no-name” defense took over allowing three points the rest of the half. Kentucky missed 13 of its final 14 shots in the half with the only make coming when Jelleah Sidney banked in a 3-pointer from the wing.

While UConn was playing lockdown defense, Stewart was dominating on the offensive end. The 6-foot-4 star, who was the national high school player of the year last season, scored nine points and had a vicious two-handed block during that closing run.

After Sidney’s 3-pointer, Stewart calmly converted a three-point play on the other end. UConn led 48-26 at the half.

Kentucky couldn’t get within 20 in the second half.

The loudest cheer of the night from the sellout crowd of nearly 8,600 came when the video board showed highlights of Louisville’s upset victory over Baylor on Sunday night.

UConn’s only losses this season came to Baylor and three times to Notre Dame.

Stewart didn’t play well in most of those losses, but really has stepped her game up over the past few weeks. After struggling through the middle part of the season, the heralded first-year has averaged 16.4 points since the start of the Big East tournament.

It’s been an unusual season for UConn, which for the first time in 19 years didn’t win either the Big East regular season or tournament title. Now the Huskies are two wins away from an eighth national championship.

This was the 19th time in the past 23 seasons that UConn had reached the regional final. They have made the Final Four 14 times overall, including the last six.

None of the regional final games during this current run have been close with only Rutgers coming within 10 in 2008. UConn’s lead ballooned to 36 points in the second half of this game. When the final buzzer sounded Mosqueda-Lewis jumped into the arms of Stewart to celebrate.

Coach Geno Auriemma got a gritty effort out of junior center Stefanie Dolson, who has a stress fracture in her right ankle and an injured left foot as well. She wore a brace on her left leg and a compression sock on her right one. While she only scored two points, she had 11 rebounds and four assists.

The loss brought to a close a record year for the Wildcats (30-5). Kentucky had the most victories in school history. Not bad for a school rich in basketball tradition on the men’s side. Still coach Matthew Mitchell was left searching for the school’s first trip to the Final Four.

The Wildcats have made the NCAA tournament in each of the past four seasons and reached the regional finals in three of those years falling short each time.

Senior A’dia Mathies, the two-time SEC player of the year, had a quiet game scoring only 14 points with 11 of them coming in the second half. Kastine Evans, who hit the big 3-pointer to help beat Delaware in the regional semifinals had just two points on 1 of 9 shooting. Her older brother R.J., who played on the UConn’s men’s basketball team this season, sat behind the Wildcats bench in a Kentucky shirt.

The Huskies have won 43 of their past 44 NCAA games in the state of Connecticut, including going 9-1 in Bridgeport. The lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.

UCONN 83, KENTUCKY 53

KENTUCKY (30-6): O’Neill 5-12 2-3 13, Mathies 4-9 4-6 14, Stallworth 4-12 1-2 9, Walker 0-1 2-2 2, Evans 1-9 0-0 2, Thompson 1-5 0-0 2, Pinkett 0-1 0-0 0, Sidney 2-5 0-0 5, Goss 2-8 2-2 6, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, Bishop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-62 11-15 53.

UCONN (33-4): Doty 1-1 0-0 3, Mosqueda-Lewis 6-11 2-3 17, Stewart 8-14 5-6 21, Dolson 1-4 0-0 2, Faris 3-4 6-6 12, Tuck 1-3 4-4 6, Jefferson 5-7 0-0 10, Hartley 3-10 4-4 10, Buck 0-1 0-0 0, Stokes 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 29-56 21-23 83.

Halftime_UConn 48-26. 3-Point Goals_Kentucky 4-16 (Mathies 2-3, Sidney 1-3, O’Neill 1-4, Stallworth 0-1, Thompson 0-1, Goss 0-2, Evans 0-2), UConn 4-11 (Mosqueda-Lewis 3-6, Doty 1-1, Tuck 0-1, Stewart 0-1, Hartley 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Kentucky 33 (Stallworth 8), UConn 41 (Dolson 11). Assists_Kentucky 9 (Evans 3), UConn 12 (Dolson 4). Total Fouls_Kentucky 20, UConn 18. A_8,594.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

By DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Matthew Mitchell is trying to build Kentucky into a women’s basketball power. Getting to the Final Four for the first time will be a huge step in reaching that goal. Mitchell’s team is one victory away, and Connecticut stands in the way for the second straight season. The two teams played last year and UConn came away with a 15-point victory. They’ll meet again tonight in the Bridgeport regional final.

“This program’s come a long way and made a tremendous amount of progress in last four years,” Mitchell said. “We want to be the best team in the country and that doesn’t happen by making one Final Four. One Final Four is an outstanding achievement and something we’re working hard to get to. It’s a huge step we’re 40 minutes away from.”

The Wildcats have made the NCAA tournament in each of the past four seasons and reached the regional finals in three of those years. The run has impressed UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

“Kentucky was one of those places where if they get the right coach they’ll be really good,” he said. “Any place that’s good in men’s basketball should be good in women’s basketball. (Matt’s) carved out his own style and I don’t know if anybody’s gotten that far that quickly and done a better job in the country than they have.”

Now they just need to take that next step. The Wildcats have been focused on the Final Four since they started practice. Hanging in front of their locker room in Kentucky is a picture of the Final Four logo with a clock next to it. Ever since the first day of practice back in early October, that clock has been counting down the days and minutes until the Final Four in New Orleans. The second-seeded Wildcats hope to be in Louisiana when the clock reaches zero.

Whether they advance or not, it’s already been a record year for the Wildcats (30-5). Kentucky has the most victories in school history. Not bad for a school rich in basketball tradition on the men’s side, winning its eighth national championship last season in New Orleans.

While the Wildcats are hoping for their first national semifinals appearance, the Huskies are trying to make the Final Four for a record sixth consecutive year. It’s been an unusual season for UConn, which for the first time in 19 years didn’t win either the Big East regular season or tournament title. Now the Huskies have a chance at another title — an eighth national championship.
“I’m hoping everybody realizes that this is literally the last opportunity,” UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “And I’m hoping everybody’s getting the sick feeling in their stomach from losing every time. We’ve just got to come together and play Connecticut basketball and listen to every single thing coach says because, obviously, he knows what he’s talking about. And if we listen to him, we’ll be all right.”

The Huskies (32-4) have won 42 of their past 43 NCAA games in the state of Connecticut, including going 8-1 in Bridgeport. The lone blemish came against Duke in 2006 in the regional final.

The loss to Connecticut last season is still fresh in the Wildcats’ minds.

“We saw it as a missed opportunity,” SEC player of the year A’dia Mathies said. “We were there in the first half and had a mental lapse for a couple four-minute segments. If we did a better job staying focused we would have gone to the Final Four. We know it could happen this year.”

Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

A'dia Mathies scores two of her 16 points in the win over Delaware Saturday. (Victoria Graff photo)

A’dia Mathies scores two of her 16 points in the win over Delaware Saturday. (Victoria Graff photo)

DOUG FEINBERG
AP Basketball Writer

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) –  The Kentucky Wildcats and their “40 minutes of dread” were too much for Elena Delle Donne and Delaware.

Jennifer O’Neill scored 19 points and A’dia Mathies added 16 to help Kentucky hold off the Blue Hens 69-62 on Saturday in the Bridgeport regional semifinals, bringing to an end the stellar career of Delle Donne.

It’s the second straight season that Kentucky (30-5) has advanced to the regional final. The Wildcats, who already have a school record for victories, lost to Connecticut last season by 15 points.

Delle Donne had 33 points for Delaware (32-4) and finished her career as the fifth all-time leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,039 points. She passed former stars Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw and Maya Moore on Saturday.

She finished well short of Jackie Stiles’ all-time scoring mark of 3,393 set at Southwest Missouri State from 1998-2001.

There’s little doubt that Delle Donne would have broken it had she not missed 22 games in her career. The 6-foot-5 star who is averaging 26.6 points in her career sat out six games this season with a reoccurrence of the symptoms of Lyme disease that forced her to miss a dozen games two years ago.

She did all she could to take Delaware to the regional final. Trailing by 14 early in the second half, the Blue Hens cut their deficit to 62-60 with 2:47 left on a jumper by Delle Donne that touched nearly every part of the rim before dropping in. That shot moved her past Moore and sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

But Kastine Evans calmly responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 65-60. Jaquetta May had three chances at putbacks on the other end, but couldn’t convert.

Delle Donne exited with 10 seconds left and had a long embrace with coach Tina Martin.

The second-seeded Wildcats will play the winner of Connecticut and Maryland on Monday with a trip to New Orleans and the Final Four on the line.

Delle Donne had little help in the first half as her teammates struggled from the field. The senior forward did pretty much everything she could to help keep the Blue Hens in the game. She scored 13 straight points as Delaware only trailed 17-15 midway through the first half. Then Kentucky took over scoring the next 10 points. Bria Goss got the run started with a jumper and capped it with a layup that made it 27-17.

The teams then traded baskets the rest of the half with O’Neill hitting a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to make it 41-27.

It was the third straight NCAA game that the Blue Hens trailed at the half. They were able to rally against West Virginia and North Carolina at home and tried their best to pull off another, but the Blue Hens fell just short.

Lauren Carra had a big second half and finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds to provide a second offensive threat for the Blue Hens.

Delaware, which had never made it past the second round before this season, played its first two games at home in front of a loud raucous crowd that included Vice President Joe Biden.

While Biden didn’t make it up to the game Saturday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did. He graduated from Delaware where he met his wife Mary Pat. Christie was wearing a yellow Delaware fleece and took pictures and signed ticket stubs for fans.

The governor’s trip to the game was a lot longer than planned. Trenton was supposed to host the regional until the NCAA moved it in November citing a new law that allowed gambling on college sports in New Jersey. The late switch didn’t seem to impact ticket sales, as Saturday’s session was sold out with nearly 8,600 fans expected to attend each session.

The two teams had only played once before, with Delaware winning 86-70 in 2006.

KENTUCKY 69, DELAWARE 62

DELAWARE (32-4): Delle Donne 11-23 11-11 33, Parker 3-9 0-0 6, Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Richards 0-0 0-0 0, Carra 3-5 3-4 10, May 1-6 0-0 2, Buchanan 0-0 0-0 0, Lucas 3-9 5-5 11, Leon 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-53 19-20 62.

KENTUCKY (30-5): Walker 3-8 2-3 8, Stallworth 2-5 0-0 4, O’Neill 6-14 3-6 19, Mathies 5-13 5-7 16, Evans 3-9 0-0 8, Thompson 1-2 2-2 4, Pinkett 0-1 0-0 0, Sidney 1-1 0-0 2, Goss 2-6 0-1 4, Henderson 1-1 0-0 2, Bishop 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 25-62 12-19 69.

Halftime_Kentucky 41-27. 3-Point Goals_Delaware 1-6 (Carra 1-1, Lucas 0-1, Delle Donne 0-4), Kentucky 7-24 (O’Neill 4-9, Evans 2-5, Mathies 1-6, Pinkett 0-1, Bishop 0-1, Goss 0-2). Fouled Out_Carra, Lucas. Rebounds_Delaware 40 (Carra 10), Kentucky 35 (Walker 11). Assists_Delaware 7 (Lucas 3), Kentucky 9 (O’Neill 4). Total Fouls_Delaware 21, Kentucky 18. A_NA.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

A’dia Mathies, Sr., G

On how much pressure she feels as a senior to get to the Final Four …

“Oh, it’s not really any pressure. We’re just going to go out there and play. If we give our best effort, then we should be able to advance to the Final Four, but it’s no pressure. We’re just going to go out there and do what we’re used to doing.

On avoiding trying to match Delle Donne play for play …

“I’m definitely not going to try to match her play for play. She’s an extraordinary player. We see her on ESPN and the great things that she does, especially for her family and the state of Delaware. I’m not trying to match her play for play, but I will give my best effort. I know she will and as a team we’re going to give our best effort. I’m not really worried about that.”

On what she sees when she watches Delle Donne …

“She’s just an all-around talent. She has great post-up moves and she’s got guard skills. She can rebound, block shots. She can pretty much do everything, especially for somebody to be 6-5. We’re just looking for a great game and she’s going to be a great matchup for whoever has to check her.”

On being battle-tested heading into the Sweet 16 …

“I think we’re very ready. We believe we can beat anybody in the nation if we come with our best effort and play how we can play at the top of our level. We’re not really worried about anybody else; we’re focused on ourselves, and if we play like Kentucky should play, then we should have a great outcome.”

On whether the win over Dayton was the most satisfying on the season …

“I think so because it could have been an easy game where we went down and just gave up and not fought and just said that we’ve got people sick and came out with a loss (against) a great Dayton team. We definitely pushed through that and made it to the Sweet 16.”

On whether the experience of playing Baylor could help against Delaware …

“It definitely could help. I think it’s more so based on what we do instead of worrying about what they do and us making open shots and doing things like that that we didn’t do when we played against Baylor. I think that can really help us out a lot and if we just focus on us then we should have a good outcome in any game we play from here on out.”

On the improvement of her 3-point shot this season and what she did to improve…

“Just shoot. I think that’s really the only think I did. I guess the second year after the line got moved back, that may have helped out a little bit. But I just got in the gym and shot more this year.”

On her mentality when she releases a shot …

“I expect it to go in. Games where it doesn’t, I’m not too worried about it. I get in more shots and I know that it eventually it is going to go in. I think when you get confidence and you see buckets going in, it makes it grow even more. I’m glad it’s going in right now.”

GARY GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

LEXINGTON — Kentucky’s primary goal against Delaware will be like all Blue Hens’ opponents: try to keep All-American Elena Delle Donne from taking control of the game. It’s not the first time this season the Wildcats have faced one of the sport’s best players.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell believes his team learned from their experience against the game’s most imposing player — 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner — in an 85-51 loss to Baylor. The 6-5 Delle Donne presents a different challenge; she rebounds, is a willing passer and averages 25.8 points — but she can dominate from the perimeter.

Delaware’s supporting cast also makes it difficult to focus solely on Delle Donne, but having faced Griner and an even more balanced Baylor team, the Wildcats feel prepared for the round of 16 showdown in Bridgeport, Conn.

“We believe we’re ready,” said Wildcats senior guard A’dia Mathies, coming off a 34-point performance in Tuesday’s 84-70 win over Dayton. “We believe we can beat anybody in the nation if we come with our best effort and play how we can play at the top of our level. We’re not really worried about anybody else, we’re just focused on ourselves. If we play like Kentucky should play, we should have a great outcome.”

Still, Kentucky (29-5) enters the Bridgeport Regional respectful of how Delle Donne makes things go for sixth-seeded Delaware (32-3), winners of 27 straight.

Delle Donne originally signed with UConn before abruptly leaving after a short stay to return home to Delaware. She scored 11 of her 33 points from the foul line to rally the Blue Hens past North Carolina 78-69 on Tuesday. She has scored more than 3,000 points in her Delaware career. She didn’t have to carry the load by herself — Trumae Lucas (20 points) and Danielle Parker (14 points, 13 rebounds) had big games against the Tar Heels.

Delle Donne also averages 8.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. The versatility that allows her to play anywhere on the court makes her a difficult matchup. But the Wildcats can’t just focus on Delle Donne, they have to account for the other Blue Hens as well.

“She’s only a part of what they do because they have team chemistry,” Mitchell said of Delle Donne. “You make a big mistake if you put it solely on one player. She’s very important obviously to what they want to do because she’s so talented, but we’ll be really trying to make this more about our team and how we do what we do well. I think that’ll be very important to make our tempo a factor, our defensive pressure a factor.”

The Wildcats’ execution in those areas in their tournament wins should give the Blue Hens something to think about. Kentucky forced 48 turnovers while rolling past Navy 61-41 and Dayton in Queens, N.Y., to earn its way into the round of 16 for the second straight year. Another win puts the Wildcats in the regional finals for the third time in four years, where either Connecticut or Maryland will be waiting.

A red-hot Mathies hit 6 of 7 from 3-point range and 13 of 17 overall in Kentucky’s win over Dayton to advance to the round of 16. DeNesha Stallworth added 14 points, while Jennifer O’Neill and reserve Bria Goss each added 11 for Kentucky, which shot 47 percent. Nearly everyone contributed for the Wildcats, who needed a team effort considering how a stomach virus hit the team during their win against the Flyers. Even Mitchell was affected, jokingly using words such as “gutty” and “gutsy” to describe how the Wildcats fought through illness.

They’ll need another “gutsy” performance against the Blue Hens.

“We’ve prepared very well throughout the season and knowing we have to use our preparation now,” said guard Kastine Evans, a Salem, Conn., native. “We’ve had a lot of big games, we’ve played against great players and just need to understand that all the games we’ve played, we can pull from that and use our potential.”

For the second straight season, University of Kentucky women’s basketball standout A’dia Mathies has been named one of 12 finalists for The State Farm Wade Trophy, as announced by The State Farm Wade Trophy Committee, along with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport. The award is presented annually to the nation’s most outstanding NCAA Division I women’s basketball player.

Mathies, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, is leading UK to one of its most successful seasons in school history. The Wildcats, ranked seventh nationally, have won a school-record 29 games and have advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive season, including their third appearance in the Sweet 16 in the last four years.

The 5-foot-9 senior guard leads the Wildcats in scoring (16.1 points per game), 3-point field goals made (70) and 3-point field goal percentage (.427). She also ranks second on the team in steals (64) and assists (77). The Louisville, Ky., native is coming off an impressive performance vs. Dayton in the second round as she netted a career-high tying 34 points, her third career 30-point game. Mathies’ six 3-pointers also were a career high and she added three rebounds, three steals and two assists in the win.

The candidates were selected by a vote of committee members consisting of leading basketball coaches, journalists and administrators. The committee will select the winner of The State Farm Wade Trophy from among these 12 finalists who also are named to the 10-member WBCA NCAA Division I Coaches’ All-America Team when it is chosen in April.  The winner will be announced during the WBCA Awards Show, which will be held at 5 p.m. CT Monday, April 8, in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center’s New Orleans Theatre.  The event is part of the WBCA National Convention and is held in conjunction with the NCAA® Women’s Final Four®.

UK Hoops will meet Delaware on Saturday at noon ET in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. The game will be televised on ESPN with Doris Burke, Beth Mowins and Holly Rowe calling the action and also carried live on the UK IMG Sports Network with Neil Price.

Photos by Victoria Graff, and property of Schurz Communications, Inc., and vaughtsviews.com. All rights reserved; images may not be reprinted in print or online without permission of the owners. Reprinted images must be attributed to vaughtsviews.com and linked to the original site.

Kentucky's Bernisha Pinkett (10) defends Dayton's Kelley Austria (22) in the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament Tuesday, March 26, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin)

Kentucky’s Bernisha Pinkett (10) defends Dayton’s Kelley Austria (22) in the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA women’s college basketball tournament Tuesday, March 26, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin)

DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - A’dia Mathies followed up the worst game of her career with one of her best.

Mathies matched her career high with 34 points and lead second-seeded Kentucky to an 84-70 win over seventh-seeded Dayton on Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA women’s tournament.

The Wildcats (29-5) will face Delaware in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional on Saturday.

With Kentucky clinging to a 46-44 advantage early in the second half, Mathies scored 10 points during a 16-3 run to help the Wildcats take control of the game.

The two-time SEC player of the year hit two 3-pointers, including one to cap the burst and make it 62-47. She didn’t hit a field goal in the first round win over Navy. She made 13 of 17 against Dayton.

Andrea Hoover scored 22 points to lead the Flyers (28-3), who got no closer than eight the rest of the way to end the best season in school history.

One of the best seasons for Kentucky will continue in Bridgeport. The Wildcats have the most wins in school history and have reached the regional semifinals for the third time in the past four seasons.

Coach Matthew Mitchell is building a tradition at a school rich in men’s basketball history.

“We have the goal of becoming the best program in the country,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we are making a lot of progress.”

Dayton got off to a strong start, hitting its first seven shots and were tied 14-14 with Kentucky before the Wildcats turned up their pressure. They went on a 12-0 run over the next 5 minutes to take a 26-14 advantage. Mathies hit two 3-pointers during the burst. The Flyers had four turnovers in that stretch.

Kentucky led 38-22 with 3:12 left and looked like they were about to blow the game open but went cold from the field and started fouling Dayton.

The Flyers closed the half on a 9-2 run hitting all six free throws they attempted to trail 40-31 at the break.

Hoover hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to cap the burst. It was the Flyers first 3 of the game. They hit 10 in the opening-round 96-90 double-overtime win over St. John’s.

Dayton kept it going to start the second half and closed to 46-44. The Flyers only had one turnover during their run to bridge the halves after committing 14 in first 15 minutes.

Unfortunately the Wildcats’ “40 minutes of dread” wore down Dayton as the team had five turnovers during Kentucky’s burst that blew open the game.

The loss ended a spectacular season for Dayton. The Flyers won an NCAA tournament game for the second time in school history. They also won their first Atlantic 10 regular-season title before falling to Saint Joseph’s in the conference tournament semifinals. The team also surpassed the school record for wins.

Not bad for a squad that lost a lot to graduation last year and has the sixth youngest roster in the country.

Kentucky forward Samarie Walker had to briefly leave the game in the first half after throwing up in the corner. She has been battling a flu which has been running through the Wildcats. She returned a few minutes later wearing a fresh jersey.

KENTUCKY 84, DAYTON 70

DAYTON (28-3): Malott 3-9 4-4 10, Sant 5-7 3-4 13, Deane 3-6 3-5 9, MacKay 4-5 2-2 12, Hoover 6-11 8-10 22, Applewhite 0-6 2-3 2, Austria 0-2 2-2 2, Wilson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-47 24-30 70.

KENTUCKY (29-5): Walker 3-4 0-0 6, Stallworth 6-10 2-2 14, O’Neill 2-12 5-7 11, Mathies 13-17 2-4 34, Evans 0-2 0-0 0, Thompson 1-3 0-0 2, Pinkett 0-2 0-0 0, Sidney 2-4 0-0 4, Goss 4-13 3-3 11, Henderson 1-1 0-0 2, Bishop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-68 12-16 84.

Halftime_Kentucky 40-31. 3-Point Goals_Dayton 4-13 (MacKay 2-2, Hoover 2-4, Applewhite 0-1, Sant 0-1, Austria 0-1, Deane 0-1, Malott 0-3), Kentucky 8-24 (Mathies 6-7, O’Neill 2-8, Sidney 0-1, Evans 0-1, Pinkett 0-2, Goss 0-5). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Dayton 32 (Malott 8), Kentucky 34 (Walker 7). Assists_Dayton 12 (Malott 5), Kentucky 12 (O’Neill 5). Total Fouls_Dayton 15, Kentucky 23. A_1,144.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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