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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Jennifer O’Neill had 17 points and Linnae Harper scored 16 to lead No. 15 Kentucky to its fifth 20-win season in a row on Sunday in an 83-74 victory over No. 16 Texas AM.

Kentucky (20-7, 8-6 SEC) led the entire second half but needed an 8-2 run at the end of the game to secure the win. After the Aggies (21-7, 11-3) closed within 75-72 on Karla Gilbert’s putback with 2:34 left, they missed their last five field goals while the Wildcats pulled away.

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell credited his players’ effort and a recently installed 2-3 zone for the difficulties the Wildcats’ defense caused the Aggies.

”The players worked really hard on the 2-3 zone for the past two days,” he said. “We had not played a lot of that and it and it paid off for us today.”

The loss drops A&M into a second-place tie with No. 10 Tennessee (11-3) as No. 4 South Carolina (13-1) clinches at least a share of the SEC regular-season title. The Aggies hold the tiebreaker with South Carolina for the top seed in the SEC tournament thanks to a 67-65 overtime victory against the Gamecocks on Jan. 16.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair took the blame for the loss.

”Throw the errors at me,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job at coaching. We worked hard to set ourselves up to have a chance to win this thing. Now what we’ve got to do is throw this game aside, learn from it, try to win our last two, get to the SEC Tournament and hopefully get hot and hopefully get smarter.”

Samarie Walker had 14 rebounds and DeNesha Stallworth had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Kentucky. Walker also had 10 rebounds.

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.

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.

LEXINGTON  (AP) — A’dia Mathies is the Southeastern Conference’s player of the year again, though the Kentucky senior guard shares this award with Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons.

Mathies leads three Wildcats on the all-SEC teams announced Tuesday. The preseason pick to repeat as the conference’s top player, the Louisville native averaged 16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game this season and became Kentucky’s No. 2 career scorer.

Forward DeNesha Stallworth (12.5 points, 6.0 rebounds) also made the first team in voting by the league’s 14 coaches. Forward Samarie Walker (9.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, team-high 46 blocks) made the second team along with the league’s All-Defensive team.

Seventh-ranked Kentucky (25-4, 13-3) is the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and opens play Friday in Duluth, Ga.

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
TENNESSEE (23-6)
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.
KENTUCKY (25-4)
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.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Question: Do you expect more out of Samari Walker this year in her first full season after her transfer from Connecticut?
Mitchell: “I think it is important for her to continue to probe and push and see if we can find a way to get her to expand her skill set and get to the spot she elevates the mental side of her game. She gets down and is too hard on herself. That is what she didn’t do in the NCAA tournament and why against the best competition of year she averaged a double-double.
“She is definitely a player we want to take a step forward, and we will raise the expectation level for her. Now she will be able mentally to prepare for her entire season. It is difficult to jump into it in the middle of the year after everybody else has 10 to 11 games under their belt and then you are thrust into a situation like at Notre Dame and have to find a way to mesh immediately.”

Question: Is there any way for A’dia Mathies to be better than she has, and what makes her so special?
Mitchell: “I think A’dia can get a little bit more out of her game still. I still think there is always room for improvement. If she has an identical year from a production standpoint because we have better players around here, we will be good. If she finds a way to squeeze more out, it will really help. We need her to be better.
“We don’t want to stop at the Elite Eight. She would be a big part of getting us to a Final Four if she plays better. A lot of that is on the mental side, but there’s no doubt she is very talented.”

Question: Did you envision her being this good when you recruited her?
Mitchell: “I would be lying all over the place if I thought even the program would look like this. I thought she would help make steps forward, but literally during her time here the program has transformed so much. No way I could have anticipated what she has done and accomplished and meant to Kentucky. It’s just incredible. She was SEC freshman of the year and SEC player of the year in her first three seasons. No one could have expected that.”

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