Mitchell’s Hoops defeat Vanderbilt, advance in SEC Tournament



By Boyd Hayes | @KernelHayes

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DULUTH, Ga. – UK Hoops progressed to the final four of the SEC Tournament Friday after defeating Vanderbilt, 76-65, in Duluth, Ga.

“I think it was a great game tonight. A game we definitely needed,” senior guard A’dia Mathies said. “We just wanted to come out here and make a statement. Just know that we’re looking forward to winning the championship.”

After Vanderbilt junior guard Jasmine Lister scored the first basket of the game, the Cats made an 8-0 run on the back of four quick points apiece from Mathies and junior center DeNesha Stallworth. The Cats ruled the rest of the half and led, 38-23, at halftime.

“I loved the way we started and our intensity,” said UK head coach Matthew Mitchell.

Coming out at the half, Vanderbilt scored the first points again, but then the Cats pushed back ahead with more points from Mathies, Stallworth and sophomore forward Azia Bishop.

Though the Commodores made several small runs, they couldn’t overcome the deficit, and the  Cats held on for the 11-point victory.

Bishop and junior forward Samantha Drake scored nine points each, part of the Cats’ 32 bench points.

“Gosh, I just thought (Bishop and Drake) played beautifully,” Mitchell said. “I thought it was probably their best game, too, as a tandem. “We believe those two players are very talented. It’s a luxury for us to have right now. We need to continue to take advantage of it.”

No. 7 UK’s depth was such that Mitchell’s first substitution of the game was five for five, with all the starters coming off. By the final buzzer, all 12 UK players had seen the court and none of them had played more than 26 minutes.

“I think the second unit is confident right now because their roles have been clearly defined,” Miitchell said. “I think they are taking pride in coming in as a unit and being productive.”

Mathies led the Cats with 16 points and five first-half steals, while Stallworth added 14 points and six rebounds.

Defense was prominent in the victory as the Cats forced 23 Vanderbilt turnovers.

“Kentucky’s defense to start the game was really good, really aggressive, really physical,” said Vanderbilt head coach Melanie Balcomb. “(UK) created a lot of offense off their defense.”

Vanderbilt senior forward Tiffany Clarke led her team in scoring and rebounding, with 24 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double.

The victory moves the Cats into the SEC Tournament final four for the fourth consecutive season.

That final four game will be played on Saturday at 6 p.m. against the winner of Friday night’s contest between No. 12 Georgia and No. 22 Louisiana State. Follow @AlexFork3 and @KernelHayes on twitter for live updates from the Gwinnett Center.