UK Hoops overwhelm Georgia, advance to SEC Championship



By Boyd Hayes | @KernelHayes

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DULUTH, Ga. – UK Hoops advanced to the SEC Tournament championship game for the third time in four seasons Saturday, defeating No. 12 Georgia, 60-38.

“So proud of the players,” said UK head coach Matthew Mitchell. “Excited for our opportunity to compete for the championship.”

After a low-scoring first half, the Lady Bulldogs out-rebounded the Cats, 28-17, including 12 offensive rebounds to UK’s three. Those second chance opportunities helped Georgia take a 24-19 halftime lead.

The second half saw the Cats re-take the lead quickly on the back of eight points from sophomore guard Jennifer O’Neill in the first six minutes out of halftime.

No. 7 UK outscored Georgia, 43-10, in final 20 minutes of the game, with junior center DeNesha Stallworth contributing 12 points after the interval.

“Halftime we got it turned around. We didn’t come here to come to the second round and lose,” said senior guard A’dia Mathies. “We came out with a lot of energy. Like I said before, we didn’t come here to lose in the second round. We came here to cut down the nets.”

A large part of the Cats’ second half takeover was defense that held Georgia to 6-of-29 shooting from the field in the last 20 minutes of play.

The Lady Bulldogs shot 14-of-63 for the game, as the Cats shot 23-of-56.

“I thought we played a good defensive half,” Mitchell said. “In the first half, they were 23 percent shooting.”

Mathies added six points in the second half for 11 total on the night, as well as two steals that made her the all-time steals leader in UK history with 310 for her career.

The Cats will play No. 19 Texas A&M Sunday for the right to lift the trophy. The Aggies beat No. 9 Tennessee, 66-62, in the Gwinnett Center earlier Saturday.

“We know we’ll have to play well and prepare well to beat Texas A&M,” Mitchell said. “We’ll put everything we can into it and see what happens.”

In the two regular season meetings between the Cats and the Aggies, UK won both with a combined score of 135-128. The meetings were the first two times UK has played Texas A&M in school history.

The first clash, on Jan. 10 in Lexington, saw the Cats win 65-62 behind 23 points from Mathies, 15 points from O’Neill and 12 from Stallworth.

Texas A&M first-team All-SEC junior center Kelsey Bone put up 27 points and 15 rebounds, while senior forward Kristi Bellock scored 16 points and added 10 rebounds.

The teams met in College Station, Texas, on Feb. 18 for the second meeting. UK won, 70-66, with Mathies scoring 13 and Stallworth scoring 12, as well as adding seven blocks.

Bellock scored 12 and added 15 rebounds for the Aggies, while SEC All-Freshman guard Courtney Walker scored 20 points.

“The February game (against A&M) was one of our best games of the year,” Mitchell said. “Lexington, too. Two good games, (two) talented teams. Texas A&M is very well coached. It should be the type of game that this tournament is deserving of.”

The Cats (27-4, 13-3 SEC) and the Aggies (23-9, 13-5 SEC) tip on Sunday at 6 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.