Posted: Mar 3, 2013 9:55 PM
After earning its school-record tying 13th Southeastern Conference win with a commanding 78-65 victory over No. 8 Tennessee, the Kentucky women's basketball team earned the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye for the fourth consecutive season in the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats are preparing to square off against the winner of Vanderbilt (No. 7 seed) and Missouri (No. 10 seed) in the quarterfinals on Friday, March 8 at 6 p.m. EST at the Arena at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. The game will be carried live on SportsSouth/Fox Sports Southwest/Sun Sports and the UK IMG Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price.
Vanderbilt (19-10, 9-7 SEC) earned the seventh seed after falling at Georgia on Sunday, 55-50. Missouri, which defeated Alabama, 88-64, is the 10th seed after finishing 17-13 overall, 6-10 in the SEC.
During the regular season, UK defeated both of its possible opponents. The Wildcats handed the Commodores a 75-53 loss in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 10. UK also defeated Missouri on the road, winning 69-43 in Columbia, Mo., on Jan. 13.
The Wildcats have had another remarkable season under the direction of head coach Matthew Mitchell. Mitchell, who became UK's all-time winningest coach with the win over Tennessee, has led the Cats to a school-record fourth straight 25-win season with a 25-4 overall record, including a 13-3 mark in SEC play. The 13 league wins tie the school record set last season. The Cats have finished in the top two of SEC play four consecutive seasons.
Another reason for UK's success has been the outstanding play of senior All-America candidate and preseason SEC Player of the Year favorite A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.). Mathies leads the team in scoring (16.0), 3-point field goals made (60) and 3-point field goal percentage (.403), and has reached double-figures in 27-of-29 games, including 20 in a row. All-SEC candidate DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) follows in the scoring column with 12.5 points per game, while grabbing 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. All-SEC candidate Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) also averages double digits with 10.4 points per game, including 12.4 ppg in SEC play. Junior forward and All-SEC and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) averages 9.5 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds per game. She also has charted a team-high 46 blocks and 61 steals this season. She is the only post player in the SEC (all games) to rank in the top three in the rebounding, blocks and steals statistical categories.
UK is 25-34 (.423) all-time in the SEC Tournament and holds a 10-12 mark in quarterfinal games. The Cats have earned a first-round bye in six of the last eight tournaments, including four in a row. UK has advanced to the SEC Tournament finals two of the last three seasons.