LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky turned a battle of styles into a
The undersized fourth-seeded Wildcats raced past bigger - and
slightly slower - fifth-seeded Michigan State 70-52 on Monday in
the second round of the NCAA women's tournament.
Victoria Dunlap, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year,
shook off an upset stomach to lead Kentucky (27-7) with 21 points
as the Wildcats moved into the round of 16 for the first time in 28
Dunlap needed to be treated with IV fluids before the game and
landed awkwardly on her right ankle late in the first half, not
that it stopped her from making 9-of-13 field goals and snagging
"I just believe that she was attacking," said Michigan State
forward Lykendra Johnson. "She just kept attacking our post
players and never stopped."
The Spartans were looking for their second straight trip to the
regional semifinals and fourth in the last six years. Yet Michigan
State had little answer for Kentucky's relentless pressure, which
forced the Spartans into 18 turnovers and harassed them into 35
Kalisha Keane led Michigan State with 10 points. The Spartans'
point total was their lowest ever in the NCAA tournament. They
scored 57 in a loss to Rutgers in 2007.
"The kids I thought really committed to pressuring the
basketball and that's what we had to do," said Kentucky coach
Matthew Mitchell. "I thought we could force Michigan State into
taking some shots we don't normally take."
The last time the Wildcats made the round of 16 was 1982, when
they advanced to the regional finals before falling to Louisiana
Tech. Kentucky hadn't made it past the second round since the
tournament expanded to 64 teams.
In front of a highly partisan crowd at Freedom Hall that
included athletic director Mitch Barnhart, university president Lee
Todd and football coach Joker Phillips, the Wildcats simply ran
away from the Spartans.
Kentucky led just 37-35 early in the second half before turning
on the jets.
Keyla Snowden jumpstarted a 24-6 run with a 3-pointer and A'dia
Mathies - the SEC Freshman of the Year - followed with consecutive
layups while the Spartans went cold.
"They're the fastest team we've played in the three years I've
been here, top to bottom," said Michigan State coach Suzy
Michigan State's Lauren Aitch provided the only points for the
Spartans during Kentucky's surge, as the Spartans struggled to keep
pace as the Wildcats played with the uptempo style that's fueled
their turnaround season.
By the time Mathies capped the burst on another layup, the
Wildcats led 61-41 with 6:41 to play and were well on their way to
joining their men's program in the regional semifinals. Kentucky
will play either Nebraska or UCLA in the Kansas City regional
semifinal on Sunday.
Deep tournament runs are nothing new to Kentucky's men's
program, but is new territory for the women's program. Kentucky was
making its first NCAA appearance since 2006, and Mitchell admitted
he wondered how his team would handle the pressure.
The Wildcats said they battled some nerves early in their
first-round win over Liberty, a game in which they trailed at the
half before rallying behind the play of Mathies, who scored 32
Mathies came down to earth on Monday, finishing with eight
points, six rebounds and five assists. Though she and the rest of
her teammates hardly looked rattled playing in just the second NCAA
tournament game of their careers.
Pressing whenever possible Kentucky took an early five-point
lead before the NCAA-tested Spartans caught their breath.
Michigan State put together a 10-0 run to move ahead before the
Wildcats rallied despite having Mathies on the bench in foul
trouble. The pace slowed with Mathies out, but Kentucky hardly
looked bothered, holding the Spartans without a field goal over the
last 6:36 of the half to take a 35-31 lead at the break.
Dunlap led the way. The 6-foot-1 junior was giving away eight
inches to 6-9 Michigan State center Allyssa DeHaan. No biggie. She
simply drew DeHaan away from the basket and pump-faked before going
in for easy layups.
"She's a legit, big-time athlete," Merchant said. "She just
goes and goes."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)