DULUTH, Ga. (AP) - Kentucky rallied after trailing by 14 points
in the second half to beat Mississippi State 76-65 on Saturday
night, advancing to only its second Southeastern Conference
tournament title game.
A'dia Mathies scored 25 points, including 18 in the second half,
and Victoria Dunlap added 22 for No. 19 Kentucky (25-6). The
Wildcats will play No. 4 Tennessee on Sunday night.
Kentucky won the 1982 title in its only other appearance in the
championship game, while regular-season champion Tennessee will
play for its 14th tournament title.
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell led an impromptu pep rally on
the court in front of Kentucky fans after the win.
Mississippi State (19-12) led 35-24 at halftime and stretched
the lead to 14 early in the second half.
Kentucky, which made only 8 of 28 shots (28.6 percent) from the
field in the first half, rallied behind Mathies, Dunlap and Amber
Smith, who had 14 points. Dunlap had nine rebounds, five blocks and
Tysheka Grimes led Mississippi State with 19 points. Armelie
Lumanu had 18 and Chanel Mokango added 13.
Lumanu scored at the end of the first half to give Mississippi
State a 35-24 lead. The Lady Bulldogs stretched the lead to 40-26
early in the second half before Kentucky launched its comeback.
Dunlap scored after a steal by Amani Franklin to cut the Lady
Bulldogs' lead to 40-36, and a basket by Smith cut the lead to
Grimes hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push Mississippi State's
lead to 53-46. Kentucky scored the next eight points. Following the
final tie at 57-all, Kentucky took control with a 12-2 run capped
by a 3-pointer by Mathies.
FINAL SCORE: No. 2 Seed Kentucky 76, No 3 Seed Mississippi State 65
Team Records and Series Notes
Kentucky improves to 25-6 while Mississippi State falls to 19-12.
Kentucky gains the lead in the overall series with an 18-17 mark, including a 4-2 edge when the teams meet at the SEC Tournament. Tonight’s contest was the first between the squads at the SEC Tournament since 2002 when Kentucky won 75-72 in Nashville, Tenn.
Kentucky’s win is the second this season against Mississippi State. The Wildcats topped the Bulldogs 69-59 on Jan. 31 in Starkville, Miss.
Kentucky improves its record to 22-30 all-time at the SEC Tournament.
UK head coach Matthew Mitchell’s overall record improves to 88-67, including a 58-38 mark at UK. Mitchell’s record against Mississippi State improves to 3-2.
Up next: Kentucky advances to the finals of the SEC Tournament where it will face Tennessee, the league’s regular-season champion, Sunday, March 7. Game time on ESPN2 is set for 6:30 p.m. EST. The Lady Volunteers (29-2) defeated Vanderbilt 68-49 in semifinal-round action earlier Saturday.
SEC Tournament Notes
The Wildcats advance to the finals of the SEC Tournament for the first time since the league went to a 12-team format in 1992. It also marks UK’s first appearance in the final game since defeating Tennessee (80-74) for the 1982 championship title held in Lexington, Ky.
Junior forward Victoria Dunlap set a new school record for most Kentucky blocks in a single SEC Tournament game with five.
The Wildcats are 4-2 all-time vs. Mississippi State in SEC Tournament games.
UK forced MSU into 28 turnovers, the most by a Wildcat opponent in the SEC Tournament.
Freshman guard A’dia Mathies tied the UK record for most free throws made in an SEC Tournament game with 11. Mathies was 10-of-11 from the charity stripe in the game, including 8-of-9 free throws in the second half.
Team Game Notes
· Key run: Kentucky trailed 14 points in the second half at 38-24 with 19:34 remaining but used a 16-4 run, including 10 points from Victoria Dunlap to pull within two 44-42. After the Lady Bulldogs managed to grow their advantage back to 53-46 at 11:16, Kentucky grabbed control of the game with a 23-6 run to take a 69-59 advantage with 4:17 to go. A’dia Mathies led UK with 10 points during the second spurt, while Smith added five points.
Kentucky’s 25 wins tie the school record for most wins in a season with the 1980-81 team that compiled a 25-6 mark under former coach Terry Hall.
UK’s 14-point come-from-behind win is its largest rally this season. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 10 points in their 63-53 win over Vanderbilt in Lexington on Jan. 10.
The Wildcats forced Mississippi State into 28 turnovers, the most forced by the Cats in an SEC Tournament. UK has forced 20 or more turnovers in 23 of 30 games this season. The Wildcats improve to 13-0 when forcing 25 or more turnovers.
Kentucky committed 18 turnovers against the Bulldogs, but made only four miscues in the second half.
Kentucky improves to 16-1 this season when scoring 70 or more points in a game.
UK won the battle of the boards 40-34 and remains undefeated at 17-0 when it out-rebounds the opponent.
Kentucky grabbed 13 steals against the Lady Bulldogs. UK has swiped 10 or more steals in 22 games this season.
UK extended its streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer to 218 consecutive games, dating back to the 2003-04 season.
Kentucky has held its opponent under 50 percent field goal shooting in 30 of 31 games this season.
Kentucky started with the lineup of Keyla Snowden, Victoria Dunlap, Amber Smith Amani Franklin and A’dia Mathies for the fourth time this season. That lineup is 2-2.
Individual Game Notes
Junior forward and SEC Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap scored 22 points to go with nine rebounds, five blocks and five steals.
Dunlap has scored 20 or more points in 12 games this season, including three of the last four.
Moved into 18th place on UK’s all-time career scoring list (1,178 points).
Moved into sixth place on UK’s career rebounds list with 768.
Swatted a career-high five shots to give her 124 career blocks, which ranks third all-time in school history.
Has 61 blocks on the season for the single-season school record. She surpasses Sarah Elliott’s 56 blocks during the 2007-08 season.
Ranks in ninth place on the school’s all-time steal list with 195.
Has recorded at least one steal in 38 consecutive games.
Freshman guard and SEC Freshman of the Year A’dia Mathies scored a game-high 25 points, making 11-of-12 free throws to go with five rebounds.
Has scored in double figures in 23 of 31 games this season.
Fifth 20-point scoring effort this season.
Has pulled down at least four rebounds in 25 games this season.
Tonight is the second time this season UK has had two players score 20 points in the same game Mathies (27) and Dunlap (20) accomplished the feat against Arkansas on Feb. 7, 2010.
Junior point guard Amber Smith scored 14 points to go with seven assists and three steals.
Has handed out five or more assists on nine occasions this year.
Has scored in double figures in 12 games this season.