LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A'dia Mathies wouldn't let Kentucky's
return to the NCAA Tournament be just a cameo.
Mathies, the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year,
scored a career-high 32 points as the fourth-seeded Wildcats beat
13th-seeded Liberty 83-77 on Saturday in the opening round of the
women's NCAA tournament at Freedom Hall.
SEC Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap scored 15 points and
added eight rebounds while Keyla Snowden sparked the Wildcats
(26-7) with 15 points - all in the second half - as Kentucky moved
into the second round for the first time since 2006. The Wildcats
will play fifth-seeded Michigan State on Monday.
Mathies, a Louisville native, chose to play for the Wildcats
rather than the hometown Cardinals. Good move. While the Cardinals
missed the tournament after making it to the NCAA championship game
last year, the Wildcats have surged behind the play of their
Though Freedom Hall is typically inhospitable to the Wildcats -
they hadn't won on Louisville's home floor since 1999 - Mathies
appeared right at home in her hometown.
She helped the Wildcats overcome a shaky start by turning up the
pressure on the Flames (27-6). Mathies, who led the SEC in steals,
led the charge as Kentucky forced 22 Liberty turnovers.
Kentucky took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by Mathies with
just over 12 minutes remaining then held on. The Flames hung around
but would get no closer than six over the game's final 10 minutes.
The NCAA-tested Flames were hardly intimidated playing in front
of a highly partisan crowd in what was a de facto home game for the
Wildcats. Liberty, making its 13th NCAA appearance in the last 14
seasons, scored the game's first six points and led by as much as
eight before the Wildcats woke up.
Kentucky stormed back with a 17-0 run, holding the Flames
without a field goal for seven minutes to take a 21-13 lead.
Liberty responded with an 11-0 run of its own to go back in
front and the Flames took a 35-33 lead into the break and appeared
on the verge of posting their first NCAA win since 2005.
The Wildcats, however, steadied themselves behind Mathies to
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