QUEENS, N.Y. – Paced by the inside game of juniors DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker and the outside shooting of New York native Jennifer O’Neill, the Kentucky women’s basketball team earned its sixth consecutive first-round win in the NCAA Tournament with a 61-41 victory over Navy on Sunday. The Wildcats will face a tough seventh-seeded and No. 18/15 Dayton squad in the second round Tuesday with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. Game time is 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN2. It also will be carried live on the UK IMG Sports Network with Neil Price.
“We were thrilled to advance in the tournament yesterday,” UK Hoop coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It was a great win for us and our basketball team. We played some tough defense yesterday. That is something we take a lot of pride in and work really hard on and it helped us move forward in the tournament. Dayton has an outstanding team, very well coached. I was very impressed with their players yesterday and their toughness to advance against a good St. John’s team. We will do everything we can today to prepare well and see if we can win another game in the tournament tomorrow.”
The 20-point win over Navy marked the largest margin of victory by UK in the NCAA Tournament. UK held the Midshipmen to 41 points, including 15 in the second half, marking the fewest points allowed by the Wildcats in an NCAA Tournament game. Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) charted her team-high ninth double-double of the season with a game-best 18 points and 11 rebounds. She also recorded three steals, two assists and two blocks in the win. Walker added 14 points and six rebounds, while O’Neill, a native of the Bronx, N.Y., inked 12 points and a career-high five steals.
Dayton (28-2) earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament after winning its first Atlantic 10 regular season championship with an undefeated 14-0 mark. The team has already surpassed the school record for wins and is in its fourth straight NCAA tournament. Dayton’s two losses came at Bowling Green in December (65-40) and in the semifinals of the conference tournament vs. Saint Joseph's (61-54).
In its first round game, the Flyers (28-2) topped 10th-seeded St. John’s 96-90 in double overtime. Four players scored 13 or more points in the victory, led by sophomore Andrea Hoover and freshman Kelley Austria with 24 and 21 points, respectively. Senior Samantha MacKay added 14 points and senior Olivia Applewhite, the Atlantic 10 Sixth Player of the Year, came off the bench and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds to go along with 13 points.
Three players average in double digits led by Hoover (12.6), sophomore Ally Malott (10.7) and MacKay (10.4). In Dayton’s balanced system, eight of UD’s 10 active players have led UD in single-game scoring this season.
Ranked No. 18 in the final AP poll and No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches’ poll of the regular season, Dayton is in the top-20 nationally in six statistical categories, including assists per game, scoring offense, scoring margin and field goal percentage.
UK’s is led by All-America candidate Adia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.). UK’s all-time steals leader (312) currently leads the team in scoring (15.6), 3-point field goals made (64) and 3-point field goal percentage (.408). The senior, who has reached double figures in 30-of-33 games this season, was named the SEC Player of the Year by AP and SEC Co-Player of the Year by the league coaches for the second straight year. In the front court, Stallworth (first-team All-SEC by the league coaches and second-team All-SEC by AP) and Walker (second-team All-SEC and SEC All-Defensive team selection by the league coaches), give UK a dynamic inside presence. The duo combines to average 21.8 points, 14.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.
UK has two players on its roster from the state of Ohio in Walker of West Carrollton,located less than 10 miles from Dayton, and sophomore center Azia Bishop of Toledo. Walker is familiar with several members of Dayton’s team as she played AAU basketball one summer with MacKay and played against Ohio natives Hoover, Ally Mallott, Cassie Sant and Austria during her prep career at Chaminade-Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio, and in the AAU circuit.
Tuesday will mark the 16th meeting between the programs since UK became a varsity sport in the 1974-75 season. It’s the first matchup since 1997. UK leads the all-time series 12-3 and is 24-13 vs. teams from Dayton’s Atlantic 10 Conference.
Tickets for the game at the Carnesecca Arena are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors and $5 for groups of 20 or more. Call the St. John’s Ticket Office at 1-888-Go-Storm or online at redstormsports.com.