Kentucky's Victoria Dunlap had another outstanding season, leading the SEC in scoring while earning conference player of the year honors for the second straight time. Now she'll try to lead the fourth-seeded Wildcats on an even deeper run in the NCAA tournament.
Dunlap and Kentucky take on 13th-seeded Hampton in a first-round matchup Saturday night in Albuquerque.
Kentucky (24-8) advanced to the SEC tournament final with a five-game winning streak, but was routed 90-65 by Tennessee on March 6.
The Wildcats earned their eighth NCAA tournament berth and second in a row - the first time they have made back-to-back appearances since 1982 and '83. Kentucky, a No. 4 seed for the second straight season, lost 88-68 to Oklahoma in the regional final in 2010.
Dunlap had 31 points and 13 rebounds in that defeat. She averaged 17.0 points this season, though she struggled against the Volunteers, scoring 15 points and going 5 of 14 from the field.
Teammate A'dia Mathies averaged 17.5 points as freshman in last year's tournament, but her health could prove pivotal to Kentucky's hopes this year. She is struggling with back spasms and has averaged 9.7 points and shot 8 for 26 in her last three games.
The 5-foot-9 Mathies, third on the team with 4.9 rebounds per game and first with 2.7 assists a contest, played 15 minutes against Tennessee - a season low. She's second on Kentucky with a 13.0 points-per-game average.
Coach Matthew Mitchell hopes the starting guard will be ready to go Saturday. The Wildcats were third in the SEC with 71.0 points per game.
"I still think that will be key in the tournament, playing as close to our identity as we can," Mitchell said. "Play real up-tempo offense and tough defense. ... I think our style is tough to prepare for."
Hampton (25-6) will try to do so as it seeks its 14th straight win. It earned its second straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament title with a 61-42 victory over Howard last Saturday.
The Pirates lost 72-37 to Duke in the opening round of the 2010 NCAAs.
"Last year, I was a freshman coach and everybody was a freshman because I was new and we were feeling everybody out," coach David Six said. "This year we knew what we wanted to do.
"Last year's showing in the NCAA tournament left a bad taste in our mouth. We wanted to get back. We knew we were better."
Hampton has three players averaging double figures in points, with Jericka Jenkins scoring a team-high 13.3 per game to go with 7.3 assists. She has scored in double figures in nine straight contests.