No. 9 Kentucky 79, Southern Miss. 60

With Kentucky clinging to a five-point halftime lead, coach

Matthew Mitchell asked his Wildcats to pick up the defensive

intensity.

They certainly did.

The Wildcats forced eight turnovers – including five steals – to

fuel a 19-2 run to open the second half and lead No. 9 Kentucky to

a 79-60 victory Saturday over Southern Miss in the championship

game of the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic.

Kentucky forced 33 turnovers and came up with a season-high 18

steals.

”I just thought the five players we had on the floor were able

to bring the pressure up a couple of notches and get that going and

create some turnovers,” Mitchell said.

Kentucky overcame the absence of reigning SEC Player of the Year

Victoria Dunlap, as sophomore guard A’dia Mathies led six Wildcats

with at least nine points.

Dunlap missed Saturday’s game with a mild concussion after

hitting the back of her head on the court while taking a charge

Friday night in Kentucky’s opening-round 91-59 victory over Murray

State. That left the Wildcats having to make up the 19.3 points and

10.7 rebounds per game that Dunlap came into the tournament

averaging.

They did that with defensive pressure and a balanced

offense.

”To be able to win by the margin that we were able to without

Victoria, I think, says a lot about our team,” Mitchell said.

Mathies, who was honored as the Classic’s Most Valuable Player,

scored 14 points, while coming up with six steals, three assists

and four rebounds. She had scored a season-high 21 points and

grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds against Murray State.

”This freshman class that came in has been very productive and

also the returning players, they’re carrying their weight,”

Mathies said. ”I think we did a good job (Saturday) with everybody

coming together knowing that Victoria was out. There was a big hole

there, but we got the job done.”

Keyla Snowden added 12 points for Kentucky, while Crystal Riley

had 11 and freshman guard Kastine Evans – who also was picked for

the All-Classic team – finished with 10 and seven rebounds.

Freshman center Samantha Drake, a starter who missed the

previous two games with a bruised knee, came off the bench Saturday

to score five points in 11 minutes.

Southern Miss (3-2) was led by a pair of forwards – junior

Rachel Vigers, who scored a game-high 21 points, and senior Tanesha

Washington, who had 17.