The No. 6 Kentucky women's basketball team beat No. 15 Georgia 69-64 in Athens to improve to 6-0 in the SEC.
By CHARLES ODUM
AP Sports Writer
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Kentucky's pressing defense wasn't forcing turnovers. The Wildcats' top scorer, A'dia Mathies, wasn't scoring at her normal pace.
It was a good thing coach Matthew Mitchell could count on Kentucky's overwhelming 34-0 advantage in bench points to overcome Georgia.
Kentucky took the lead with a 9-0 run in the second half and the No. 6 Wildcats wore down short-handed Georgia and beat the No. 15 Lady Bulldogs 69-64 on Thursday night.
Bria Goss, who had a career-high 22 points, hit two 3-pointers in the big run, including one that gave the Wildcats a 54-52 lead. Samarie Walker had 18 points for Kentucky (17-2, 6-0 Southeastern Conference).
Mathies, who leads Kentucky with her average of 16.6 points, had seven points and 10 rebounds.
"Our players who had been scoring found other ways to contribute," Mitchell said.
As a result, Kentucky is in first place in the SEC, one game ahead of Tennessee and two games ahead of Georgia (15-4, 4-2) and LSU.
"We have a good team and we're going to work hard and stay humble and hungry," Mitchell said.
Kentucky leads the nation with a plus-12.3 turnover margin, but its defense forced only four turnovers in the first half as Georgia led 36-32. Mitchell abandoned his full-court press for a half-court defense that sparked the Wildcats.
"The press was just not there tonight," Mitchell said. "Georgia did a great job. We were not aggressive enough in it. ... I hated to do it, but I had to take the press off. I just told them to see if we could get some energy in the half-court defense. That really worked."
Kentucky used 12 players and had only two starters log as many as 30 minutes. Georgia used only seven players and had Khaalidah Miller and Meredith Mitchell play the full 40 minutes.
Georgia forward Anne Marie Armstrong played nearly the entire second half with four fouls before drawing her fifth with 12 seconds remaining. She logged 39 minutes.
Bulldogs starting guard Jasmine James, the team's primary ball-handler, was held out with a sprained right knee. Freshman reserve forward Krista Donald, was in uniform but did not play after aggravating a left knee injury.
"It was kind of a nightmare, once we go the number of players that were going to be playing," said Meredith Mitchell.
Freshman Erika Ford, starting for James, led Georgia with 17 points. Jasmine Hassell had 13 points and Miller had 12.
Georgia took a 46-36 lead about 5 minutes into the second half, but its lack of depth soon began to show.
Kentucky went ahead 58-52 after the 9-0 run. Georgia made a short-lived recovery before Hassell's basket with 3:59 remaining was disallowed due to a charge, leaving the Wildcats up 62-59.
Armstrong, who had 11 points, hit a 3-pointer with nearly a minute to go to cut the deficit to 66-64. Goss answered with a baseline drive to protect the lead.
"It was a gutsy performance," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "We were really short-handed against the team that plays the most players in our conference."
Donald's injury left Landers with little frontcourt depth. Landers left Armstrong in the game when she was called for her third foul with 3:15 remaining in the first half. The junior drew her fourth foul about 2 minutes later.
"We were in a situation where we can't take her out," Landers said of his decision to leave Armstrong in the game with three fouls. "It's that simple."
Landers said he hopes James and Donald can return for Sunday's game at Mississippi. He said Donald would have played only in a tight game in the final minutes of the game. He said "it never crossed my mind" to have Donald take over for Armstrong in the first half.
Goss said Kentucky remained confident even when trailing by 10 points.
"We knew that from the start," Goss said of Georgia's shortage of players. "You might be able to play 40 minutes but it won't be an effective 40 minutes."