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Kentucky women beat Georgia to reach SEC final

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm •  Published: March 9, 2013

DULUTH, Ga. (AP) — Kentucky responded to a halftime challenge from its coach like a team determined to end a 31-year championship drought.

The Wildcats took the lead with a 15-0 run early in the second half and closed the game with 13 unanswered points to overwhelm Georgia 60-38 on Saturday night to earn a spot in the SEC tournament championship game.

Jennifer O'Neill sank 3-pointers on each end of the big run and DeNesh Stallworth had 18 points for No. 7 Kentucky (27-4), which will face No. 19 Texas A&M in Sunday night's final. The Wildcats, who lost to Tennessee in the 2010 and 2011 championship games, won their only tournament championship in 1982.

Kentucky trailed 24-19 at halftime. Coach Matthew Mitchell wrote two numbers on the board in the team's locker room during the break: 12 and 3.

"Georgia had 12 offensive rebounds and we had three," Mitchell said. "I thought Georgia played with so much more intensity and desire in the first half. I was just livid about that."

The Wildcats got the message, turned up their intensity and outscored Georgia 41-14 in a devastating second half.

"I think we all took it personal," Stallworth said. "I think we all stuck together as a team and we fought hard. When we come together, it definitely brings energy."

Georgia finished with a 48-38 advantage in rebounds, including a 22-8 edge in offensive rebounds that was the only positive result of the Lady Bulldogs' poor shooting. Georgia had the opportunity for many offensive rebounds because it made only 14 of 63 shots (22.2 percent).

"Kentucky has a defense that applies a lot of pressure," Georgia's Jasmine James said. "When we did finally get open to knock down some shots, we just didn't do a good job of doing that. That's practice and focus. Clearly, we didn't have that."

Kentucky settled the score after Georgia's 75-71 win in Lexington on Feb. 3 for the Wildcats' only home loss of the season.

The Wildcats, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, beat Texas A&M, the No. 4 seed, 65-62 at home on Jan. 10. The Aggies beat No. 1 seed Tennessee 66-62 in Saturday's first semifinal.

"We know we'll have to play well and prepare well to beat Texas A&M," Mitchell said. "We'll put everything we can into it and see what happens tomorrow, try to get as ready as we can. But we're glad to win today."

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