NEW YORK (AP) — Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell wasn't sure what he would get out of A'dia Mathies.
The two-time SEC player of the year, like most of the Wildcats, was sick before the game — bitten by a flu bug that was sweeping through the team.
Mathies shook off the stomach virus to put up one of the best performances in school history. She matched her career high with 34 points to lead the second-seeded Wildcats to an 84-70 win over Dayton in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament.
"She looked really ill before the game and didn't look energized like 'I'm going to have this kind of performance.' She felt terrible. It was a definite Michael Jordanesque. An unbelievable performance."
The Wildcats (29-5) will face Delaware in the semifinals of the Bridgeport Regional on Saturday.
"It's very exciting especially since it's a lot of people's first Sweet 16," said DeNesha Stallworth, who added 14 poitns for Kentucky. "We don't want to stop here. We still have a lot of basketball to play."
It took an incredible effort from Mathies to get there.
With Kentucky clinging to a 46-44 advantage early in the second half, Mathies scored 10 points during a 16-3 run to help the Wildcats take control of the game.
She hit two 3-pointers, including one to cap the burst and make it 62-47. Mathies was coming off the worst game of her career where she didn't hit a field goal in the first round win over Navy. She made 13 of 17 against Dayton.
"I just went out there and played as hard as I could," Mathies said. "I believe on the first possesion I didn't know how I'd make it through this. I didn't want my season to end. Everybody gave their all and came with their victory."
Andrea Hoover scored 22 points to lead the Flyers (28-3), who got no closer than eight the rest of the way to end the best season in school history.
One of the best seasons for Kentucky will continue in Bridgeport. The Wildcats have the most wins in school history and have reached the regional semifinals for the third time in the past four seasons.
Mitchell is building a tradition at a school rich in men's basketball history.
"We have the goal of becoming the best program in the country," he said. "We have a lot of work to do, but we are making a lot of progress."
Dayton got off to a strong start, hitting its first seven shots and were tied 14-14 with Kentucky before the Wildcats turned up their pressure. They went on a 12-0 run over the next 5 minutes to take a 26-14 advantage. Mathies hit two 3-pointers during the burst. The Flyers had four turnovers in that stretch.
"(Mathies) is a great player," Dayton coach Jim Jabir said. "The things she can do with the basketball. She can shoot the 3. That one shot where she drove and leaned in on our post and looked like Michael Jordan two feet lower. There was nothing more we could have done there."
Kentucky led 38-22 with 3:12 left and looked like they were about to blow the game open but went cold from the field and started fouling Dayton.
The Flyers closed the half on a 9-2 run hitting all six free throws they attempted to trail 40-31 at the break.
Hoover hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to cap the burst. It was the Flyers first 3 of the game. They hit 10 in the opening-round 96-90 double-overtime win over St. John's.
Dayton kept it going to start the second half and closed to 46-44. The Flyers only had one turnover during their run to bridge the halves after committing 14 in first 15 minutes.
Unfortunately the Wildcats' "40 minutes of dread" wore down Dayton as the Flyers had five turnovers during Kentucky's burst that blew open the game.
The loss ended a spectacular season for Dayton. The Flyers won an NCAA tournament game for the second time in school history. They also won their first Atlantic 10 regular-season title before falling to Saint Joseph's in the conference tournament semifinals. The team also surpassed the school record for wins.
Not bad for a squad that lost a lot to graduation last year and has the sixth youngest roster in the country.
"I'm very, very proud. I've never been 28-3 before," Jabir said. "We're trying to build our program like Butler's men's program where we can beat anybody on any given day and still be the University of Dayton."
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