No. 19 Texas A&M faces off against No. 7 Kentucky in the SEC Championship game. The Aggies put together a 14-2 run in the second half to defeat the Wildcats 75-67. Post game with Gary Blair, Kelsey Bone, Matthew Mitchell & A'dia Mathies.
DULUTH, Ga. -- When Texas A&M’s Kelsey Bone went to the bench with her second foul at the 8:54 mark of the first half of the SEC Championship game, she told head Coach Gary Blair, “Don’t worry about it --we got this.”
The 6-4 center wound up playing just eight minutes in the first half, posting a meager four points and two rebounds in front of 5,076 fans at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, but she proved to be prophetic.
“It probably was a blessing in disguise,” said the junior. “It’s a testament to my team and the depth that we have that I can sit on the bench and we’re only down by two points (36-34, at the half).”
There was no second half disappearing act by Bone. In fact, she scored the go-ahead basket at the 18:12 mark and the Aggies never relinquished the lead. Texas A&M later went on a 14-2 run midway through the second half, pushing the lead to as much as 15 points, and though the Wildcats cut the lead to seven on a three pointer by Jennifer O'Neill at the 3:12 mark, but couldn’t get any closer.
“It’s mind-boggling,” said Blair about winning the SEC in the Aggies' first year in the conference. “We were picked to finish fifth by the media and third by the coaches, but this team is resilient. We lost three to open the season against top 10s then we lose three more at the end of the season, but we found a way to put it aside and come together.”
Texas A&M, which lost to the Wildcats twice in during the regular season by a total of seven points, found a way to hold Kentucky well below their season average of 76.7 points.
Bone posted a team high 18 points and 15 rebounds, her 14th double-double of the season, and was named the tournament MVP. She was especially effective on the defensive boards, with 10, an effort that sparked the Aggies fast break where they repeatedly beat the Wildcats up the floor for easy baskets.
“Transition offense was the difference in the game,” said Blair. “We got easy baskets and we didn’t allow them to play that great half-court defense."
The Aggies also owned the paint, outscoring Kentucky 42-30 and outrebounding the Wildcats 47-39. Senior Kristi Bellock was the Aggies' second leading scorer with 15 points, while freshmen Courtney Williams and Courtney Walker combined for 25 points and 11 rebounds.
"We're just disappointed," said Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell, whose team shot just 31 percent from the field in the second half. "We've been here three out of the last four years but haven't been able to get the victory. It's very, very disapointing."
The Wildcats were paced by senior A’dia Mathies who had a game high 19 points. O’Neill added 17 points and four assists.
With the win, the Aggies (24-9) now claim the SEC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and could go as high as a No. 2 seed with Tennessee (24-7) possibly dropping to a three or four spot. Kentucky (27-5) is a likely No. 2 seed while Georgia (25-6) and LSU (20-11) are also locks for the tournament. Vanderbilt (20-11) and Florida (18-14) remain on the bubble.
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