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January 20, 2013

UK Hoops powers past Auburn, 97-53

It was more than just the final score that bothered Auburn. Kentucky's press got under the Tigers skin on Sunday in the Wildcats' 97-53 win and stayed there after the final buzzer.

No. 5 UK (18-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) handled Auburn (13-6, 2-4 SEC) with ease in the Wildcats' third-straight blowout win in the conference. The Wildcats used a pair of runs in the first half to separate themselves from the Tigers and never let them back into the game.

"I thought the players hustled and the more plays they made, the more aggressive they would get and it fueled their confidence," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "It was a very impressive defensive display."

The Tigers fell behind early when UK went on a 12-1 run beginning with 15:55 to go in the first half to widen its lead to 19-7. But they really blew things open later, when they started a 24-2 run midway through the half to triple Auburn's score at 45-15.

By halftime, UK was ahead 51-21 and overpowering the Tigers. Auburn point guard Najat Ouardad, who led the SEC in assists entering the game, didn't have her first assist until 7:47 left in the second half, by which point she had eight turnovers.

Auburn couldn't find an answer for Kentucky's full-court pressure. The Tigers finished with 30 turnovers.

"I thought it was pretty unclassy to continue to press when you're up by 40 points," Auburn head coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "We're a pressing team also, and at some point you do take the press off, because it's not respectful."

Mitchell saw things differently.

"I'm not going to spend any time with that kind of comment," he said. "Anybody who is unfamiliar with how we play and what our goals are, that's their problem. Not mine. I'm really proud of our players and I thought they conducted themselves with tremendous poise today."

Kentucky used those turnovers and a hot shooting day to bury Auburn early. The Wildcats finished 12-28 from three-point range, led by A'dia Mathies. She finished with a game-high 24 points and went 5-6 from beyond the arc.

"I didn't really feel it," Mathies said. "I didn't know I only missed one shot. I was just out there playing. Luckily, the shots went in."

Junior center DeNesha Stallworth finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior forward Samarie Walker had 15 points and six rebounds, while sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill had 17 points and six assists. She hit five three-pointers of her own.

UK has won its last three SEC games by a combined 123 points, but the toughest portion of their conference schedule is still ahead of them. Mitchell is

"I worry about a lot of things," Mitchell said. "When you are playing good basketball, as a coach, you want to try to continue that so you are constantly looking to see where we are. What I try to tell this team is, for a long time I would hang around and wait for something bad to happen. This team continues to build trust and show up and play hard.

" Maybe we could have played less hard today and still won, but that's not the goal for us. The goal for us is to play our best. They continue to practice hard and get prepared."

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