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February 14, 2013

Second half comeback pushes UK past South Carolina

It took the UK women almost all night to finally re-take the lead against South Carolina. Once they finally had it, they sure weren't going to give it up.

No. 9 Kentucky (22-3, 10-2 Southeastern Conference) trailed nearly the entire game before slowing building momentum to take control in a 78-74 win over No. 16 South Carolina (20-5, 8-4 SEC) on Thursday night at Memorial Coliseum.

The Wildcats took their first lead over the Gamecocks since the opening minutes on a 3-pointer by senior guard A'dia Mathies with 3:48 to pull ahead 69-68 after trailing by as many as 16 in the second half. South Carolina would tie the game twice after that, but couldn't overtake Kentucky.

"If you have your attitude right, then overcoming a 16-point deficit is just a matter of time," sophomore guard Bria Goss said.

Mathies was just 3-16 from the field when she hoisted the shot that gave UK its first lead since the early stages of the game, but she didn't hesitate.

"I definitely want to take any shot when I'm open," Mathies said." … Jen (O'Neill) found me on the trail and it was the one time they didn't pick me up in transition."

South Carolina tied the game at 69 on its next possession, making one of two free throws. But UK's Kastine Evans drained a three to put UK back on top with 3:15 to go. South Carolina fought back and tied the game at 72 with 1:14 remaining, but Evans made a layup with 23.9 seconds left to put UK on top for good.

South Carolina threw the ball out of bounds on its next possession, and UK made four free throws in the closing seconds to ice the win.

"You have to give our kids a lot of credit for hanging in and overcoming a significant deficit to earn what will be a great, great victory," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We'll be real happy down the road that we got this one."

UK maintained third place in the SEC race by holding off South Carolina. The Wildcats scored only 50 points in the entire game in a 55-50 loss at South Carolina on Jan. 24, but stormed back to score 48 in the second half on Thursday.

The Gamecocks had been the SEC's resident bruiser, holding nine of eleven conference opponents below 55 points entering the night. But they built their lead thanks to a sizzling offense. South Carolina shot a season-best 56 percent from the field and outrebounded UK 40-33.

"I just kept telling them to guard, and if we get enough stops, we'll score enough to win," Mitchell said.

Mathies finished with 15 points, but shot just 4-18 from the field. Sophomore point guard Jen O'Neill led UK with 19 points, while Goss added 13 and Evans had 11. All nine of South Carolina's players played more than 15 minutes, and five of them finished in double figures.

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