UK Hoops one step from Final Four

Jennifer O'Neill

Kentucky is one step away from its first appearance in the women's Final Four. To get there, all the Wildcats have to do is beat the program that's been better than any other in recaching that destination in recent years.

Kentucky is one step away from its first appearance in the women's Final Four.

To get there, all the Wildcats have to do is beat the program that's been better than any other in reaching that destination in recent years.

After beating Delaware 69-62 on Saturday in the Bridgeport Regional semifinals, UK (30-5) will play perennial power and top-seeded UConn for a spot in the Final Four, a feat the Huskies have accomplished five years in a row and 12 times in the last 20 years.

The Wildcats will face UConn in the Elite Eight for the second year in a row. The Huskies, who defeated Maryland 76-50 in Saturday's second game, topped UK by 15 in last year's regional final.

"When we were here last year and go back and watch those games, I think we're more talented than the team last year," UK coach Matthew Mitchell said. "If we play really hard and make shots, we can beat either team."

Kentucky already had to overome one major obstacle to advance this far. Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, one of the top players int he women's game, closed her career with a game-high 33 points to move into fifth place all-time in NCAA history with 3,039. But the Wildcats made her work for each one, holding the 6-foot-5 forward to 11-of-23 shooting from the field.

A well-rounded team effort highlighted UK's win. The Cats got 19 points from sophomore guard Jennifer O'Neill, who hit four 3-pointers. A'dia Mathies followed with 16, while Samarie Walker and Kastine Evans each added eight. Walker also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds and blocked two shots.

Mathies, a senior and the two-time SEC Player of the Year, became only the second player in UK Hoops history to eclipse the 2,000-point mark for her career. Only Valerie Still (2,763 from 1979-83) has scored more.

Kentucky led 41-27 at the half, but saw Delaware inch witining 62-60 with 2:47 remaining in the game. A 3-pointer moments later by Evans helped give the Cats some breathing room, however, and the Blue Hens could not get any closer the rest of the way.

Delaware (33-3) saw its 27-game winning streak end.

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