Kentucky holds off Green Bay rally
Wildcats nearly blow 17-point lead, overcome 34 turnovers to win
AMES, Iowa -- Kentucky did nearly everything it could to give its season away by blowing a 17-point lead.
Senior Keyla Snowden made sure the Wildcats will keep playing.
Snowden hit a jumper and two free throws in the final 18 seconds, and second-seeded Kentucky managed to sneak past Green Bay 65-62 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Monday night.
Samarie Walker had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Snowden added 13 points for the Wildcats (27-6).
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Kentucky opened the game with a 21-6 run, then rallied after Green Bay erased a 17-point deficit and took a 62-61 lead with 1:57 left. Snowden responded with a short jumper that rolled in after sitting on the rim, and Adrian Ritchie air-balled a 3-pointer with a second left.
Julie Wojta and Sarah Eichler each scored 16 points for Green Bay (31-2), which forced a staggering 34 turnovers -- including 20 in the final 20 minutes.
After barely getting past 15th-seeded McNeese State 68-62 in Saturday’s tourney opener, the Wildcats spent the first half blowing past a Green Bay team many thought was much stronger than a No. 7 seed.
Then things got ugly for Kentucky -- very ugly.
The Wildcats turned the ball over 12 times in next 10 minutes against the nation’s second-best team in turnover margin -- ironically just behind Kentucky. Green Bay used all those miscues to fuel a 24-9 run that trimmed the margin to 55-54 with 6:15 left.
Wojta, the Horizon League’s player of the year, had 10 steals and a jumper that tied it at 61 with 3:06 left.
Such a scenario seemed so unlikely in the first half.
Snowden and Smith each drained 3s and Goss swooped in for a putback to help the faster, more athletic Wildcats take a 15-point lead against the Phoenix, who never trailed in beating host Iowa State 71-57 in the first round.
During a stoppage in play, Phoenix coach Matt Bollant yelled to his shell-shocked team that it was just the break it needed. That rest didn’t help much though, because at the time Green Bay had few answers for the Wildcats.
Kentucky held Wojta, who came in averaging nearly 20 points a game, without a point for nearly 13 minutes. Mathies also picked Wojta clean at midcourt late in the first half and blew past her for a layup to help the Wildcats push their lead to 17 by the break.
It was by far the biggest halftime deficit of the year for the Phoenix. Wojta helped make sure it didn’t last, but Snowden’s strong play ensured the Wildcats will have a chance to reach their second regional final in three years against the 11th-seeded Zags.
Kastine Evans and Mathies, the Southeastern Conference player of the Year, each had 10 points. But Mathies was shut out in the second half and struggled in the two games in Ames.
The teams combined for 58 turnovers, but Kentucky shot 51 percent from the field.