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Saturday, March 20, 2010

UK, Michigan State advance in 1st round at Freedom Hall

6'9" Michigan State center Allyssa DeHaan grabbed 11 boards (most of them pretty easily) and added eight points in the Spartans 72-61 win over Bowling Green in the first game on Denny Crum Court this afternoon.

The Michigan State Spartans roared out to an early 8-0 lead against the Bowling Green Falcons and seemed to be able to score anytime they wanted in the paint with Haan and forwards Aisha Jefferson and Lykendra Johnson. In a half that featured several swings in momentum, though, Bowling Green fought back to tie the contest with 15:30 remaining and used a 15-0 run to take a 15-8 lead with 12:13 remaining. Bowling Green negated the Spartans powerful inside game with some spectacular three point shooting and with Tracy Pontius canning four trifectas in the first twenty minutes they battled to a 36-36 tie in the first half. Pontius's twelve points led all scorers and the Falcons went 8-16 from three-point range in the first half. It was clear that Michigan State needed to continue to use their inside advantage in the second half to gain some momentum in this game. They had 18 points in the paint compared to just 2 by Bowling Green.

The Spartans started the second half strong and used a 9-3 early run to lead Bowling Green 45-39 with 15:58 to go. Although Bowling Green would stay close for most of the rest of the final half, they could get no closer that four the rest of the way. Despite Lauren Prochaska's 11 second half points, Bowling Green goes home. Michigan State held Pontius to only 3 second half points and forced the Falcons into 16 turnovers while committing only 10 themselves.

Jefferson (17 pts.) led the Spartans in scoring. Four Michigan State players reached double figures. Suzy Merchant's team scored 22 of their points off turnovers and added 12 2nd chance points. Bowling Green returns Prochaska and Pontius next year and head coachCurt Miller is in an ideal spot to make a nice run with the Falcons again in the 2010-11 season.

By the time the second game between Kentucky and Liberty started, Freedom Hall had turned into a lower arena sea of blue. Liberty came out undaunted, though and scored the first six points of the contest. Using a decided height advantage, the Flames built a 12-4 lead with 16:46 to go in the first half. UK head coach Matthew Mitchell needed a way to spark his team and he found the fire by putting the Wildcats in a full court press. It spurred UK to a 15-1 run and the Cats, led by Adia Mathies and Amani Franklin took a 19-13 advantage with 11:20 to go. Liberty was not done just yet, though, and battled back to lead the Wildcats 28-25 with 3:39 remaining in the first half. A basket plus one by Liberty forward Kylee Beecher gave the Flames a 35-33 edge at the half. 31 of Liberty's first half points came from their tall front line and the Flames held a 24-14 advntage in points in the paint. They outrebounded UK 23-14 in the first twenty minutes but had no answer for Mathies and her 14 points.

Mitchell went back to what worked in the second half and UK defensive pressure allowed them to put together a 7-2 early in the second half and lead 40-37. Liberty fought back to regain the lead 48-45 with 15:03 to go but UK used three point shooting from Keyla Snowden and Mathies to surge past the Flames and led 58-52 with 11:15 left. Liberty would manage to cut the lead to six on a couple of occasions but could stop the explosive show from Mathies and took the loss 83-77.

Mathies was spectaular for the Wildcats this afternoon with 32 points. The Louisville native obviously enjoyed the soft rims in Freedom Hall...going 9-15 from the floor and 12-17 at the charity stripe. Keyla Snowden (15 pts,) and Victoria Dunlap (15 pts.) joined her in double figures. The Cats forced Liberty into 22 turnovers but lost the battle on the boards 38-26 and were outscored in the paint 54-30. They'll need a stronger effort on the boards Monday night to contend with MSU.

From my vantage point on press row, I had the dubious fortune of being right next to the UK pep band. Although quite entertaining with their musical selections, they kept up a constant and somewhat annoying banter directed at the Liberty players. Cheering for your team is one thing and quite acceptable, but personal insults and snide remarks about opposing players' physical apperances and hair styles is going over the edge. A potentially serious off court entanglement by Liberty's Devon Brown with the support behind the basket while going for a loose ball was met with rude comments and laughter. No need for such sophomoric and crass responses.

I guess they were mad that they didn't get to go to New Orleans to watch the UK men's team as members of the main pep band. Or maybe they're just loud-mouth, obnoxious jerks...

The second round game between Kentucky and Michigan State will be played Monday at 7 p.m. in Freedom Hall. Plenty of good seats are still available.

Written by Paul

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