Mar 2, 2014 9:11 PM
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - For Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell, there's no better feeling than getting a win on Senior Day.
One of those seniors - DeNesha Stallworth - scored 18 points and made two game-clinching free throws to lift No. 12 Kentucky to an exciting 65-63 win over Vanderbilt Sunday.
"To be able to walk off that court with a victory on Senior Day, there's not many better feelings than that," Mitchell said. "Certainly we didn't play the cleanest game in the history of the coliseum (and) there were some tough times. To get the victory means everything."
After recording its fifth win in six games to close out the regular season, Kentucky (22-7, 10-6 Southeastern Conference) earned a No. 4 seed and a double bye for the conference tournament that begins Wednesday in Dulluth, Ga. Vanderbilt is seeded eighth and will play Georgia in a first-round game Thursday.
The Wildcats honored seniors Kastine Evans, Bernisha Pinkett, Samarie Walker and Stallworth prior to tipoff. The four seniors are part of one of the most successful recruiting classes in school history, accumulating a 105-29 record in four years.
The outcome was in doubt until Janee Thompson's jumper with 1:19 remaining broke a 56-56 deadlock and gave the Wildcats a 58-56 lead. The lead stood despite a late surge by the Commodores. Bria Goss made five of six free throws in the last 38 seconds to fend off Vanderbilt, which rallied from a 17-point deficit in the first half.
The only free throw miss by Goss came with 12.9 seconds left, allowing Vanderbilt an opportunity to pull off the upset but Jasmine Jenkins missed a driving jumper at the buzzer.
Goss followed Stallworth with 12 points for Kentucky, which got 34 points from its bench.
Kentucky's four seniors started, with Walker, Evans and Stallworth scoring the team's first seven points, giving the Wildcats an 11-3 lead four minutes into the contest.
Vanderbilt pulled to within four twice before Kentucky went on a 17-4 spree that ended with 10 unanswered points to increase the margin to 32-15 with 6:47 left in the first half.
Despite the double digit deficit, the Commodores scored 18 of the last 22 points of the half and trailed 36-33.
Stallworth led Kentucky with eight points in the first half. Christina Foggie made two of the Lady Commodores' four 3-pointers in the opening half and led the Commodores with 10 points.
The Commodores remained within striking distance and led 51-49 with 10:10 remaining but went on a 5:55 scoring drought while the Wildcats scored seven unanswered to reclaim the lead at 56-51 with 6:08 left.
Foggie led the Commodores (18-11, 7-9) with 23 points. Foggie made four of her team's six 3-pointers. Jasmine Lister added 15 for Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb was pleased with her team's comeback despite coming up short.
"We were down 17 points and fought back in a tough environment against the No. 12 team in the country," she said. "It gives us a lot of hope for next week."