NASHVILLE, Tn. — Survive and advance is the motto for the month of March, and that's exactly what Kentucky did Thursday evening, defeating Mississippi State 83-67 to advance to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament. Freshman Jada Walker finished as the game's leading scorer, putting up 21 points in 32 minutes.
Dre'Una Edwards scored 18 points, and Rhyne Howard added 14 of her own.
The Cats started the game hot, but the Bulldogs didn't let it get out of control. An 8-0 run by the Bulldogs early in the first quarter put them up by as many seven. Mississippi State led 21-16 after the first ten minutes of play.
In the second, Kentucky quickly responded with a run of its own. Howard lit a fire under the team in the second quarter, helping lead the Cats on a 10-0 run, eight of which were by Howard herself. Throughout the quarter, UK limited Mississipi State to just nine points, and the Cats had a 38-30 lead at halftime. They cruised through the third quarter, and led 57-44 entering the fourth.
The last ten minutes weren't too different - Kentucky opened the final quarter on a 6-0 run, and Walker's hustle continued to pace the Cats. She rattled in a layup with just under six minutes to play in the game to surpass the 20-point mark, but her impact was felt in more ways than that. When Edwards missed a free throw with 4:16 on the clock, Walker fought for the rebound, won the battle, and got the ball back to Edwards, who laid it in for two points.
Kentucky will play the tournament's No. 2 seed, LSU Friday evening at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network in the tournament's quarterfinals game.