Texas A&M tops Kentucky for SEC women’s title

DULUTH, Ga. — Kelsey Bone owes coach Gary Blair an assist. There will be time to settle that debt in the NCAA tournament.

Bone had 18 points and 15 rebounds, most of her production coming in the second half, and Texas A&M beat Kentucky 75-67 on Sunday to win the Southeastern Conference tournament in its first year in the league.

Bone was assessed her second foul and sat out the final 8 minutes, 54 seconds of the first half, having logged only eight minutes and four points. After No. 7 Kentucky led 36-34 at halftime, Bone said she saw an opportunity to make up for two regular-season losses to the Wildcats.

“It was a twofold thing for me,” Bone said. “Both times we’ve played Kentucky previously I’ve had terrible cramps going into the second half. I’m sitting on the bench and played only eight minutes in the first half. I’ve still got 20 minutes in my tank. It was probably a blessing in disguise.”

Bone led the way as the No. 19 Aggies outscored the Wildcats 41-31 in the second half. She was named tournament MVP.

Blair said one of his pregame challenges was directed to Bone, the 6-foot-4 center from Houston who played as a freshman at South Carolina before transferring to Texas A&M.

“I said, ‘Give me 15 boards. Give me 10 defensive ones, five offensive ones. Give me five assists, and play great defense,” Blair said. “Look at what their post players did. She and (Kristi) Bellock shut them down.

“She got me 10 defensive rebounds and five offensive rebounds. She owes me an assist, and I’ll ask for it next time because she only got four.”

Kentucky center DeNesha Stallworth made only four of 12 shots for 10 points. Forward Samarie Walker made one of five.

Thanks to poor second-half shooting, Kentucky’s long wait for its second SEC title continues; the Wildcats won their championship in 1982. Kentucky made only four of its first 23 shots (17.4 percent) in the second half.

“We were very disappointed that we lost, but we were beaten by a very good basketball team, a very hungry basketball team,” coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Texas A&M had a very strong desire to be the champions, and that’s why they’re cutting down the nets.”

The Aggies, the No. 4 seed, became the surprise of the tournament by beating the top two seeds. Texas A&M (24-9) beat top-seeded Tennessee in the semifinals before the championship win over No. 2 seed Kentucky (27-5). Their regular season had ended with a sloppy home loss to LSU.

Kentucky lost to Tennessee in the 2010 and ’11 finals.

“We’ve been here three out of the last four years and haven’t been able to get a victory,” Mitchell said. “It’s just very, very disappointing.”

Bellock had 15 points and eight rebounds. Courtney Walker had 14 points for the Aggies.

A’dia Mathies led Kentucky with 19 points. Jennifer O’Neill had 17 as the Wildcats shot 35.5 percent.

Texas A&M took the lead with an 11-0 run early in the second half, then stretched the advantage to 11 with an 8-0 run midway through the half.

The Aggies took their big lead of 15 points at 63-48 when Kentucky tried to rally. Bria Goss sank a 3-pointer and O’Neill followed with a three-point play, pulling the Wildcats to within nine points. A basket by Mathies with 3:12 remaining cut the Aggies’ lead to 70-63, but Bone answered for the Aggies.