Published March 10, 2013
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, with most of her production coming in the second half, and Texas A&M beat Kentucky 75-67 on Sunday night to win the Southeastern Conference tournament championship in its first year in the league.
Bone was called for her second foul and sat out the final 8:54 of the first half. She logged only eight minutes with four points in the half. After No. 7 Kentucky led only 36-34 at halftime, Bone said she saw an opportunity to make up for two regular-season losses to the Wildcats.
"It was a two-fold 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.
"We were only down two points. I felt like we had taken their best shot and we had not thrown our best punch yet."
Bone led the way as the No. 19 Aggies outscored the Wildcats 41-31 in the second half. She was named tournament MVP and then helped cut down the nets. She tied a string from the net to the back of her white SEC champions cap.
Blair said one of his pregame challenges was directed to Bone, the 6-foot-4 center from Houston who played in the SEC as a freshman with 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 DeNesh Stallworth made only four of 12 shots for 10 points. Power forward Samarie Walker made only one of five shots.
Thanks to poor second-half shooting, Kentucky's long wait for its second SEC title continues. The Wildcats won their only 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," Kentucky 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, were 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).
Kentucky lost to Tennessee in the 2010 and 2011 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. The Wildcats shot 35.5 percent from the field for the game.
"It's just disappointing because we know we had the capabilities to win this game and should have won this game," Mathies said. "We didn't come out there and play for 40 minutes like we should have. We are going to use this game to move forward because we're not going to let this game define our season. We're going to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament."
Texas A&M took the lead with an 11-0 run early in the second half and then stretched the advantage to 11 points 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 by scoring for the Aggies.
Kentucky swept two regular-season games against Texas A&M, but the combined margin of victory in the two games was only seven points.
"It's hard to beat us three times," Blair said.
Even with Bone sitting out most of the half, the Wildcats' biggest lead was two points. Kentucky, which trailed by six at 23-17 midway through the half, led 36-34 at halftime as O'Neill closed the half with two straight baskets.
Stallworth scored to open the second half, stretching Kentucky's lead to four points. The Aggies scored the next 11 points to take a 45-38 lead they would not lose.
"We're happy," Blair said. "We're still dancing."