Updated at: 01/10/2013 7:37 PM
By GARY GRAVES
(AP) LEXINGTON, Ky. - A’dia Mathies scored 23 points and No. 6 Kentucky overcame a sluggish first half to rally past No. 20 Texas A&M 65-62 Thursday night.
Jennifer O’Neill added 15 points as the Wildcats (15-1, 3-0 SEC) extended school-record winning streaks of 14 games overall and 31 in a row at home.
Texas A&M shot 59 percent (17 of 29) in the first half behind a slew of layups from Kelsey Bone and Kristi Bellock for a 37-31 halftime lead. But Kentucky’s improved defense wore down the Aggies and limited them to just 32 percent shooting (10 of 31) after that.
The Wildcats shot just 39 percent for the game but were strong from 3-point range. After a 4-of-10 first half, they hit 5 of 7 with O’Neill and Mathies combining to finish 7 of 14 from long range.
That allowed Kentucky to survive missed free throws down the stretch that gave Texas A&M a chance at the end, but Peyton Little’s 3-pointer bounced off the rim at the horn.
Bone’s 27 points led Texas A&M (12-5, 2-1), which lost for just the second time in 14 games.
DeNesha Stallworth added 12 points and six rebounds, Samarie Walker grabbed 11 rebounds to offset a quiet shooting night and Bria Goss added seven points for Kentucky, facing its toughest and tallest opponent since losing 85-51 to No. 1 Baylor in November.
The Aggies entered the game having won 12 of their last 13 and in search of their second win against a ranked team in a week after beating then-No. 23 Arkansas last Saturday. Texas A&M also came in leading the SEC in several offensive categories including 46 percent shooting and 17.8 assists per game.
Bone stood out as the SEC’s top rebounder (10.0) and shooter (61 percent) and its second-best scorer (17.8), comprising a solid post tandem with Bellock.
Kentucky countered with one of the nation’s best defenses, boasting the best turnover margin (plus-10.5) while holding opponents to 36 percent shooting. Stallworth and Walker meanwhile had formed a formidable post presence as well, combining for averages of 23 points and seven rebounds.
For the first 20 minutes, the Aggies’ inside duo had the advantage.
Bone scored two quick layups over Walker while Bellock added two more baskets in helping Texas A&M take an 11-7 lead. Kentucky regrouped from a 9-2 hole with a couple of stops as Walker intercepted a pass to Bone in the paint leading Stallworth’s layup, and O’Neill followed with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to four.
But the Wildcats couldn’t get their trademark pressure defense going consistently and the Aggies widened their lead to nine points with Bone and Bellock setting the tempo. The pair combined for 24 points and 11 rebounds and got help from Adrienne Pratcher (nine) and Courtney Walker (four) as Texas A&M shot 59 percent to lead 37-31 at the break.
Mathies and O’Neill each had 12 points in the first half for Kentucky, which shot just 38 percent. Stallworth and Walker combined for just five points and five rebounds.
Three-point shooting helped Kentucky rally for its first lead of the game at 41-40 as Stallworth and Mathies both hit from beyond the arc during the Wildcats’ 10-3 run.
Kentucky built the lead to 63-57 on Walker’s tip-in with three minutes remaining but missed four of six free throws down the stretch.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)