Cats outlast Cuse

Kentucky will be well-represented in the NCAA's Sweet 16. Both of them. Matthew Mitchell's Wildcats joined John Calipari's crew in advancing to the regional semifinals with a 64-59 win over Syracuse on Monday at Memorial Coliseum.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky will be well-represented in the NCAA's Sweet 16.

Both of them.

A day after John Calipari's Wildcats advanced to the Midwest regional semifinals with a win over top-seeded Wichita State, Matthew Mitchell's women's team joined them by defeating Syracuse 64-59 Monday night at Memorial Coliseum.

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And just like the men's game, it was no easy path to the next round .

Third-seeded Kentucky (26-8) shot just 36 percent and were outrebounded by the Orange 41-38, but relied on its one constant from the season – defense – to hold off the six seed. The Wildcats held Syracuse to 33 percent from the field and forced 23 turnovers that led to 21 points on a night when offense was hard to come by.

"These are real, real difficult games," said Mitchell, who recorded his 200th victory as a head coach. "… I am just really, really pleased that we found a way with our defense to punch through to the next round."

UK needed every edge it could find, including a rowdy home crowd of 4,661 that helped pick the Cats up at several critical times in the game. Gritty Syracuse (23-10) also played without its best player, guard Brittney Sykes, who injured a knee in Saturday's first-round win over Chattanooga.

"I want to compliment Syracuse," Mitchell said. "Clearly, a very difficult situation for them losing Brittney Sykes, and I thought their kids were unbelievable.

"We're real excited to be moving forward, and we're real appreciative to be moving forward, to be getting out of here… We had an unbelievable environment."

Bria Goss led UK with 17 points, including an 11-for-12 night at the free throw line. Her teammates hit only seven of their 16 attempts at the line, helping to leave the game in doubt all the way until the final horn.

Kentucky led for almost the entire game – there were only two ties and one lead change just 1:41 into the game – but the Cats never were able to stretch their advantage higher than 11 points. Each time they tried, Syracuse had an answer.

The Cats got big 3-pointers from Goss and Kastine Evans down the stretch to keep the Orange at bay.

"Obviously, you have to give Kentucky a lot of credit," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. "They did an awesome job of just staying poised during a run. That's what good teams do. They stay poised when you're making a run at them and they make plays.

"Every time we made runs – we got it to six, got it to eight – they made a play. We got it to six one time with a 3, throw it out and they get a 3-point shot. Every time we pushed at them, they made an incredible play to kind of stabilize the game. It's a great team, a bunch of athletes in a great environment for women's basketball."

The Cats placed two other players in double figures. DeNesha Stallworth scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds. She also recorded three steals and two blocked shots in a strong defensive effort. Evans added 11, going 3-for-4 from behind the arc.

Five different UK players recorded at least two steals as the team finished with 15.

Syracuse got 15 points from Brianna Butler, 13 from Briana Day and 12 from Alexis Peterson.

Kentucky will play the winner of Baylor and California in the Sweet 16 on March 29 in South Bend, Ind., at Notre Dame's Purcell Pavilion. Game time has yet to be announced.

• Kentucky improved to 96-16 at Memorial Coliseum under Mitchell.

• UK improved to 16-10 in the NCAA Tournament, 12-4 under Mitchell.

• The win advanced UK to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in school history, including third consecutive season and fourth time in the last five years.

• UK is 3-0 all-time against Syracuse.

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