O’Neill a game-high 19 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Wildcats (22-8) into the quarterfinals against No. 11 Mississippi State. Harper added 18 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Despite racing out to a 16-2 lead on the strength of 10 early points from Harper, Kentucky trailed by one at the half. The Cats exploded for 43 points in the second half, though, using a 10-2 run midway through the period to take control of the game.
O’Neill scored 16 of her 19 in the second half. She also drew a key charging foul against the Commodores with 1:14 to play as UK clung to a three-point lead.
Alexis Jennings added nine points, while Makayla Epps tallied eight points and five assists for UK.
Kentucky’s strong team rebounding was another key to the victory with the Cats besting the Commodores 41-31 on the glass. Seven different UK players grabbed at least four rebounds. Fifteen of the Cats’ rebounds came on the offensive side, leading to 11 second-chance points.
The victory gave UK its ninth-consecutive win over Vanderbilt and saw coach Matthew Mitchell improve to 11-7 all-time in the SEC Tournament.
The Cats will face Mississippi State on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET televised by the SEC Network.