O'Conner, Brown Help Cats Advance Second Round
After a hard-fought second set in which Kentucky and Oakland changed leads 10 times with 18 ties, the Wildcats came out of the locker room for the third set and took care of business, clinching a sweep over Horizon League Champion Oakland on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Lexington, Ky.
Senior outside hitter Lauren O’Conner paced the Wildcats with 14 kills and hit at a .452 clip, while freshman middle blocker Kaz Brown had a career-high 10 kills with a team-best four blocks.
The Kentucky defense was impressive in the win, recording 11 blocks while limiting Oakland to a .107 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Cassie Pelloni led the Golden Grizzles with 12 kills while they posted six blocks as a team.
The Wildcats trailed by two points midway through the first set before tying the set 16-16 and scoring three straight points to grab a lead it would not lose, winning the first set 25-20. The set featured 13 ties and six lead changes. Brown led the way for Kentucky with six kills in the first set, while O’Conner added four kills and junior Morgan Bergen posted 10 assists.
It was a back-and-forth second set that featured 18 ties and 10 lead changes before the Wildcats eventually pulled away 28-26. Kentucky hit .229 in the set and had five blocks. Oakland hit .109 in the second set and had set point two times before the Wildcats scored four of the last five points in the set to grab the win.
The Wildcats held a share of the lead the entire third set before eventually coming out with a 25-19 win. UK hit .296 in the third set and had three more blocks to clinch the sweep. UK’s biggest lead of the entire match came in the third set when the Wildcats took a 19-11 lead.
The win advances Kentucky to the second round of the tournament against Ohio State, who won its first round match against Lipscomb in three sets. The second round match will be held on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington.