DULUTH, Ga. -- Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell realized he hardly helped Victoria Dunlap last week.
"I just told her today she didn't need to get down on herself," Mitchell said. "I told her I was not going to get down on her and that I was going to encourage her as much as I could."
Dunlap scored 24 points and A'dia Mathies added 15 to help Kentucky (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) beat Auburn 65-54 in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Friday.
Kentucky snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 2-5 against Auburn in the tournament. The Wildcats (24-6) also have the school's most wins since 1982-83.
Morgan Toles scored 13 points for Auburn (15-16), which had won two straight and took a 12-point home victory over Kentucky last Sunday.
Dunlap, Kentucky's first SEC player of the year, indicated that she and Mitchell agreed that the Wildcats couldn't afford to let Auburn gain much confidence early in the game.
"He just talked about how last game we didn't come out with the right energy," Dunlap said. "It was nothing different with him. Just stayed intense [and was] getting on us for just about everything."
Mathies, the SEC freshman of the year, hit a jumper with 6:54 remaining to push the lead back to 55-44. Dunlap followed with a fast-break basket 11 seconds later to make it 57-44.
Tigers guard Alli Smalley finished with 11 points, going 1 for 6 on 3-point attempts. She was alone, however, in trying to solve Kentucky's press, which gave Auburn fits throughout.
"As soon as they get the ball out of the basket, they're pushing it to the other end," Smalley said. "It's definitely hard to keep up with them."
Kentucky, which began the game ranked third in the nation with a 7.6-plus turnover margin, forced Auburn to commit 20 miscues that led to 22 points.
Mitchell, however, wasn't pleased that the Wildcats occasionally seemed to lose focus in their half-court defense.
"You cannot give Auburn a lot of easy looks or they'll make you pay," he said. "So I thought they adjusted well. I thought A'dia and Victoria in the last 7 minutes of the first half made some tremendous plays."