NEW YORK -- DeNesha Stallworth had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Jennifer O'Neill added 12 critical points, leading Kentucky to a 61-41 victory over Navy in the opening round of the NCAA Women's Tournament on Sunday afternoon at Carnesecca Arena on the campus of St. John's.
The second-seeded Wildcats (28-5) advanced in the Bridgeport Region to face the winner of Sunday's Dayton-St. John's game on Tuesday night in the second round, also at Carnesecca Arena.
Kentucky, which entered the tournament as the seventh-ranked team in the country, didn't have much success against the No. 15-seeded Midshipmen in the first half, trailing 26-25 at the break but exerted its strength and size advantage in the second half.
Stallworth had nine points in the second half, including two straight baskets late in the game that sealed the fate of the Midshipmen (21-12). O'Neill changed the pace of the game by scoring seven points in the first three minutes of the second half.
Besides Stallworth and O'Neill, the Wildcats received 14 points from Samarie Walker.
Navy was led by Jade Geif and Alix Membreno, who had nine points each.
Navy had the better of it in the early going, displaying patience on the offensive end and taking a 16-10 lead on a jumper from Membreno with 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
Kentucky had a tough time making shots in the early moments, misfiring on 14 of its first 17 from the floor.
Audrey Bauer hit a long 3-pointer, giving the Midshipmen their biggest lead at 23-16 with 6:23 remaining in the first half.
But the Wildcats found their legs and their collective shooting touch, concentrating on getting the ball down low. Stallworth scored seven straight points to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 25-24 with 2:41 remaining. Then April Bernal's baseline jumper gave the upstart Midshipmen a 26-25 halftime lead.
In the second half, Kentucky took command, thanks to O'Neill. The Bronx native scored her team's first seven points after intermission to give Kentucky a 32-28 lead, and O'Neill had two assists on the Wildcats' next two possessions. Stallworth's conventional three-point play with 16:50 left gave the Wildcats a 37-28 lead.
Navy narrowed the lead to 41-35 on one free throw from Bernal with 9:36 remaining, but Kentucky's leading scorer, A'dia Mathies, hit two free throws to push the lead to 43-35 with 8:31 left. Matheis entered the game averaging close to 17 points per game but finished with only five.
The Wildcats then used their size and strength to put the game away. Stallworth hit two straight power moves and Walker also had a basket down low, giving Kentucky a commanding 49-35 lead with 6:20 left.