UK women's A'dia Mathies becoming three-point threat

Kentucky slasher now a threat from long range

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJanuary 8, 2012 

Kentucky's A'dia Mathies shot a three-pointer over Arkansas' Calli Berna on Thursday. Mathies made her first four threes in the game.

  • Sunday's Matchups

    KENTUCKY

    Probable starters: A'dia Mathies, 5-9, Jr., G (15.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.5 spg); Bria Goss, 5-10, Fr., G (12.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg); Kastine Evans, 5-8, So., G (8.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.1 spg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, So., F (7.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Amber Smith, 5-6, Sr., PG (6.3 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.0 rpg)

    Top reserves: Keyla Snowden, 5-7, Sr., G (9.1 ppg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, So., F (7.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, Fr., F (7.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Maegan Conwright, 5-8, So., G (4.5 ppg, 2.2 apg); Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, So., G (5.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Brittany Henderson, 6-2, Jr., F (3.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

    MISSISSIPPI ST.

    Probable starters: Kendra Grant, 5-11, Fr., G (7.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Porsha Porter, 5-6, Sr., G (14.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 spg); Diamber Johnson, 5-7, Sr., G (17.4 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.1 rpg); Ashley Brown, 5-11, Sr., F (5.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg); Catina Bett, 6-5, Sr., C (5.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

    Top reserves: Darriel Gaynor, 5-6, Jr., G (2.5 ppg); Martha Alwal, 6-4, Fr., C (6.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.0 bpg); Shamia Robinson, 5-8, Fr., F (2.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

A'dia Mathies had the ball in her hands and heard the opposing bench scream out a word of caution.

"Shooter," all of them yelled in unison.

"Who?" Mathies wondered. "I know they're not talking about me."

The junior guard looked around for Keyla Snowden, Kentucky's three-point specialist.

Maybe she was open.

But then it hit Mathies. The opposing coaches had yelled "shooter" to warn the defense about her.

"That's still crazy to me," she said. "I'm sure Keyla's used to it, but I'm not used to it. I'm pretty proud of that."

UK's leading scorer, who has slashed and burned her way through lanes since she was a fourth-grade phenom, is now being labeled a shooter.

This season, the label fits.

In 14 games, Mathies has hit more three-pointers (26) in less attempts (63) than she made all of last season (22 in 66 tries).

Against Arkansas on Thursday night, Mathies hit her first four and ended up with a career-best five three-pointers in the victory.

"She has gained some confidence there, and when she is making those, and then being aggressive off the bounce, it is hard to guard A'dia Mathies," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said.

Mathies was part of a UK group that tied its season high with 11 makes from long range in the win over the Razorbacks. That total was only three shy of topping the school record of 13 makes in a game.

The guard said she feels more confident in her shot this season and she has a strange reason why.

"The moving back of the three-point line might have helped," she said. "It feels more natural."

In two Southeastern Conference games, UK is hitting 51.6 percent from three-point range, which Mitchell hopes is a sign of good things this season for the Cats, who have become more known for their penetrating than their three-point acumen.

"Our three-point shooting could be one of the best in the league because we have a few of them who can make them," Mitchell said noting Snowden (35.6 percent) and Bria Goss (37.5 percent).

He'd like to see other good shooters like Bernisha Pinkett and even post player Azia Bishop continue to develop into three-point threats.

UK meets Mississippi State on Sunday in an attempt to win its first three Southeastern Conference games for the first time since the 1992-93 season.

Mathies, who has hit seven of 11 three-point tries in SEC play, thinks it won't be too long before opposing benches are shouting "shooter" for more than just one or two UK players.

"We have more people getting in the gym more consistently and focusing on that shot and putting in the effort," she said.

Mitchell and his staff have told Mathies in no uncertain terms that the team needs her to be more aggressive with the ball, no matter where she's firing from.

The coach noted her tendency to "disappear" in games — he specifically noted times in the game at Notre Dame — and said it's something Mathies has to stop doing.

"She is such a dynamic player, and she tends to disappear, and we can't have that happen," he said.

"We really need her to have the mentality that maybe a bad shot from A'dia is a better shot than a good shot from somebody else. ... That's what it's come to."

Is Mathies, who is third in the SEC in scoring at 15.7 points a game, a reluctant star, Mitchell was asked.

"I don't think she is reluctant," he said. "She is just a very humble person, and that is a good quality to have unless you are being humble to a fault, and that is what she is offensively sometimes."

Ali remains suspended

Freshman forward Bra'Shey Ali has not been on the UK bench the past three games while serving a suspension, but Mitchell said she's still a part of the team. It's unclear when she'll rejoin her teammates on the bench.

This most recent suspension was because Ali returned to campus late from the holiday break. Then she compounded it by being late to her punishment the next day, Mitchell said.

"It's irresponsibility," he said. "She's not a bad kid at all. ... It's my job to try to give her an opportunity to grow into being a responsible young woman."

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