Kentucky's Mathies happy to have help carrying the load

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJanuary 2, 2013 

  • Thursday

    Florida at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m.

    TV: Fox Sports South

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

    Records: Florida 11-3 (0-0 SEC), Kentucky 12-1 (0-0)

    Series: Kentucky leads 24-22

    Last meeting: Kentucky won 71-67 on March 2, 2012, at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

  • Lineups

    KENTUCKY

    Starters — A'dia Mathies, 5-9, Sr., G (13.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.3 apg); Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, So., G (7.8 ppg; 1.8 rpg); Bria Goss, 5-10, So., G (9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Jr., F (9.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Jr., F (12.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

    Key reserves — Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Jr., G (5.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, Fr., PG (5.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, So., F (4.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Jr., G (3.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, Jr., F (2.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Brittany Henderson, 6-2, Sr., F (1.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, So., F (2.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg).

    FLORIDA

    Starters — Carlie Needles, 5-6, Fr., G (9.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg); Jaterra Bonds, 5-7, Jr., G (10 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.7 rpg); Kayla Lewis, 6-0, So., G (8.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg); Jennifer George, 6-0, Sr., F (14.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.5 spg); Lily Svete, 6-2, Jr., F (5.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg).

    Key reserves — Sydney Moss, 5-11, Fr., G (11.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.1 apg); January Miller, 5-8, Fr., G (4.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg); Christin Mercer, 6-0, Fr., F (6.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg); Vicky McIntyre, 6-7, Jr., C (5.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg).

  • RESULTS, SCHEDULE

    All times EST and p.m.; home games in all caps

    Kentucky (12-1)

    Date Opponent Result

    Nov. 5 x-Bellarmine W, 113-33

    Nov. 10 Delaware State W, 90-50

    Nov. 13 at Baylor L, 85-51

    Nov. 17 HIGH POINT W, 80-46

    Nov. 23 MOREHEAD STATE W, 73-37

    Nov. 25 USC UPSTATE W, 100-34

    Nov. 28 MIAMI (OHIO) W, 92-53

    Dec. 2 at Louisville W, 48-47

    Dec. 7 a-DEPAUL W, 96-64

    Dec. 9 MIDDLE TENNESSEE W, 68-46

    Dec. 18 at Pepperdine W, 80-62

    Dec. 21 at UC Santa Barbara W, 66-38

    Dec. 28 ALCORN STATE W, 90-23

    Dec. 30 MARIST W, 78-56

    Date Opponent TV Time

    Jan. 1 FLORIDA SPSO 7

    Jan. 6 at Alabama 3

    Jan. 10 TEXAS A&M FSN 6

    Jan. 13 at Missouri ESPNU 1:30

    Jan. 17 MISSISSIPPI STATE 7

    Jan. 20 AUBURN SEC 2

    Jan. 24 at South Carolina SPSO 7

    Jan. 27 LOUISIANA STATE SPSO 3

    Feb. 3 GEORGIA SEC 2

    Feb. 7 at Arkansas 8

    Feb. 10 at Vanderbilt ESPN2 4

    Feb. 14 SOUTH CAROLINA 7

    Feb. 18 at Texas A&M ESPN2 7

    Feb. 24 at Louisiana State 3

    Feb. 28 at Mississippi 8

    March 3 TENNESSEE ESPNU 3:30

    March 6 b-TBA TBA

    x-exhibition; a-at Rupp Arena; b-SEC Tournament at Duluth, Ga.

  • SEC standings

    Kentucky 12-1 Alabama 10-3

    Arkansas 12-1 Vanderbilt 10-3

    Georgia 12-1 Tennessee 9-3

    S. Carolina 12-1 Texas A&M 10-4

    Auburn 11-2 LSU 9-4

    Florida 11-3 Miss. State 8-5

    Missouri 11-3 Mississippi 7-6

    Thursday's games

    Florida at Kentucky, 7 p.m.

    Arkansas at Auburn, 7 p.m.

    Missouri at Georgia, 7 p.m.

    Alabama at Texas A&M, 8 p.m.

    Mississippi at LSU, 8 p.m.

    Miss. State at Vanderbilt, 8 p.m.

    Tennessee at S. Carolina, 9 p.m.

You won't find a Kentucky player in the top five in scoring, rebounding, assists or steals in the Southeastern Conference statistics.

One barely cracks the top 10 in those categories.

But that might be why you find the Cats atop the league standings, and they hope atop the stage in March when the SEC Tournament trophy is handed out.

As league play begins Thursday, sixth-ranked Kentucky has found that its greatest weapon isn't the reigning SEC Player of the Year in A'dia Mathies or the reigning Rookie of the Year in Bria Goss.

In fact, their numbers are down slightly from last year thanks to added punch and production in the post.

That's fine by them.

"It feels great to not have the pressure on me and have other players they have to put focus on in the scouting reports and stuff," Mathies said on Wednesday, the day before the Cats play host to Florida in Memorial Coliseum. "There are just more options. Other players are being aggressive; it's not like I need to make a play, other people can make plays."

Mathies doesn't care if she repeats as player of the year.

She doesn't care that her numbers aren't eye popping.

"The ultimate goal isn't to win the SEC Player of the Year or the National Player of the Year, it's to win an SEC championship and a national championship and that involves the whole team," said Mathies, whose numbers are 13.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists a game. "That's what we're pushing for."

But it doesn't mean that Mathies is going to be a shrinking violet. Cats Coach Matthew Mitchell said he thinks the best is yet to come for the senior guard.

"She's a very cerebral player and smart player and I think she was just getting a feel for what needs to be done and how the team needs to come together," he said.

"The great thing about A'dia is she can impact the game in so many different ways. ... In conference play, we'll need a real steady performance from her each and every game and making sure that she's involved."

Kentucky's leading scorer admitted she's been a little lax in non-conference play and is looking to turn that up a notch.

"I just want to be even more aggressive," she said. "I've been taking it lightly, not doing everything I can both offensively and defensively that I should. That's been my main focus, just being the leader the team needs."

Kentucky, which has won 11 in a row, is going to need focus from Mathies and company as conference play gets under way.

The defending league champion expects plenty of pushback on its way up the SEC standings. There are five other teams in the top 25 with the Cats, and teams like Florida who would love to join them there.

"Kentucky has changed their profile over the last three seasons," Mitchell acknowledged. "So you do need to expect a great effort from each opponent. You do need to understand that people know what they are going to get when they play us so they are going to raise their level to try to match the intensity that we bring."

Florida (11-3) proved to be a difficult matchup for the Cats last season, with UK winning all three games by a combined 12 points. The Gators have won six in a row coming into Memorial Coliseum.

There is more than just getting off on the right foot in conference play at stake for Kentucky on Thursday night. A bit of history is, too.

A victory would give UK its longest winning streak in school history (12 in a row) and its 30th straight win at home, which would tie for the longest such streak in school history.

Miss Basketball comes home

Kentucky's reigning Miss Basketball, Sydney Moss from Boone County, will make her first of many trips home with the Gators.

The 5-foot-11 freshman already has been a big impact player for Florida, flirting with a triple-double four times this season. She leads the Gators in assists per game (4.2), while ranking second in scoring (11.6), rebounding (6.2) and steals (1.9).

Mitchell expects a big game from the Gators reserve.

"She is a tremendous competitor, has a great motor. That's why we wanted her to come here," he said. "She is an outstanding player. ... If you add in the extra motivation of playing in front of some family and friends, you need to be ready for a really, really tough player taking the floor."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241 Twitter: @jenheraldleader Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com

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