Clutch play defines Mathies' UK career

jsmith3@herald-leader.comFebruary 9, 2013 

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Kentucky guard A'dia Mathies drove to basket in the second half against Georgia. Photo by Jonathan Palmer

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When the clock is winding down, A'dia Mathies is at her best.

In her Kentucky career, the senior guard has hit game-winning shots against Tennessee and Arkansas. She had a game-winning assist in a win over Louisiana State.

But even before the final seconds, Mathies is impressive.

She had to be on Thursday night against Arkansas, when Mathies hit clutch shots in the final minute to force overtime, then had several key baskets in the extended time.

"She's the best player in this league and she showed it last night," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said of his reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, who is averaging 17.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in her 10 conference games so far.

Mathies' performance against Arkansas, when she scored 13 of her 15 points after the half, was even more impressive to Mitchell considering how she started.

"A lot of people who miss nine of their first 11 (shots) would just say, 'Hey, it's not my night,'" Mitchell said. "And she made four of her last six and they were unbelievable shots, plays. When everybody on the Arkansas team was trying to prevent her from scoring, she found a way.

"You just have to understand that everybody is geared up to stop her. You knew who was going to get the ball at that point in time and they weren't able to do it."

Few have been able to stop her late in a game. In the final five minutes of games over her four seasons, Mathies hits 49.7 percent of her shots and 72.6 percent of her free throws. She has more steals (29) than turnovers (26).

After the loss, Arkansas Coach Tom Collen talked about how Mathies' second basket of the game didn't come until there were five minutes to go in regulation.

"You just can't stop that kid," Collen said. "You can force her into taking tough shots and she can have bad nights every once in a while, but she's that type of kid.

"The unique thing about her might be her mental toughness. She had a bad night until she needed to make plays. She made plays in overtime."

She knows how to close out games.

And now, Mathies is pondering how she wants to close out her career, too.

The clock is winding down on that, with six games left in the regular season for No. 10 Kentucky (20-3, 8-2 SEC), including Sunday's game at Vanderbilt (15-7, 5-4).

Teammates are seeing Mathies elevate her game as the clock winds down.

"Her will to win and her heart and understanding that it's her last year, that although she might say she's ready to be done," junior guard Kastine Evans said. "She's just so anxious to really do something for this program."

Her coach has seen a change in Mathies, too.

"She senses that this thing is winding down and she really wants to finish strong," Mitchell said recently. "I just see a really steady A'dia Mathies who seems pretty focused and trying to make sure that we are in the hunt for a championship."

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

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