On the day Matthew Mitchell became Kentucky's all-time wins leader, the coach made quite the rookie mistake.
As the clock ticked down on the Cats' 78-65 win over Tennessee, Mitchell was trying to get senior star A'dia Mathies out of the game to get an ovation from the 7,965 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
He did the swap too soon and she ended up coming out during a timeout with no fanfare. Mitchell had to put her back in the game with a minute to go for her curtain call.
"I'm not the smartest, sharpest guy in the room," Mitchell said afterward. "I had to get her back in the game, which was just a disaster. I can't sub nearly as well as she can play. That was a bit of an embarrassing moment for the coach, not for A'dia."
Mitchell credited assistant coach Matt Insell with reminding him in time that he could rotate her in and out without calling a timeout and embarrassing himself further.
But the head coach's follies didn't lessen the touching moment he shared with Mathies as she left the Memorial Coliseum floor.
"I told her thank you for everything she's done for this program and how proud I was of her," Mitchell said. "That's the biggest thing I can say to A'dia Mathies is, 'Thank you for coming to Kentucky and thank you for being who you've been.'"
UK's other senior Brittany Henderson got a bear hug from Mitchell as well. "I'm just full of gratitude for both of those kids," he said.
Mathies was happy to share the special milestone moment with Mitchell, who was presented with a framed, commemorative print, in front of the home crowd.
"He is very passionate and he really loves his job and being here at Kentucky," Mathies said. "To get a win on senior night, and it being our last night against a rivalry team, I think it was meant to be."
Mathies vs. Simmons
Two of the frontrunners for Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Mathies and Tennessee's Meighan Simmons, spent a lot of time trying to best one another.
Mathies ended her Memorial Coliseum career with 16 points (going 6-for-17 from the field), four rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks. She scored 13 of her 16 points in the second half.
Simmons, guarded by Mathies most of the game, went 4-for-15 for 17 points, seven rebounds and two assists. She also had six turnovers and a healthy respect for Mathies.
"A'dia Mathies is a great player," Simmons said. "She made me better today, honestly. She made sure I didn't get anything easy, and it just makes me works twice as hard."
If seeds hold in the Southeastern Conference Tournament bracket, Saturday's semifinals in Duluth, Ga., could be a humdinger.
The first semifinal would set up to be No. 8 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Texas A&M and the second would be No. 10 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Georgia, which topped the Cats 75-71 and ended UK's home win streak at 34 straight on Feb. 3.
On Friday night at 6 p.m., UK will face the winner of the Missouri-Vanderbilt game, two teams the Cats dispatched easily in the regular season, on the teams' respective home floors.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com