Coaches and players often say that they don't let thoughts of defeat enter their minds in the waning minutes of a game.
There's no time for thoughts like that in a close game, they say.
But Matthew Mitchell and his Kentucky players admitted that when they found themselves trailing Arkansas by five points with two minutes to go on Senior Night in Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, the negative thoughts hung in the air.
"That was weighing heavily on my mind," Mitchell said. "I would have been devastated had Carly Morrow and Victoria Dunlap walked off on a performance like that, a really lackluster performance."
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A'dia Mathies couldn't help but think those thoughts, too.
"I was looking at the scoreboard and looking at the time and thinking, 'It's not looking too good,' " Mathies said.
But somehow, some way, No. 20 Kentucky found a way to send off the seniors with a 55-54 college basketball victory over the Razorbacks.
Mathies hit the game winner — a weaving, driving left-handed layup around four Razorback defenders — with 4.4 seconds left in the game.
"That was tremendous poise," Mitchell said of Mathies' game-winner. "She made it look pretty easy, but that was a very difficult play that that young woman just made."
Arkansas Coach Tom Collen, whose team trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half and led by as many as seven points late in the second half, was impressed with Mathies, who led Kentucky with 17 points and nine rebounds.
"She made a play and she's good at it," said Collen, whose Arkansas team has lost six Southeastern Conference games in similar fashion this season. "She's explosive, has great balance and she just got in the lane and made a play on us. I'm not sure what we could have done different."
While the final play will be the one that is etched in the minds of the 6,670 people in Memorial Coliseum, it was UK's aggressive play on defense in the final minutes that won the game.
"We were aggressive at the end of the game," said Dunlap, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals. "We took advantage of it."
Trailing 54-49 with two minutes to go, the Cats' defense forced three turnovers to earn a shot at the final shot with 17.2 seconds left.
"The press really worked," Mitchell said, crediting his players who forced 24 Arkansas turnovers and turned them into 28 points. "You just don't see that often: that you can actually make plays in the press and you don't have to foul."
Late in the first half, it didn't look like the game would ever come down to a last-second shot.
UK rode the emotions of Senior Night celebrations — which included Dunlap singing the national anthem — to an early 22-7 run.
The Razorbacks (18-9, 6-9) found themselves down by 15 points, 28-13 with three minutes left in the half.
But the Hogs responded by scoring eight consecutive points to end the half and trail only 28-21 at intermission.
Arkansas came out of the break as red-hot as its uniforms, at one point scoring 15 straight points, including 10 from C'eira Ricketts, a Louisville native who had a large, vocal fan base.
Her three-pointer with 11:56 to go gave the Razorbacks their first lead since it was 2-0. The senior guard led Arkansas with 17 points, four rebounds and three steals. Lyndsay Harris added 11 points.
As the Hogs made their run, the Cats (21-7, 10-5) went flat, going more than five minutes without a point. Harris' three-pointer with 4:31 to play gave Arkansas a seven-point lead and UK faced what seemed to be an insurmountable deficit.
"I was trying not to think about it," Dunlap said of the possibility of leaving Memorial Coliseum for the final time a loser.
But somehow, some way, as Mitchell said, Kentucky found a way to get "a heart-stopping, thrilling win."