A'dia Mathies stays steady with hometown Cards up next

Kentucky's A'dia Mathies stole the ball from Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins in the final minute of UK's win over the Irish on Nov. 21. Mathies heads home to Louisville for the Cats' matchup with the Cards on Sunday.
Kentucky's A'dia Mathies stole the ball from Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins in the final minute of UK's win over the Irish on Nov. 21. Mathies heads home to Louisville for the Cats' matchup with the Cards on Sunday.

Sometimes it's hard to know what's going on in the head of A'dia Mathies.

Even her coaches and teammates can't always tell.

"I'm still getting to know her and figure her out," Coach Matthew Mitchell said of his star sophomore. "I'm not sure exactly how she processes everything.

"She's not a real excitable personality. It helps her stay a more even-keeled player."

So forgive Mathies if she doesn't seem overly anxious about going back home to play Louisville at Louisville for the first time in her college career.

"It's something I'm definitely looking forward to," she said, but then she follows it up with her reason, which isn't what one would imagine.

"I haven't been home in a while," she explains.

Forgive her if she doesn't seem too concerned about this game on Sunday.

It's not that she doesn't think Louisville is a big game. She just thinks all games are big games for the ninth-ranked, unbeaten Cats.

"I don't try to put too much emphasis on facing one team because any team can come out on any night and beat you," Mathies said.

Mitchell said he didn't think this was Mathies just feeding reporters a line. He said she just goes out and goes about her business.

Even when things aren't going the way she wants, it's often hard to tell.

"She can get frustrated if it's not going super well for her, but that is hard to pick up on," Mitchell said.

A position switch necessitated by injuries has had the 5-foot-9 Mathies often playing at the power forward spot in recent games.

Against Notre Dame on Nov. 21, she scored just six points, missing all but two of her nine shot attempts.

Mathies denied being overly frustrated by that.

"As far as missing shots, I don't think too much about it because I know they're eventually going to fall," she said. "You can't miss shots forever. As long as we get the win, I'm happy afterward."

When star senior Victoria Dunlap went down with a head injury at a tournament last week in Mississippi, Mathies found her shot again and took over.

In the two games mostly without Dunlap, Mathies averaged 20 points, seven rebounds and 3.5 steals.

The sophomore swing player leads UK in scoring at 16 points a game, hitting 50 percent from the field. She also averages 5.6 rebounds and two steals.

Mitchell was pleased to see the reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year look like her old self.

"It was a good sign to see her get going," Mitchell said.

Mathies even downplayed that.

"It makes you feel better that you can contribute on both ends of the floor," Mathies said. "I tried to really help my team out. ... We were undersized and undermanned, so I'm glad the shots started to fall when they did."

They couldn't have picked a better time to start falling as she prepares to head back home to Louisville.

Her last trip there was the NCAA Tournament. In her first game in Freedom Hall last season, she scored a career-high 32 points.

It led Suzy Merchant, the coach of the Cats' next opponent, Michigan State, to call Mathies a "big-time future WNBA star.

"She's as good a guard as we've seen — if not the best we've seen — in terms of her abilities," Merchant said before UK went on to beat the Spartans. "She plays with no fear."

It's her steadiness that helps makes her such a good player, Mitchell said.

"I don't think she's going to be jumping out of her skin (against Louisville)," Mitchell said. "I think she'll be a cool customer and she will be highly motivated to play well and you will see that on the floor."

Mathies brushed off any notion of wanting to have a big game in front of a big crowd of friends and family.

"It'd be nice to have a good game and to come out with the win, but I'd be fine with a win even if I have a bad game," she said.

Her biggest stress before this game has been collecting tickets.

"I asked my teammates a couple months ago if I can have their tickets for this game," she said. "A lot of people need tickets."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader