UK Women's Basketball

UK women sweep SEC post-season awards

Before the season started, Kentucky was picked by the coaches and media to finish 11th in the Southeastern Conference.

The Cats were believed to be just one team better than the bottom. No UK players were selected among the conference's best.

But after the program swept all of the major SEC awards on Tuesday afternoon, it's probably safe to say that won't happen again next season.

In a vote of conference coaches announced by the league on Tuesday, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell claimed coach of the year, and junior Victoria Dunlap was named player of the year.

A'dia Mathies was honored as freshman of the year.

"The way all of those awards turned out is an ultimate testament to how this team came together," said Mitchell, Kentucky's second coach of the year in program history. "Most of it is born out of a lack of expectation. People didn't think we were going to be very good. We've had a very special regular season. It's a real compliment to the entire team."

It is the first time in history that UK has had a player or freshman of the year.

A sweep the major SEC awards has happened one other time, in 1998 with Tennessee's Pat Summitt, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings all claiming the honors. They also went on to claim a national championship that season.

Dunlap said the league might have been shocked by UK's rise from a lowly 16-16 team that won five conference games to a top-20 team that has won 11 in the SEC and owns a No. 2 seed going into the league tournament this week.

But the players had high hopes and even higher expectations.

"We surprised other people but not ourselves because we know how hard we work," Dunlap said. "Just knowing that we've worked so hard in the off-season and pre-season and put in the work, we expect a lot from ourselves, and the coaches expect a lot from us."

Dunlap, a junior forward from Nashville, also was elected to the All-Defensive Team and was a unanimous choice for First Team All-SEC.

She ranks in the top 10 of seven SEC statistical categories and is the only player in the league to rank in the top five in scoring (17.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg). She ranks fifth in blocks (1.9) and is seventh in field-goal percentage (.490). She is 13th nationally and leads the SEC in steals (3.1).

Mathies, the reigning Kentucky Miss Basketball and Sweet Sixteen Most Valuable Player out of Iroquois, was named UK's first freshman of the year after following Dunlap in nearly every statistical category.

She is averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals and is tied for 11th overall in scoring and third overall in steals (2.5) in the SEC.

Mathies has scored in double figures in 21 of 29 games, including 11 of 16 league contests.

Mitchell, who downplayed his award, said the honors for Mathies and Dunlap are "a little bit sweeter" because of how hard they work each day.

"They embody what we are trying to be about in this program," he said. "They are both very honest players, give an honest effort, work really hard and have a lot of discipline in their game."

Dunlap said they've learned that attitude from the best.

"He talks a lot about listening to him and becoming better people," the junior said of Mitchell. "His coaching is a reflection of us playing on the court. We're always trying to work really hard and do our best."