UK Women's Basketball

Mathies' move to point guard puts Cats on winning track

Kentucky guard A'dia Mathies grabs a rebound in the second half. Mathies had 16 points and 7 assists. Her team won the game 70-62. The University of Kentucky Women's Basketball team hosted Mississippi State at Memorial Coliseum Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011. Photo by Jonathan Palmer
Kentucky guard A'dia Mathies grabs a rebound in the second half. Mathies had 16 points and 7 assists. Her team won the game 70-62. The University of Kentucky Women's Basketball team hosted Mississippi State at Memorial Coliseum Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011. Photo by Jonathan Palmer

A'dia Mathies hates to lose.

So when it became clear that she's Kentucky's best option at point guard right now, she quickly agreed to change positions.

"As long as we keep winning, I'll be just fine with the switch," the sophomore said of her move from power forward to point guard two games ago.

A player like Mathies is a luxury for No. 19 Kentucky, which travels to play Florida on Thursday. The swing player and reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year can play at any position on the floor.

She's a rare player, Coach Matthew Mitchell said. In fact, as he describes traits that make Mathies so good, he might as well be describing the traits of a great point guard.

"A'dia sees the court the way a coach sees it, all five players," he said.

"She's always been a real good passer and had great court vision. She's pretty steady. Her personality is one that doesn't get real high or real low."

Mathies' move to the point guard spot followed a three-game UK losing streak that had "everyone sort of discombobulated," Mitchell explained.

As the players watched game film of the loss to Georgia at home, the answer became more and more clear.

The math after that loss was all Mathies needed to hear.

With Kentucky's other three point guard options in the game, the Cats were minus-three in scoring, but with Mathies in that spot, they were plus-five, she said.

"You do what you need to do for the team," Mathies said. "So I'm going to try to make plays and make us better.

"It's what we need right now. We were having difficulties at the point guard, and I needed to step up for the team because I'm a veteran now."

The point guard spot has been a quandary since starter Amber Smith went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament this summer.

The Cats have tried to fit various freshmen such as Jennifer O'Neill and Maegan Conwright into that spot, but they have struggled at times. Last year's backup point Crystal Riley seems to help the team most as a reserve.

Mitchell said he had to give those players an opportunity before going back to Mathies, who was UK's reserve point guard during the Cats' NCAA Tournament run last year.

Mathies has given the team what it needs, Mitchell said. Since her move, UK has won two straight SEC games and not lost any of her scoring.

She's averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 assists and five rebounds while shooting 65 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

"The fact that she's at the point, she can make plays for everyone else as well as make plays for herself," UK senior Victoria Dunlap said of the Mathies switch. "She is an even bigger threat out there now."

Knowing what he knows now, does Mitchell wish he would have moved Mathies sooner?

"Absolutely," he said, before noting it's a hard question to answer.

"It wasn't like I just woke up one day and decided to play her there," he said. "I believe in the talent of those other kids — and I believe they're going to be fine players — so I was trying to give them a chance."

But he said UK may have been putting too much pressure on freshmen to make plays and run the team.

Moving Mathies has been good for everyone, even players such as Conwright and O'Neill, he said.

"We were hoping the younger kids would come through," he said. "The younger kids are coming through now, just in a different role."

Snowden unlikely to play

Guard Keyla Snowden, who has been battling a foot injury for the past two weeks, is doubtful for the game at Florida on Thursday.

"I haven't gotten the sense this week that she's playing in this game, but we'll have to see," Mitchell told the media.

Snowden, UK's third-leading scorer and one of the league's leading three-point shooters, has not practiced. She most likely will be in a "maintenance boot" for the rest of the season dealing with the stress fracture of her toe.

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