UK Women's Basketball

Mathies scores 34 points, hits shot with 4.2 seconds left to lift Kentucky women past Tennessee

Kentucky's Bernisha Pinkett (10), Kastine Evans (32) and A'dia Mathies (1) celebrated after the Cats defeated Tennessee 61-60 Thursday at a sold-out Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky's Bernisha Pinkett (10), Kastine Evans (32) and A'dia Mathies (1) celebrated after the Cats defeated Tennessee 61-60 Thursday at a sold-out Memorial Coliseum.

When all else fails, give A'dia Mathies the ball.

When the fancier things that Matthew Mitchell was drawing up were failing, the Kentucky coach opted to give his junior star the ball.

She did exactly what he expected, she drove the ball through two Tennessee defenders and scored with less than five seconds left to lift ninth-ranked Kentucky past No. 6 Tennessee 61-60 on Thursday night at a packed Memorial Coliseum.

"It was not a real genius coaching move," Mitchell said afterward. "It was a great player making a big-time move."

The junior made those moves over and over again in the big-time win for UK, which snapped Tennessee's 36-game Southeastern Conference win streak and helped the Cats move to 4-0 in the league for the first time in school history.

"Whenever they needed to score, they gave her the ball," UT senior Glory Johnson said.

That final bucket put Mathies over her career high and helped her finish with 34 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals for UK, which has won 15 straight at home.

"I looked up at the clock and was hoping it would buzz, but there was still four or five seconds left, so I just got back on defense," Mathies said when asked to describe the play that won the game.

Her coaches and teammates said they're never surprised by Mathies' ability to will her team to win.

"She's a great player and she's definitely our go-to player on this team," said senior Keyla Snowden, who had 11 points and four steals in the win. "With the ball in her hands, I'm very confident that she's going to make a play."

Behind Snowden and Mathies, Kentucky (15-2, 4-0 SEC) was able to build a commanding 12-point lead with 7:46 to play. Snowden scored seven in a row to help spark a 13-3 run.

In that span was a freakish series of events that saw Mathies heave up a three-pointer as the shot clock was about to sound. It went in and she was fouled by Vicki Baugh on the shot. Mathies put in the free throw, too.

"It was just one of those games," Mathies said when asked about that shot.

When the three-pointer went in, did Mitchell feel like maybe the moon and the stars had aligned perfectly that night?

"Well for two or three minutes," the coach said. "But then I thought they'd gotten out of whack again."

That's when Tennessee asserted itself, using an 18-4 run to go up again by as many as three points in the waning minutes of the game.

"We got so tentative on offense, playing not to lose instead of playing to win," he said. "Those were some big-time plays they made."

From Tennessee's perspective, it was points the Vols had been expecting all night from star players Shekinna Stricklen and Meighan Simmons, who went a combined 4-for-16.

"They hadn't hit a shot all night and then they finally hit two threes and got us back in the game," UT assistant coach Holly Warlick said of Stricklen and Simmons. "We have to have our two scorers step up and make plays."

Tennessee clung to a one-point lead with 45 seconds left after Mathies put back her own shot.

The Vols had the ball and the lead still before freshman Bria Goss took a charge to set up the last play.

Mitchell admitted he wasn't sure his team had anything left in the emotional tank after Tennessee (12-4, 3-1) made that late charge.

"That was a devastating run," Mitchell said. "For a team to have the character to come back — I mean it was not looking good — and to come back and win was great."

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