Feb 11, 2013 11:19 AM by ESPN.com
Kentucky needed wins, needed to hold its place near the top of the SEC standings. Who better than the reigning conference player of the year -- the player who has been in the lineup virtually every day for the past four years -- to make that happen?
A'dia Mathies made the road a much friendlier place for the 10th-ranked Wildcats.
Kentucky's senior guard opened the week with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a must-have overtime win at Arkansas on Thursday.
Then as a follow-up, espnW's national player of the week came up with her biggest offensive day of the season, scoring a season-high 28 points to go with five assists in the Wildcats' 75-53 victory at Vanderbilt on Sunday.
Kentucky (21-3 overall) moved to 9-2 in the SEC and held on to third place (behind 10-1 Tennessee and 9-1 Texas A&M) with less than a month of games to go before the conference tournament. A strong week righted the ship after the Wildcats lost two of three -- tough defeats to South Carolina and Georgia -- which dropped them off their first-place perch.
Mathies' performance against Vanderbilt included five 3-pointers, a well-earned end result after she spent extra time in the gym this past week working the kinks out of her shot. The Arkansas game, in which she hit just 6-of-17 attempts, was a bit of a wake-up call.
"She was aggressive today," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said of Mathies following the Vanderbilt game. "She made them pay for open looks at the 3-point stripe, and it's difficult to beat us when she's playing that well. I think that A'dia knew how important this game was and how difficult it is to play here. And I thought she played like the player of the year that she is."
Mathies is a front-runner to repeat as the SEC player of the year. She has scored in double figures in 22 of 24 games this season, including 15 games in a row. She moved up to No. 3 on Kentucky's all-time scoring list.
The Wildcats have a tough finish to the conference season with five of seven on the road, but Mathies has made that path look a little less intimidating.