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Mathies making impact felt even when shot isn't falling

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A'dia Mathies had 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in Thursday's win over Ole Miss. (Chet White, UK Athletics) A'dia Mathies had 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in Thursday's win over Ole Miss. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There have certainly been games this season when Matthew Mitchell has been unhappy with A'dia Mathies.

The junior guard turned in one of her poorest shooting performances of the season Thursday against Ole Miss, but it certainly wasn't one of those times when Mitchell was unhappy with his star.

"You can't imagine with how pleased I am with A'dia's performance tonight," Mitchell said after the game.

Mathies connected on just two of her field goal attempts, needing a couple late-game free throws in an 82-41 win just to sneak into double figures, but Mitchell was singing her praises for the way she persisted through struggles. Other nights, Mathies has faded into the periphery of the Kentucky offense when her shot wasn't falling.

Against the Rebels, she kept shooting, which is exactly what Mitchell wants.

"I was really proud of A'dia Mathies last night because there were times in the game where I could tell she was frustrated," Mitchell said. "A'dia's the kind of player who wants to do well, and it means something to her and I think that's why in the past you've seen her when she feels like her shot's not on she'll stop shooting."

For that reason, Mitchell instituted stiff penalties for Mathies following games in which she does not lead the team in field goal attempts. He believes a difficult shot taken by Mathies is a better shot than a good one taken by most any other player.

More importantly, Mitchell knows how much Mathies' willingness to shoot opens things up for her teammates.

"She garners so much attention that that's why she needs to keep shooting because that's going to open things up," Mitchell said. "When she goes passive and stops working then you've done exactly what the opponent wants you to do."

Against Ole Miss, Mathies attempted 14 shots on 13 different UK possessions. She missed 12 of those attempts, but with the Rebel players focused on her, the Wildcats grabbed offensive rebounds on eight of her misses.

All told, Kentucky scored 19 points on the 13 possessions during which Mathies attempted a shot (1.46 points per possession). On UK's other 63 possessions, the Cats scored just 63 points (1.00 points per possession).

Clearly, Mitchell knows what he's doing when he demands Mathies continues to shoot, make or miss.

Even though she recently went through a three-game stretch in Southeastern Conference play without reaching double figures, she's still leading the No. 6/5 Wildcats (21-2, 10-0 SEC) in scoring at 15.2 points per game entering Sunday's game at LSU (14-8, 4-5 SEC). Setting aside her scoring, she leads the first-place Cats in rebounds (120) and steals (62).

For Mitchell's money, Mathies is the SEC Player of the Year to this point, though he can't cast his vote for one of his own players.

"I don't know of a player who means more to her team that's having the success that we're having," Mitchell said. "A'dia Mathies has my vote but I don't get to vote for her so I'm bummed out about that. I have to vote for somebody else."

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