Mathies' Big Night Pushes UK Past Louisville 74-54
Dec. 4, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell didn't know what to expect Sunday when his team took the floor against No. 10 Louisville.
The No. 12 Wildcats had yet to play a team from a major conference and won their first seven games by an average of 36.4 points.
So when they beat their rival 74-54 on Sunday, Mitchell finally got a good read on his team.
"I'm awfully proud because, I'm telling you, it was a miserable week for me," Mitchell said. "The unknown, I just don't like that. It's really difficult. I had no idea how the game is going to go."
It went well for Kentucky (8-0) right from the beginning. One of Mitchell's priorities was to use his team's depth to his advantage, so he did. The Cardinals (7-2) opened the game with a few quick baskets, but Kentucky answered with eight unanswered points and then subbed out all five players simultaneously.
With five fresh sets of legs running a demanding full-court defense, Kentucky went on a 15-4 run. At that point, the Wildcats led 25-10.
Part of what sparked the early run, senior guard Amber Smith said, was how personally Kentucky's players took the game after losing last year to Louisville 78-52.
"Twenty-six points, you just want to get payback," she said. "It was the next game on our schedule and we approached it with great preparation. We were definitely prepared. We had enough rest, we scheduled right where we could prepare enough for Louisville because we knew how big this game was. It was definitely a payback game."
Mitchell said he also didn't know quite what to expect from Louisville because the Cardinals had not played a major-conference team with Monique Reed and Shoni Schimmel, the team's two leading scorers; neither played in the Cardinals' loss to No. 4 Texas A&M.
So to try to create a facsimile of Texas A&M's 76-58 win over the Cardinals, Mitchell's game plan was to make someone other than Schimmel bring the ball up the court, forcing Louisville's other players to make plays.
Schimmel led the Cardinals with 17 points but was unable to take over the Cardinals' offense. She shot 7 of 18 from the floor and did not take a single free-throw attempt.
Schimmel was one of only three Cardinals players to have four rebounds or more. Kentucky won the rebounding battle 34-25 despite running a four-guard lineup for most of the game. As a result, Kentucky finished with 24 second-chance points to the Cardinals' 10.
"You can't win big games if you're not going to rebound the basketball," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "That's a mentality. You've got to have a little fight in you to go in and rebound the ball. Unfortunately, today we did not do a very good job of that and unfortunately, we haven't done a great job of that all season."
Without Mitchell knowing what to expect from his team, his veterans stepped up: Junior A'dia Mathies finished with 20 points, and Smith finished with seven points and six assists.
Smith said she knew what to expect Sunday even if her coach didn't.
"It wasn't clear to the public, but we knew what we were capable of doing and how hard we've been working in practice," she said. "There was no doubt in our minds what we could do. We just were really prepared. I just have great teammates, and we showed up. It doesn't matter what the competition is, we will show up."