UK Hoops Sweeps SEC Postseason Honors
March 2, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Continuing one of the best seasons in school history, the 19th-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team has been awarded three major postseason honors, the conference office announced Tuesday. Junior forward Victoria Dunlap was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, freshman guard A'dia Mathies was named Freshman of the Year and head coach Matthew Mitchell was named Coach of the Year.
It marks just the second time in SEC history that one team has won all three of the top honors. Tennessee's Pat Summitt, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings also accomplished the feat in 1998 en route to its sixth NCAA Championship title.
Despite being picked to finish 11th in the preseason polls by the league's coaches and media, Mitchell has led the Wildcats to a remarkable turnaround, going from 16-16 overall, 5-9 in the SEC last season, to an impressive 23-6 overall record, including a school-best 11-5 mark in conference play. He becomes just the second coach in UK history to earn SEC Coach of the Year honors.
Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) receives the school's first Player of the Year nod after ranking in the top 10 of seven different SEC statistical categories. She is the only player in the league to rank in the top five in scoring (fifth - 17.2) and rebounding (third - 8.4), and she also ranks 13 th nationally leads the SEC in steals (3.1), ranks fifth in blocks (1.9) and is seventh in field goal percentage (.490).
Dunlap also was elected to the All-Defensive team and was a unanimous choice for first-team All-SEC. She is just the ninth player in school history to be named to the All-SEC first team and the first since Stacey Reed in 1994.
Mathies (Louisville, Ky.), who Mitchell calls a "difference marker," was named UK's first Freshman of the Year after following Dunlap in nearly every statistical category. She is averaging 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game and is tied for 11th overall in scoring and third overall in steals (2.5) in the SEC. Mathies has scored in double figures in 21 of 29 games, including 11 of 16 league contests. All four of her 20-point scoring outings were against SEC competition. She ranks among UK's all-time freshman leaders in 11 categories, including setting a new school record for steals by a freshman with 72. She also was named to the All-SEC second team and was a unanimous choice for the All-SEC freshman team.
This is the seventh consecutive season UK has had at least one player selected to the All-SEC teams.
The 2010 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament begins Thursday, March 4 and runs through Sunday, March 7 in The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. SEC's regional sports network (Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Southwest and Sun Sports) will televise all games on Thursday and Friday. Saturday's semifinal games will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN2 will carry the championship game.
The Cats have secured the No. 2 seed and will face either No. 7 seed Florida or No. 10 seed Auburn on Friday, March 5 at 2:30 p.m. EST. The Cats' No. 2 ranking marks their highest finish in the SEC's current 12-team format and their highest since UK was the East's No. 2 seed in 1983 when the SEC had a 10-team divisional format.
The complete 2010 SEC Women's Basketball Postseason Awards can be found at the bottom of the page (asterisks indicate unanimous selections).
Press Conference Quotes
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
On playing in the SEC Tournament...
"The team did a great job over the course of the SEC regular season to put themselves in a great position as far as seeding goes in the tournament. To earn the second seed in the tourney is a tremendous accomplishment for this team. Now, what we are going to try to do is take advantage of that. It's always important to be able to get a first-round bye in this tournament. This tournament is one of the absolute toughest to win. Every advantage you have, you need to use. The first-round bye is going to be big for us.
"In our side of the bracket we've have to good fortunate of having a victory over all of those teams. At least we're going into the tournament knowing we can match up really well with our side of the bracket.
"The team did a really good job of handling one game at a time and staying focused and staying locked in on what they needed to do and that's obvious by their record. Now, we're in a bit of uncharted waters. I'm not afraid to say that. It will be up to the players on how well they want to do in this tournament. I've told them many times, `it's a lot more important how they feel about it and how they approach it' than anything I can tell them. I'll tell them they have a great opportunity because of what they have done, but this is going to be a wild SEC tournament. It's not a situation where we think we're going to cruise into the finals. So, maybe that will help them be on high alert."
On his players winning SEC Player and Freshman of the Year...
"I think the way all of those awards turned out is an ultimate testament to how this team came together. Most of it is born out of a lack of expectation. People didn't think we were going to be very good. You can't get anything done in this league if you don't have a really good team. It's a real compliment to the entire team.
"I'm really appreciative of our peers thinking we did a good job this year. It really means a lot. But, what I am so happy about is that as long as I have an opportunity to coach here I can't imagine that defense won't be extremely valued. Both of these players, while they are winning individual awards, it makes me really happy that both are so committed as defensive players. I think that tells you a little bit about their character as people. Because a lot of great players, talented players don't play and practice defense like these two have. For me, it's particularly exciting because of that. They embody what we are trying to be about in this program. They are both very honest players, give an honest effort, work really hard and have a lot of discipline in their game. I was just thrilled to hear about that and it speaks volumes about what kind of year we've had."
On having Dunlap and Mathies returning for next season...
"Now, it's a completely different situation for next year. Victoria still has a tremendous opportunity to grow as a basketball player. She is not anywhere close to being a finished product. I don't think she will be on the second team next year preseason. She has to understand that it will be a different dynamic . She has the opportunity to grow and get even better. She can do that.
"A'dia, I've been really proud of and feel very fortunate to coach her, but she also has a lot of room for growth. So, if you look at it that way, it's a tremendous opportunity. Neither one needs to look at it as an arrival. All of these awards you need to take in stride. Both of these players will take the awards humbly and gratefully, but both will understand they need to get better."
On winning the SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year awards...
"It means a lot. (Defense) is my main forte that I focus on a lot. The coaches have pushed me a lot harder to be offensive minded to help my teammates out."
On Coach Mitchell winning SEC Coach of the Year:
"It shows how much work he puts in to make us get better and help us through the season. He talks a lot about listening to him and becoming better people. His coaching is a reflection of us playing on the court. We're always trying to work really hard and do our best."
On if she is surprised at the team's success this season...
"I think we surprised other people and not ourselves because we know how hard we work and what the coaches have in store for us in practice. Knowing that we've worked so hard in the offseason and preseason and put in the work, we expect a lot from ourselves and the coaches expect a lot from us."
On rebounding from losses last week and preparing for the SEC Tournament...
"As a team we didn't play well (last week). Now, it's just a mindset to have the opportunity to come in as a team, play as a team and play hard and not worry about what we have done in the past even if we've beaten a team or lost to a team before. We have to come in with the mentality that we have to play hard no matter what. Just because we're already set for the NCAA tournament doesn't mean we can settle for finishing second in the SEC. We have to get better and better.
"We have to come to play. We can't just walk in there and think we're going to win the game because we've already beaten them. We have to prepare, listen to what (the coaches) are saying and not let up at any time in the game."
On is she thought she would have this kind of impact in her first year...
"I didn't know what to expect coming in. I just knew I wanted to work hard and put forth my best effort in everything I did. Along with the players and the coaching staff, they pushed me to give all that I had. I'm blessed to win an award like this and to share it with my coach, who got Coach of the Year, and Victoria Dunlap, who got Player of the Year, along with the rest of the team."
On losing to Auburn and preparing for the SEC Tournament...
"The loss that we had to Auburn is humbling. Every game we play we have to fight. We have to come out and play aggressive and play defense and do everything we did that got us to this point. Just as easy as we beat Auburn the first time, we lost to them the second time. If we just continue to stay focused and use everything we have done during the season, at the end of the season, we should be okay."
First Team All-SEC
Ashley Houts, UG
* Victoria Dunlap, UK
* Allison Hightower, LSU
Bianca Thomas, UM
Alexis Rack, MSU
* Angie Bjorklund, UT
Kelley Cain, UT
Jence Rhoads, VU
Second Team All-SEC
Alli Smalley, AU
A'dia Mathies, UK
Shekinna Stricklen, UT
LaSondra Barrett, LSU
Armelie Lumanu, MSU
Kelsey Bone, SC
Valerie Nainima, SC
Merideth Marsh, VU
Jennifer George, UF
Jasmine Hassell, UG
*Jasmine James, UG
* A'dia Mathies, UK
*Kelsey Bone, SC
Elan Brown, VU
*Tiffany Clarke, VU
Victoria Dunlap, UK
Allison Hightower, LSU
Armelie Lumanu, MSU
Chanel Mokango, MSU
Kelley Cain, UT
Coach of the Year
Matthew Mitchell, Kentucky
Player of the Year
Victoria Dunlap, Kentucky
Freshman of the Year
A'dia Mathies, Kentucky
Defensive Player of the Year
Armelie Lumanu, Mississippi State
6th Woman of the Year
Alyssia Brewer, Tennessee