In the last game at Memorial Coliseum of A’dia Mathies’ illustrious career, the senior led the Wildcats with 16 points to defeat 8th ranked Tennessee 78-65. Kentucky finishes the regular season 25-4 overall and finish conference play with a 13-3 record, good for the 2 seed in the SEC Tournament. The win not only sealed the seeding for the Wildcats, but it gave Matthew Mitchell his 139th victory at the University of Kentucky, which is good for first in school history. Mitchell is only in his 6th season at the helm, so to already have his name first in the record books is a huge accomplishment.
The story of the game was turnovers. Kentucky forced Tennessee into a season high 31 turnovers. The Vols came into the game only averaging around 15 a game, and the Wildcats hit UT hard, fast, and early. Today gave a glimpse of the Kentucky team everyone envisioned to start the season. With hectic defensive pressure and a balanced scoring attack, the Cats look primed to make a deep postseason run. O’Neill matched Mathies’ scoring output with 16 herself, and Goss, Walker, and Stallworth all finished in double-digits as well.
In a game that has been sold out for over two weeks, the crowd didn’t disappoint. They were there early, stayed late, and stood on their feet the entirety of the game. Tennessee’s Coach Warlick and players credited Memorial as one of the best environments they’ve been all season, but the Volunteers were deeply disappointed and frustrated with their effort today. Kentucky had all the emotion in today’s game, and Tennessee looked like the team scared to play from the get go. Having only lost one conference game the entire season, the Volunteers had no answer for the intensity of the Wildcats, and Kentucky gets a huge boost of confidence going into the SEC Tournament. Even though this game had no impact on the regular season champion, losing two out of three to end is a lot different than winning the last two out of three, and now Kentucky knows they can beat any team in the SEC, even the number one seed.
Tennessee women’s basketball fans are a lot like Kentucky men’s basketball fans: they travel. With large sections of orange mixed in the crowd at Memorial, the Volunteer fans never had a chance to cheer as Kentucky pounced early, getting a 10 point lead nearly five minutes into the game. Coach Mitchell being classic Coach Mitchell brushed off all the attention of his school record, noting the team’s primary goal today was to send Mathies and Brittany Henderson out of Lexington with a win. Henderson and Mathies will leave UK as the best senior class in school history, and both players noted the complete culture change around the program in their time at Kentucky. Mitchell agreed saying, “when these two players came to Kentucky, we were selling a dream”. Now that dream is a reality.
Kentucky’s first game in the SEC Tournament will be on Friday evening at 6, as the Cats will play the winner of 7th seeded Vanderbilt and 10th seeded Missouri. UK defeated both of these teams on the road by 20+ this season, and Hayley Minogue and I will be in attendance on press row in Duluth, Georgia. #wegotcredentialed