LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)—Kentucky has shown what it can do with A’dia Mathies. Now the Wildcats have shown what they can do without her.
Mathies finished with a career-low two points on Sunday, but the No. 6 Wildcats held off Florida 57-52 to remain undefeated in Southeastern Conference play.
Kentucky (18-2, 7-0) struggled offensively without Mathies’ typical steady hand. The Wildcats shot 30 percent and trailed for most of the first half. Mathies scored her only basket 13 seconds into the second half, and it sparked a 17-2 run that proved too much for Florida.
“I think they were just being very physical and I just didn’t make shots,” Mathies said. “I believe any player is going to be frustrated not making shots — just a shot to go down would boost your confidence. We just got the win, and that’s all I care about. We’re 7-0 in conference, that’s very good.”
The Wildcats and Florida (13-7, 3-4) played to a halftime tie at 21-all with both teams struggling to find consistent offense. Mathies, third in the SEC with 16.1 points per game, didn’t take her first shot until nearly 7 minutes had gone by.
Her only basket was a layup 13 seconds into the second half to give her team its first lead since it was up 4-2 early in the game.
Once Mathies broke the tie, Kentucky went on its decisive run. In that stretch, Kastine Evans had eight of her 10 points for the Wildcats.
“I just thought that for a couple of minutes, we resembled what our team can look like,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “That was the only time that happened today. I think we allowed Florida and their aggressiveness and their physical play and their changing defense, so when we didn’t have success early we just had some people decide they weren’t going to try to figure it out.”
When Florida stopped the Wildcats’ run, it didn’t make a run of its own. Instead, the Gators chipped away and kept the game close, holding Kentucky to three field goals in the final 10 minutes.
The Gators pulled to 50-48 with 25.2 seconds left on Lanita Bartley’s layup, but the Wildcats went 7 of 8 from the free throw line in the last 30 seconds to hold on.
“I was really, really proud of our team’s fight and their willingness to gut it out when it would have been easy and understandable by a lot of people’s standards to accept less,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “But we didn’t, and we put ourselves in position to win a ball game against a very good, very well-coached team that’s full of great players.”
Mathies has averaged 5.7 points in three games since she scored 34 in a win over Tennessee on Jan. 12. She missed a pair of free throws, her only trip to the free-throw line, with 1:01 left to play that allowed Bartley’s layup to give Florida a chance.
The outcome confirmed what Mathies said she already knew: The Wildcats like having her atop the box score, but they don’t need her there.
“I think we have a very balanced team,” Mathies said. “I don’t need to put up big numbers every night for us to win. We can win in a variety of ways.”