Kentucky snaps Tennessee's 36-game SEC winning streak
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With 12 seconds left, Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell decided to pull out a play that Tennessee had never seen on tape before. Never mind that his Wildcats had never run it this season, either.
A'dia Mathies heeded the coach's call, drove the lane and scored in traffic with 4.2 seconds left and Kentucky (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 9 AP) beat Tennessee (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) 61-60 Thursday night to snap the Lady Volunteers' 36-game Southeastern Conference winning streak.
"I just took a one-on-one, got past her and I seen a couple of trees," said Mathies, who finished with a career-high 34 points. "I shot it and it went in. I'm glad it went in."
Mathies did it all for Kentucky and with the Wildcats trailing 60-57, she followed her own miss with a putback to cut it to one with 46 seconds left.
After Tennessee (12-4, 3-1) was called for a charge and Kentucky (15-2, 4-0) used a timeout, Mathies took the ball at half court on the play named "one-four flat" that basically clears her teammates out to help her avoid being double teamed.
Mathies dribbled into the lane and hit a 7-foot floater in the paint.
"We haven't done that much -- as in ever," Mitchell said. "We couldn't get a screen involved and A'dia had just taken us so far and brought us to that point, I thought we'd put the ball in her hands."
It paid off despite a final chance by Tennessee.
Kamiko Williams drove the length of the floor, but missed an off-balance 16-footer off the front rim as time expired as the Wildcats' began to celebrate when Bria Goss jumped into Mathies' arms.
"Mathies did a great job of getting to the basket," said Tennessee's Glory Johnson, who had 17 points. "We're not going to look at that one play, we're going to look at missed layups and missed free throws and turnovers and everything that happened that shouldn't have."
Tennessee rallied from 12 points down with 7:46 left to take a lead, but lost for the first time in the SEC since falling 53-50 at Georgia on Jan. 21, 2010.
Keyla Snowden added 11 points to help Kentucky win its first four games in conference play for the first time in history to go with 15 straight at home.
Vicki Baugh scored 16 points and Shekinna Stricklen 11 for Tennessee.
Kentucky led 50-38 off two free throws by Mathies with 7:46 left when Tennessee used a 16-4 rally to tie it. Meighan Simmons and Stricklen hit 3s, while Ariel Massengale's three-point play made it 54-all.
Then, after Mathies made two more free throws, Stricklen hit a layup, Kentucky's Amber Smith threw a pass away that led to a free throw by Johnson and Mathies fell and lost the ball that started Tennessee's 3-on-0 break that ended with a layup by Baugh to give the Lady Vols a 59-56 with 2:06 left.
At the timeout, the Kentucky pep band played "Don't Stop Believin'" with the game seemingly getting out of control.
"That was a devastating run Tennessee put on us," Mitchell said. "It was not looking good and to come back and win was great. A'dia played really, really well."
Goss made one of two free throws for the Wildcats and Johnson hit the second of two attempts to put Tennessee back ahead 60-57.
Goss then missed a 3 that would've tied it, but grabbed her own rebound and Kentucky got another possession. Mathies scored on a putback to cut it to 60-59 and Stricklen was whistled for a charge with 28 seconds to play, setting up the final possession for Mathies.
"That's how Tennessee's won so many games over the years, is great players making great plays," Mitchell said. "We did a good day's work when we signed A'dia Mathies."
The last time these two teams played in the SEC Tournament, the Lady Vols routed the Wildcats by 25. This one looked to be different from the start between the two schools that have many ties on the coaching staff on both sides.
Tennessee used a 10-2 run midway through the first half to take a 20-18 lead before both teams went cold for the next five minutes, combining to miss 25 consecutive shots and commit 12 turnovers before Mathies grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback to end the cold snap.
The Lady Vols' struggles continued.
Alicia Manning hit the second of two free throws, but a bucket by Snowden gave Kentucky a 25-21 halftime lead as Tennessee finished the half with 16 straight misses and eight turnovers.
Johnson's 8-footer in the lane on the team's first shot of the second half ended the span of nearly 11 minutes without a field goal, but Kentucky would still build a 50-38 lead behind Mathies and Snowden before Tennessee's furious rally.
Now, the Wildcats are becoming the juggernaut Mitchell envisioned when he joined the staff at Kentucky under Mickie DeMoss, who was a top assistant under Tennessee and head coach Pat Summitt.
DeMoss coached Kentucky for four years and spent three more as an assistant at Texas before returning to Tennessee this season while Mitchell took over the Wildcats.
"Mickie DeMoss had a big hand in building this program. That's what I told her before the game," Mitchell said. "Yes, tonight was what we envisioned. Kentucky: great fans, great crowd, playing against Tennessee and coming out on top. It was a great night."
2022-23 Southeastern Conference Standings