- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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Editor's note: Charlie Creme, Graham Hays, Michelle Smith and Mechelle Voepel each vote to determine espnW's national player of the week, which is awarded every Monday of the women's college basketball season.
Kentucky needed wins, needed to hold its place near the top of the SEC standings. Who better than the reigning conference player of the year -- the player who has been in the lineup virtually every day for the past four years -- to make that happen?
A'dia Mathies made the road a much friendlier place for the 10th-ranked Wildcats.
Kentucky's senior guard opened the week with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists in a must-have overtime win at Arkansas on Thursday.
Then as a follow-up, espnW's national player of the week came up with her biggest offensive day of the season, scoring a season-high 28 points to go with five assists in the Wildcats' 75-53 victory at Vanderbilt on Sunday.
Kentucky (21-3 overall) moved to 9-2 in the SEC and held on to third place (behind 10-1 Tennessee and 9-1 Texas A&M) with less than a month of games to go before the conference tournament. A strong week righted the ship after the Wildcats lost two of three -- tough defeats to South Carolina and Georgia -- which dropped them off their first-place perch.
Mathies' performance against Vanderbilt included five 3-pointers, a well-earned end result after she spent extra time in the gym this past week working the kinks out of her shot. The Arkansas game, in which she hit just 6-of-17 attempts, was a bit of a wake-up call.
"She was aggressive today," Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said of Mathies following the Vanderbilt game. "She made them pay for open looks at the 3-point stripe, and it's difficult to beat us when she's playing that well. I think that A'dia knew how important this game was and how difficult it is to play here. And I thought she played like the player of the year that she is."
Mathies is a front-runner to repeat as the SEC player of the year. She has scored in double figures in 22 of 24 games this season, including 15 games in a row. She moved up to No. 3 on Kentucky's all-time scoring list.
The Wildcats have a tough finish to the conference season with five of seven on the road, but Mathies has made that path look a little less intimidating.
Kelia Shelton, Louisiana Tech: The redshirt sophomore -- she sat out last season after transferring from Clemson -- scored 45 points on 16-for-22 shooting to lead the Lady Techsters to a win at Texas-San Antonio. The 5-foot-8 guard followed that with 22 points and 11 rebounds in a loss at Texas State.
15dBonnie D. Ford