UK Hoops travel to Knoxville to play Lady Vols

The No. 7 UK Hoops team will attempt to make history in a number of ways Monday night when they travel to Knoxville to battle the No. 11 Lady Vols.

They will be a part of ESPN’s Big Monday and will be the first women’s collegiate game to be broadcast in 3D.

The Cats also are looking to gain their first-ever win in Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena and the first win in Knoxville since 1985.

The Cats have struggled in recent outings in Knoxville, losing 81-65 in 2010 and 90-65 in 2011.

“We have a game on Monday vs. Tennessee that will be really tough,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We are excited about it, we are looking forward to it and we will see what happens on Monday.”

The Lady Vols, who were upset at Vanderbilt Thursday night, are still in second place in the SEC at 8-3. A win for the Cats, who are already two games ahead in the standings with a 10-1 conference record, would nearly clinch a regular-season title. The Cats have not won an SEC regular-season title since 1982.

“I think anyone would be lying if they were to say that was not a good development for us. I mean, you want as much separation as you can have,” Mitchell said. “I was watching the game (Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt) trying to get ready for it, and I think we need to go down there and be prepared to win and go down there are try to do the best we can to win.”

The Cats are coming off a disappointing loss themselves, losing on the road to LSU in their last effort eight days ago.

“They did a terrific job of making us win the game from an area of where we were not strong. They got us out of our strengths and we still had a chance had we been able to execute offensively,” Mitchell said. “We did not throw the ball where it needed to go offensively where we could score.”

Despite the disappointing loss, Mitchell is pleased at the progress the team has made.

“The players have done an unbelievable job through 11 games to get to 10-1. The great thing about us right now is we have a chance to get better,” Mitchell said. “So, to be at this stage in the season, and be in the position we are in, and still have a chance of getting better is a real positive thing. I hated being off, but it was good for our players.”

When the Cats defeated the Vols in Lexington earlier this season 61-60, they were led by a career scoring night by junior guard A’dia Mathies. Mathies scored 34 points, including the game-winning jump shot with just seconds to go.

Defenses keyed on Mathies following her outburst against the Vols, and held her to just 17 total points over the Cats’ three subsequent games (5.7 points per game). Since those three games, Mathies has returned to double-digit scoring the next four. She is shooting a combined 26-for-84 (30.9 percent)  from the field in the seven games since leading the Cats to victory over the Vols.

“It’s just a tough league. It’s good defenses. It’s good coaching. I think she is having a fantastic year. I think she is the best player in the league,” said Mitchell. “I think she is a great player, and I don’t think she is in a slump at all.”