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By: ASHLEY SCOBY
Maybe the men’s basketball team could take lessons from Coach Matthew Mitchell’s team.
Kentucky’s supposed weaknesses on the men’s side so far this year (defense, allowing inferior teams to hang with them in the first half) are strengths for the UK Hoops team.
The latest installment of the UK women’s blowout series came Sunday afternoon against the University of South Carolina-Upstate. The Cats forced more turnovers by the Spartans (38) than they allowed points (34). The final was a lopsided 100-34 victory for Kentucky, adding to its list of huge victories this season. Each of UK’s five official wins has been by at least 34 points.
With that history of crushing teams comes confidence. But that confidence has not led to big heads on this Kentucky team. Instead, each game against an opponent with less talent comes as a learning experience.
“Games like this are very important to us, even if it is a team that’s not ranked,” said sophomore guard Bria Goss. “It shows us where we are mentally…Talent-wise, we can get the job done, but coming out of here and bringing your energy…We can get beat at any time in the season. We really want to focus in on these games and make sure we come out with a lot of energy.”
That attitude from the players is a reflection of the one held by their head coach.
“There are so many opportunities to learn in the game,” Mitchell said. “One is how to stay focused on what we need to do to be a very good team. In a game like this… there are things we can find. It’s all based around your attitude and your effort and your energy. Those three things are critical for the development of our basketball team.”
The attitude, effort and energy were obvious from the beginning with this Kentucky team. The Cats had jumped out to a 22-9 lead by the second media timeout, and continued to build on that throughout the game.
“We were out of it pretty much from the get-go,” admitted USC-Upstate head coach Tammy George.
Part of the reason for that nearly-instant blowout was Kentucky’s defensive pressure – the trait about this team that has been most obvious throughout six official games and an exhibition. The Cats scored 52 points off turnovers Sunday while also totaling 21 steals and seven blocked shots.
“I just think we did a great job of playing on defense,” said senior guard A’dia Mathies. “Just going out there and hustling and giving great effort…I think that’s what made the game so lopsided. If we had gone out there and just played down to the level of our competition, it would have been a different game.”
Many Cats fans would encourage Coach Cal and company to take note.