This time last week, the Kentucky women’s basketball team was 13-1, 1-0 in conference play, and had their sights firmly set on an SEC championship and a potential number one seed in their future. Fast forward to today, and the Cats are now 13-3, 1-2 in the league, and reeling after two straight losses: one at home to Florida, and one on the road at South Carolina. A number one seed now looks like a long shot, as Kentucky will have to go on a tear and hope some teams above them in the rankings take a tumble. Luckily for UK, a conference championship is still an attainable goal as the SEC is full of tough, strong teams who have, and will continue to beat up on each other the entire season.
This past week, the Wildcats have lost their identity. In the waning minutes of the Florida game and for about 30+ minutes of the game against South Carolina, most would not have been able to recognize the team who came into these contests leading the league averaging over 90 points a game. Coach Mitchell addressed the media Friday morning, and is using a mindset unlike that of most fans and that is to look at the season in totality, and not judge the team based on the past two games alone. “If you focus on the last two games like most people do, then the sky is falling and everything is out of whack. As a coach, you rely on that experience and you need to let your players know that everything is not out of whack. There are some things that we need to get better at doing.” Mitchell also assured us that things “are not as bad as they seem”, and this isn’t the first time UK has faced adversity the past few seasons, despite all the success.
Kentucky’s primary goal at this point is to focus on winning their next game, which happens to be this evening. The Cats welcome in the not-so-new-anymore to the league Missouri Tigers to Memorial Coliseum today at 5:00 in an attempt to return to their winning habits. In their second season in the SEC, the Tigers were picked to finish ninth, but have assembled an impressive record up to this point. They are currently 13-3 overall (same as the Cats) and 2-1 in the SEC. Their two wins have come against Ole Miss on the road, and a 10 point win over the 25th ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Thursday night. Last Sunday, the Tigers fell at home by just three points to Arkansas. Mizzou lives and dies from behind the 3-point line. They lead the league and rank fourth nationally in 3-point field goals made, averaging over 10 a game. The Wildcats will have to control senior Bri Kulas, who is averaging just under 23 points in league contests, and junior Morgan Eye, the school’s all-time 3-point field goal record holder.
If the Cats don’t want to find themselves in an early hole in the SEC, this is a must-win for them. I definitely believe this year’s SEC champion could end up with around four losses, and that’s based on how good so many teams are in this conference, but to avoid increased pressure from game to game, Kentucky needs a win. How to win? Get back to the basics. In these losses, the Cats have lost themselves. Shots haven’t fallen, turnovers haven’t been as prevalent, and that Kentucky passion that fans have fallen in love with hasn’t been seen on a consistent basis. If UK settles down, runs their offense through people other than just than Jennifer O’Neill, and amps it’s defensive intensity, the Wildcats should walk away with a win today.
If you haven’t made plans already, make it out to Memorial tonight to cheer on these 9th ranked Wildcats. If you can’t make it, tonight’s game is on ESPNU, and of course follow along right here on KSR as yours truly and Hayley Minogue will be live on press row doing some live bloggin’ and making fun of everyone around us.