The UK Hoops Squad plays defense a lot like I drove a car when I was young and invincible. They get in, start the car, and drive like they stole it until they get to where they are going. Then they get out, do what they have to do, and get back in and tear out of the drive like they are entered in a NASCAR race. Be it the starting five, or the first five subs, they are going to play the exact same way no matter what. The defensive scheme is about the team, not the individual.
So when a player gets in foul trouble, they are not missed defensively as much as they are on offense. And make no mistake about anything, this is A'dia Mathies team. When she is firing, the Cats are running away with it. But when she is sitting, as she had to do some of the day today, due to foul trouble, she is missed. Add to that the fact that the Hoops squad could not find the reach from the charity stripe, and it is a recipe for disaster for the ladies. And although this game was never really close, it does give Coach Matthew Mitchell's girls some work for the practice floor this week. We will go into detail after the break.
A'dia Mathies struggled not with shooting, not with defense, and not with hustle today, she struggled with the referees. Although one call was a complete phantom, the other three were legitimate fouls, and this team needs A'dia on the floor. Now, I will not say that they cannot win without her, because that is far from the point. The Hoops squad is a lot like the men in the fact that a different shooter may burn you every night. But the girls have learned to rely on Mathies to not only score, but to be in the game to provide leadership as well. She played 27 minutes, but her absence at a critical junction in the second half was noticeable.
But don't kid yourself, these girls can all ball, and the numbers bear it out. The Hoops squad got 42 bench points (yes, the bench outscored the starters) with Keyla Snowden picking up 14 to lead all scorers. a full box score can be found here.
Alabama was never really in the game, although they led a couple times in the early going, but the Hoopsters took the lead with 13:36 left in the first half as Bernisha Pinkett made a jumper to put UK up 15-13. UK never trailed after that point. I am going to sound like I am admonishing the ASOB crew out there, but I do not mean to sound that way.However, if you have not watched these ladies play basketball, you are doing yourself a disservice.
This game was every bit as physical and intimidating a game as the Cats playing LSU yesterday. A'dia Mathies had a chunk knocked out of her mouth, and dew blood as the ladies from Tuscaloosa came to play. They pounded the ball inside on the Hoops squad, they played tough woman to woman defense, and they never let up the entire game. But no one I have seen so far (I did not see the ladies two losses), can handle the UK suffocating defense for forty minutes, and they play it all forty minutes. These girls could give the Suffocats of the past a run for their money, and actually, I can honestly say, they play harder than the Suffocats did on D.
FT shooting today was not great, and a lot of open shots were missed (an homage to Glenn), but some of that can be attributed to the UK playing style. It is fast, it is furious, and it is demoralizing to the opponents who cannot keep up. I have watched sprinters, and I have watched marathons, but I have never seen a sprinter run a marathon at a sprint. These ladies can.
The win brings the Hoops squad to 20-2, just one game behind the men, and gave them their 9th straight win, and made them 9-0 in the SEC. The ladies take on Ole Miss on Thursday Feb 2nd at home at 7:00 pm. There is no TV for the game, so we will be skipping the live blog. And I may try to attend this game in person, if circumstances allow. This is a really special season for the Hoops squad, so join in and become a part of it.
We may be witnessing a first for UK as both the men and women have a shot at being Final Four teams this year. The UK ladies are not Baylor yet, however, as we all know, when the tournament starts, anything can happen, and seeing this group of young ladies hang a regional champ banner in Memorial would really be something, and more than that is not just possible, it is well within reason. Enjoy the ride Cats fans, it is not often we have two Championship-caliber teams to watch every week.