I hate missing the girls' games. But this California road trip is just what they needed and it will serve them well later. As I did not see the game, this is only going to be an analysis of what I heard on the radio last night. It was a good win for UK, but even more impressive was HOW UK won. I will illuminate.
Something every great team has is balance. One player will not win you a championship, I don't care how good he (or she) is. In Matthew Mitchell's 40 Minutes Of Dread defense, balance is not just a key, it is critical. Everyone must be able to come in, play tight man-to man pressing defense, and score when the opportunity arises. That is exactly what UK did last night.
13 players entered the game last night. 10 had minutes in double-digits. No one played over 27 minutes (that was Mathies total), and only 4 went over 20 minutes. That's a balanced attack right there. It is also good to note that 4 starters were in double digits in scoring as well, with A'Dia Mathies getting back into the game a little more with 13, and DeNesha Stallworth (17), Bria Goss (16), and Samarie Walker (10). When the Hoops Squad is hitting on all cylinders, almost no one in the country can play with them. The loss to Baylor aside, this team is crushing foes with defense, and getting stronger and smarter offensively along the way.
That does not bode well for UK opponents come SEC regular season time. And while 3-pt % (22.2) and FT% (63.6) are nothing to brag about, FG% (44.3) continues to get better and better. That means shot selection and execution inside the offense is improving. If UK holds their opponents' to under 40% shooting, and gets above 40% shooting themselves, you are usually beat. The defense does the rest. Pepperdine was held to 35% FG and 25% 3-pt. Combined with only 13 offensive rebounds for for the Waves, there was simply no way for them to overcome UK's pressure.
This may provide some insight on the A'Dia Mathies situation I have been covering. I am starting to believe more and more that while Matthew Mitchell would love to have A'Dia sinking 20 points a game, Mathies is trying to get her teammates involved much more this season than in years past. Maybe a lesson from last year's tournament has come to light. A'Dia knows she cannot win alone, and she wants to win badly. Learning how to be a piece of the puzzle, vs. being the game master may be what is causing A'Dia to struggle. But she seems to be figuring it out. Let's hope the process is finalized by the Florida game.
Come Friday night the women take on UCSB in another Radio-only game, where Mitchell's charges will once again be challenged by a fast team with excellent athletes, that has won 2 out of their last 3 on their own road trip and will be playing at home against a UK team that has not yet done back to back road games this season. The Gauchos are lead by Sweets Underwood, a Sr. 6'-0" forward who is averaging 11.7 per game, and who plays tough all night. She will give UK Forwards fits with her inside play and rebounding if UK does not get on her quickly in the lane. Expect UK to overcome Underwood and Co., though and pull off another double-digit road win. That will allow UK to come home for a three game home-stand heading into the SEC Regular Season starting off with Alcorn State and Marist in a three day period, then Florida comes into town to start off the new year on Jan 3rd.