UK Hoops Vs. UT Lady Vols
Monday February 13,2012
TV: ESPN2 3D
OK, So, it is gutcheck time for the Hoops squad. No more undefeated SEC season on the line, no more walking away with the SEC Reg.Season title, no more talk about how no one can play with UK. All that was dashed last week in the Bayou. No friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum to smooth the rough spots tonight. UT's Thompson-Boling Arena is going to be rocking, because something is on the line tonight that has never been done before. Win at Thompson-Boling Arena. Sweep the Lady Vols in the regular season. And along with that, virtually seal at least a tie for the Reg. Season Championship that Matthew Mitchell wants to get under his belt so he can focus on a lot of other things that await the Cats down the road. But make no mistake, UK is not looking past UT. That will not happen.
More after the jump.
Coach Mitchell is ready to step from the shadows of his former mentor. This season has proven that, if nothing else. But that is not what Mitchell is focused on for this game,
“We have a game on Monday vs. Tennessee that will be really tough. We had a great game with them here at Memorial (Coliseum). Obviously we were real fortunate to come out on top in that one. We learned a lot from that game and we are working hard to try to make some corrections that didn’t go well in that game and just get as prepared as we can for what we know will be a very, very tough challenge for our team. We are excited about it, we are looking forward to it and we will see what happens on Monday.”
If UK is to win this one it is going to need everything they can get from junior All-America and SEC Player of the Year candidate A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.). Mathies leads the team in almost every statistical category, including scoring (15.1), steals (2.8) and 3-point field goal percentage (.371). She is also second on the team in rebounding (5.3), assists (2.6), blocks (0.7) and 3-point field goals made (39).
Mathies will not be alone, however, as the rest of the UK squad is progressing well. Bria Goss is a Freshman of The Year candidate, and UK ranks in the top 10 of four national statistical categories, including leading the nation in turnover margin (+11.9). The Cats have forced at least 20 turnovers in 20 games this season, including a school-record high in SEC play of 36 vs. Ole Miss.
Tennessee (17-7, 8-3 SEC) is coming off a 79-93 loss at Vanderbilt. UT was led by sophomore guard Meighan Simmons' 20 points. Freshman Cierra Burdick led Tennessee with nine boards. Freshman guard Ariel Massengale had seven assists and two T.O's.
Senior guard/forward Shekinna Stricklen is the Lady Vols’ leading scorer, averaging 14.9 points per game. Glory Johnson, a graduate student, is the leading rebounder for Tennessee, averaging 9.3 rebounds and 13.8 points . Tennessee has six players averaging 8.0 or more points.
Coach Mitchell had this to say about the Vols loss at Vandy last week:
“I watched the game from a preparation standpoint and a coaching standpoint. We watched it as a staff live, but we were rewinding it and breaking it down as the game went on. At the end, I was just trying to think of some things that we could do well against them, some things that we are going to have to do well against them. 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. I was watching the game trying to get ready for it, and I think need to go down there and be prepared to win and go down there are try to do the best we can to win.”
When asked about the UK loss to LSU last week and the break between games Mitchell said:
“We got into a game that happens every now and again where we are unable to control the tempo. That is complete credit to LSU because I am certain that many teams want to do that. 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. We did not throw the ball where it needed to go offensively where we could score. That’s what I learned, and that’s where we needed to do better. It was a great game to watch to see exactly how much improvement we actually can make. We are getting to that point in the season where everyone is desperate and hungry for wins. Everybody we play needs to win, we need to win, coaches now have larger volume of games to watch and figure out how to stop us and so it was real positive for us right now that we had that challenge, and what we can learn from it getting better offensively can really help us.”
“I think it was good for our players, bad for me. I hate to lose and hate to have that much time between (games). I would have liked to get back on the floor and start correcting some things, but you have to have some discipline as a coach, it can’t be about you. The players have done an unbelievable job through 11 games to get to 10-1. It was great, and they needed a little time off, so I think it was really good for them. We had some good work yesterday. The great thing about us right now is we have a chance to get better. We are not operating at a real high level offensively right now. I think that is something that we can improve on. 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.”
Let's face it folks. If UK wants to earn the right to be SEC Champs, remain a fixture in the Women's Top 10 every year and take this thing to the next level, these are the games that they have to win. They have to be able to go on the road in a hostile environment and take the game away from a team which is virtually their equal, both on paper and the court.And with the Lady Vols reeling from the loss at Vanderbilt, now is the time to make a statement.
I think they will. Hoops 78- Lady Vols 70. See you tonight at 7:00. The live blog will open up about 6:30-6:45.