Losing three games in a row will take a toll on you as a coach. That is unless you are Matthew Mitchell, and you have a good firm grasp of the big picture. He asked the UK women to go out tonight and rock the house, play aggressive, and play fast, and they did just that. And it paid off. For a half.
Details after the jump.
Rebecca Lobo, the ESPN announcer at tonight's game made mention of the fact that UK is a great fit for something like the NCAA Tournament with their style of play. She brought to light the fact that most teams, highly ranked or not, who don't see UK play regularly and have in-game experience playing them, will struggle with UK's "40 Minutes of Dread". A truer statement could not have been made. this team is built for the tournament, and it should bode well for them this year.
And UK played like an NCAA Tourney team tonight, again, for a half. They forced Vandy into turnover after turnover, while limiting their own in the first half. UK was leading Vandy in every statistical category except FG% after the first 20 minutes. And it wasn't even close. But of course, there are two halves to every game, and the second one was all Vandy. Vanderbilt exploited every UK weakness, and had it not been for their own failure time after time to capitalize on their great defensive play, they could have very well walked out of Memorial with the W tonight. As it is, UK played well enough to win, which is something they have not done in their last three outings.
Vandy's defense in the second half was spectacular, forcing turnovers at every chance, making UK fight through a tough press, and using their size to their advantage every trip down the court. Tiffany Clarke was more than A'dia Mathies, A'zia Bishop, and the rest of the Cats could handle. She had 8 boards,shot 8-11 for 19 points, made 3-4 FT's, and used her size to frustrate the Hoops squad into a ton of mistakes on both ends of the floor.
UK was led by Samarie Walker with 15 pts and 12 boards, and other than going 3-6 from the line, played almost a perfect game. As it turned out, UK needed every bit of it as A'dia Mathies was not as much of a factor as she usually is, only scoring 9, as she was the primary defender on Clarke most of the night and gives up about 4" to her.
UK must improve some things the next week or so before tournament play begins. And they cannot wait any longer to do it. FT Shooting, which was morbid most of the night, ended at 19-27, good enough for 70.7%. Thankfully the most of them that were made, came with the game on the line, and that was what counted. UK committed a horrendous 16 T.O.'s on the night, which would not seem so bad if not for the fact that they only had 5 at the break. Keyla Snowden had 14 pts for UK, but on 4-15 shooting. For the game, UK only shot 23-62, for a paltry 37.2%.
But when the chips were down, and the game on the line, UK did what it had to to win, and that was exactly what they needed. So, let's enjoy this one and work hard to get to the next game with South Carolina. Game Ball goes to Walker, who had one of, if not her best night as a Wildcat. Kudos to Coach Mitchell who kept the ladies' heads up and their attention focused on the task at hand, as much as he could. UK is back in the lead in the SEC now, and needs to work hard to stay there.