Memorial will be rocking today, as Kentucky goes hunting for win #34 to keep the home winning streak alive, now that the loss to South Carolina has broken UK's season winning streak which was the longest in the nation at the time. More than that, however, will be the reason so many fans want to be in the house for this game. It's time for payback. Matthew Mitchell and Kentucky owe the Lady Tigers of LSU one. Actually they owe them two in a row. UK lost to LSU last year in a late season away game. They then headed into the SEC Tourney and once again faced LSU and the results were the same. When they needed wins desperately to improve their NCAA seeding status, they just could not cage the Tigers. Ironically, it was a win over LSU in Memorial that started this winning streak back in 2011. When asked about what the game may bring, Mitchell stated;
We have a big challenge ahead of us with LSU on Sunday. They are a very aggressive team. They have some explosive weapons offensively and they really get after you on defense. It's clearly an important game for us. We need to protect the home court and see if we can get another SEC victory, but it will be a tough game.
UK can ill afford another loss right now as Tennessee seized the top of the SEC standings when they lost to South Carolina. They are now 7-0 in the conference while UK is at 18-2, 6-1. And while Tennessee is getting tougher by the game, they have some tough games to play. Keeping within a game of them is paramount to UK's success. LSU is at 12-7, 3-3 and sits in 6th place while looking to move up. Mitchell knows that the loss to South Carolina was difficult and neither the team nor he is happy about how it happened.
They were so incredibly physical and tough that I think that put us in situations that we shouldn't have to be in. You shouldn't have to be in a situation where it's sort of a scrum on every play. It was just physical contact on every play. We have no control over that. That is totally out of our hands on how the rules are administered in the game, so we have to do a better job of adjusting to that. That was the most disappointing thing for me. Just the look in our eye last night was not one that says, 'Hey, I'm going to get determined and respond.' It was more like, 'Hey, this isn't how it should be and I'm going to worry about that right now.' You just have to really make an adjustment. It was a physical game. It was physical on both ends of the court, so you have to adjust. If a team sits down and looks at that tape, they are going to say, 'We are going to play more of a football game and we're going to really hit and bump.' If that's the way it's decided to be called that day, you have to adjust. We have no control over that. The only thing that you can control is your attitude and your effort. We gave some good effort. It just wasn't good enough last night. South Carolina gave a better one and they deserved the victory.
Mitchell was also asked what he expected from LSU, and if they would try to play UK the same way South Carolina did.
They did two times last year. They were really, really physical and tough games. A lot of contact in both games and we didn't do a great job then. I think we'll do better and I think last night can be real valuable for us if we can adjust and make sure that we learn the lesson that needs to be learned from that tough loss. They're athletic, they have some good athletes, they have some good skill players, too. They are well balanced and can score a lot and are capable of putting points on the scoreboard. I think they're a really good SEC team with good athletes, good players, very well-coached so it will be another tough one Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum.
The Cats' "40 minutes of dread" defense has them leading the nation in turnover margin (+9.9), limiting the opponent to 52.0 ppg (2nd in the SEC), 37.3 percent shooting (7th in the SEC), including 27.8 percent from beyond the arc (6th in the SEC), and averaging 12.2 steals (4th in the SEC) and 5.1 blocks per game (T-2nd in the SEC).
LSU's go to player Theresa Plaisance scored a game-high 26 points and swished a go-ahead three with a minute to play in their last game against Vanderbilt in Baton Rouge. She has been a thorn in the side of UK the last three times they have played, and I don't expect her to stop now. She will however have to contend with UK's newly formed inside presence herself in the form of DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker. The duo combine to average 23.1 points and 14.7 rebounds per game and both are shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
If there is one area where LSU has suffered this season, which may bode well for UK, it's that LSU is only 1-6 in away games, with that single win coming against #12 West Virginia back in November on a neutral court in Miami. Their last loss was to the same South Carolina team that UK battled, 59-66. They have yet to win a true road game in a hostile environment. Expect Memorial to be all kinds of loud when the ball tips off.
Sunday will mark the 41st meeting between the teams. LSU leads the all-time series 30-10, including a 10-4 advantage when playing in Lexington. Look for another war folks. This one may not be pretty. Kentucky by 9, 78-69.