Beating a team three times in one season is hard enough. Beating them three times in three different places, with the final one being a tournament setting? That takes the difficulty to a whole new level. That, however, is exactly what the UK Hoops squad is going to have to do in order to take home the SEC Tournament Championship. Home, away, and neutral. Three wins on three different courts. I cannot stress how hard that is to do.
The first thing that everyone will be wondering is why are we not looking the Tennessee Volunteers straight in the eye today? Well, As I explained in my pre-tournament write up, Tennessee had beaten the odds all season. They were winning in the face of conventional wisdom and common sense. They played night after night, dodging bullet after bullet with injuries and circumstances, and last night it all finally caught up with them.
Tennessee and Texas A&M battled to the last basket and the Aggies brought home the win 66-62. Tennessee just did not have enough left to take down TAMU in the end. This is what makes me nervous about games like this. Anything can and does happen. Although this is Texas A&M’s first SEC season, they are making big noises in a big hurry. Kentucky has to be prepared to do exactly what they have been doing with each and every opponent in this tournament. Whatever it takes to get the job done.
Matthew Mitchell has used a variety of coaching methods this last couple of weeks. He has played at a breakneck pace for both offense and defense, has used his deep bench to literally run his opponents for the entire game from start to finish on both sides of the ball, and he has used stretches of ball control offense to grind down the clock. As a result, no one really knows what he will have the UK Lady Wildcats doing today.
After last night’s demoralizing dismantling of the Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky is back in this Championship game for the third time in four years. That, in and of itself, is a major accomplishment, considering Kentucky had only been there once before. Now the Cats must dispatch with the Texas A&M Aggies and their future WNBA center Kelsey Bone.
Luckily for UK, DeNesha Stallworth has been in rare form the last couple of games, leading the Wildcats in scoring and controlling the paint in each and every game. It will take all the effort that she, Samarie Walker, and A’Zia Bishop can muster to keep Bone and her inside game under control.
Bone is not alone, however, as the Aggies are playing balanced and aggressive basketball at the moment. TAMU had 4 players score in double figures against that Tennessee defense, and that is no small accomplishment. No one likes trying to play inside against A&M, but Kentucky has the bodies and the attitude to do it. They will use that press, and they will harass and agitate Texas A&M as much as possible. Look for Jennifer O’Neill to come out shooting fast and often in order for UK to get themselves out in front and try to stay there.
No predictions for this game, save to say that Kentucky is in the best position that they have been physically, mentally, and basketball skill and talent-wise in the history of the program. A’Dia Mathies and Co. will make it rough to be an Aggie tonight.