"The atmosphere around the players in the locker room seems to be really good. And if people think things are off the track and falling apart, then time will tell whether that's true or not. I feel better about our program and our culture right now than I have in a long time. I think we're making real progress as a basketball program."
After a thoroughly convincing blowout of Jackson State on Sunday, UK Hoops suffered a serious blow with an unexpected transfer request from Kyvin Goodin Rogers. Kyvin did not share her reasons for wanting to leave UK. I generally don't like to speculate about a player's reasons for leaving, but will note that Kyvin has suffered numerous serious health concerns during her time at Kentucky, to include a pulmonary embolism, knee issues and a growth in her wrist that required arthroscopic surgery this summer and most recently a concussion. It is possible that Kyvin and her family decided that her health had to come first and she was no longer healthy enough to meet the expectations of SEC play. Whatever the reasons, we here at ASoB wish the Marion County native nothing but the best for her future.
That said, the already thin bench just got even skinnier. The Cats have a total of 8 players available for tonight's game against NKU, and will be at their total available 9 players for the season when Alyssa Rice returns sometime next week. It's days like this when you really wish the NCAA would waive Mackenzie Cann's required season off because boy, could we use the former Bearcat right now.
The team continues to seem unaffected by all the chaos. Janee Thompson summed it up well. "The amount of adversity we've had to face has made us come together and brought us a little closer. It shows up in practice and on the court, the way we carry ourselves and care for each other."
We'll get to see just how much the loss of Kyvin will impact the team tonight, as the Cats hit the road to take on the 5-1 NKU Norseman/persons. NKU's season is off to a strong start, with their lone loss coming at the hands of Mackenzie Cann's old team, the Cincinnati Bearcats. Players to watch include Christine Roush, who's averaging 18.7 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. I recommend the Cats avoid putting her at the line, as she's shooting a blistering 92% on the season. Also keep your eye on Rebecca Lyttle, the Norse's very own double-double machine who's averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds per game.
NKU plays an uptempo game, and will be very aggressive on defense to try and tempt the Cats into making 3's. If Maci Morris goes on the kind of tear she did against Eastern Michigan (5/6, 83% from three point range) this shouldn't be an issue. If she shoots the way she did against Jackson State (1/8, 12.5%), we could be in a world of hurt.
Our keys to stretching our undefeated season to 7-0:
- Effective ball movement: We only had 16 turnovers against Jackson State - YAY! - but that may not be saying much as the Tigers had exactly zero fast break points and could only convert our 16 turnovers into 4 points. At the opposite end of the court, the Cats converted Jackson State's 37 turnovers (nope, not a typo) into 42 points.
- PICK YOUR SHOTS, LADIES! Overall, the Cats shot 32% from the three on Sunday, but it sure felt worse watching brick after brick clang off the rim. If we don't allow NKU to push us around, and try and field the ball inside to Evelyn Akhator we could be sitting very pretty.
- I applaud unselfish play but if you have the shot, for heaven's sake take it! (Janee and Makayla, I'm looking at you.)
- Hit free throws. 72% is still barely acceptible, and we're only at 70% on the season. I'm anticipating a lot of whistles being blown tonight, so make the freebies count, Cats!
- No injuries. We simply can't afford to lose one other warm and functioning body. Do they even accept walk-ons for the ladies? And with only eight players available, is Matthew auditioning for extra men to practice against?
So many questions, hopefully only right answer: WINNING. Tonight's game is, yet again, not televised but you can catch all the action via SECN+/the Watch ESPN app or by listening in to WLAP 630. Tipoff is at 7 EST. (SEVEN EASTERN IS 6 CENTRAL, PEOPLE!)
Hope to "see" you later as we cheer on the Cats! Until tipoff Cat fans, GO BIG BLUE!