Your #7 UK Hoops hit the road today to kick off SEC Conference play on the Plains. The Cats will be looking for their eighth-win over the Tigers when they face off at 3 PM at Auburn Arena.
The Cats are coming off their final nonconference victory, an 81-39 annihilation of Tennessee State. Led by Evelyn Akhator's 14 points, a total of 6 Cats ended up in double figures: Maci Morris and Taylor Murray tied with 13 points, Makayla Epps had 11, and Alexis Jennings and Janee Thompson ended up with 10 points a piece. Evelyn had the lone double-double. The Cats put on a shooting clinic for the +5500 fans at Memorial Coliseum, hitting 47% from the field, 63% from beyond the arc, and 75% from the charity stripe. But then, what do you expect of the team that is currently ranked 10th in the county for overall shooting (48.9%) and third best for three pointers made (42.6%)?
That said, they will not be getting such easy looks today. Auburn is off to a great start on the season at 10-3, with losses to Virginia, Marquette and Florida Gulf Coast. Auburn's very aggressive defensive mantra has been forcing opponents to commit an average of 20 turnovers per game, which could play havoc with Mitchell's gameplan. Auburn players to watch include Brandy Montgomery, who leads the Tigers' offense with an average of 18 points per game. On the defensive end, keep your eyes on Tra'Cee Tanner, who leads the squad in blocks and shoots a blistering 62% from the field.
Keys to victory today if the Cats wish to make their 5th straight conference opener a win for the good guys:
- Playing strong in the paint: Matthew Mitchell cited Tanner as "the most powerful post player we have seen this year" and he's not exaggerating. Evelyn Akhator will be key here, and it is essential that she not get into early foul trouble ala the Duke game. I'd love to see Alexis step up here as well - with her size she could really be an asset. That said, don't rule out Taylor Murray going on a tear: she really is fearless.
- Effective Ball Control: 20 turnovers would be a HUGE step back for the Cats, who are averaging 15.9 TOs per game. This will require a far more effective passing game then we've seen on a consistent basis, and no silly mistakes.
- Showing off our mad offensive skillz: Auburn plays aggressive defense but pretty mild offense...they fully expect all their pressure to turn into more points. The Tigers are shooting 47% from the field, but less than 30% from three point range and only 61% from the charity stripe. Contrast that to the Cats 49% from the field, 43% from beyond the arc and 72% from the free throw lone. I like our odds.
Conference play is never easy, and Auburn is not an exception: the last time the Cats traveled to Auburn they white-knuckled their way to a 73-71 victory. Add to that the undefeated record, and the Tigers will be looking to draw serious blood. But isn't that what makes SEC Women's Basketball, who has six teams ranked in the top 25 - more than any other conference, so much fun?
Sadly this game is not televised - SO SICK OF WRITING THAT, MITCH BARNHART!!! - but you can catch all the action on the SECN+ or ESPN3. Or you can listen in to 630 WLAP where ASoB fan favorite Neil Price will be calling all the action. However you catch the game, you can join us here at ASoB in cheering on the Cats to victory. UK Hoops is looking to make history in 2016 - you don't want to miss it!
Until 3 PM EST, Wildcat fans - GO BIG BLUE!