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Preview/Game Thread: Kentucky WBB vs. Oklahoma

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The Wildcat women face off against Oklahoma in the SEC/Big XII challenge

NCAA Womens Basketball: Alabama at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight at 7 p.m. EST on the SEC Network, the #17 Kentucky women’s basketball program returns at long last to our televisions with a highly anticipated matchup against the #12 Sooners of Oklahoma University.

The last time these two teams tangoed was in the 2nd round of the 2016 NCAA tournament, where the Cats pulled off a 79-58 win. The Sooners have returned four of the starters from that squad, and thus far are a perfect 5-0 on the season to include a win in their lone road game against BYU. Key players to watch for Oklahoma include their three top shooters, all of whom average in double figure points per game. They’re led by 5’11” redshirt senior Peyton Little, who’s averaging 12.6 PPG and is a very respectable 75% from the line. Next up is 6’4” junior center Vionise Pierre-Louis, a walking double-double machine who averages 11.4 PPG (has hit 66% of her shots this season!) and 10.4 RPG. Finally there’s Maddie Manning, a 6’2” redshirt senior guard who averages 11 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 2 steals per game.

Overall OU is a decent shooting team, hitting just under 40 from the field and 75% from the free throw line. They are NOT good three point shooters, having hit just 27% on the season. Compare that to UK who is shooting 46.5% from the field, 34% from three point range, and (hooray! This number improved dramatically with the win over Samford!) 71% from the charity stripe.

Things you can expect to see in tonight’s game:

  • Aggressive defense: OU averages 46 rebounds per game to our 41, and average 9 steals per game to our 6. I fully expect this to be an intensively physical game on both ends of the court.
  • Ball control will be key: The Cats are only averaging about 10 turnovers a game thus far, and unless OU is completely asleep at the wheel, I see this one going to just under 20 TOs. The good news is OU is already more prone to committing TOs than we are, as they average 14 per game.
  • The team who wants it more will win: Technically that’s true for every matchup, but it looks to be especially true here as these two teams matchup well.

The biggest key tonight will likely be which team communicates the best, because in a fast paced game like we’re expecting to see, players have to talk to one another. Coach Mitchell referenced as such in his pregame press conference. When asked if it was hard to teach a team to communicate, Mitchell replied “Listen, this is not uncommon. Last year’s team, you know, that was a culmination of four years of trying to get Janee Thompson to lead and get a huddle together. Taylor Murray is the primary point guard. When she is on the floor, she is the point guard usually. Makayla is kind of point/forward. We will kind of give her the ball and let her run the team, but it is Taylor. Tomorrow night will be her seventh game of her sophomore season…You are very fortunate as a coach if you find someone who is naturally just a chatter box and is really naturally talking all the time on the basketball court. It is a dynamic game. You have to do a million things. Your mind is going in all directions. You’re winded. You’re fatigued. The first thing you want to do is just catch your breath you know. It is not natural to just, boom, come together…I have fixed that before many times. Virtually every year you have to focus them on…the importance of that.”

Tipoff is at 7 PM EST on the SEC Network – come join us as we cheer the Cats onto victory!