Thursday's loss at South Carolina have the Cats in unfamiliar territory: 4-6 in SEC play, 18th ranked UK Hoops are currently in 10th place in the conference race. If they wish to have any shot at winning in Jacksonville, they simply cannot lose another game for the balance of the regular season...not an easy feat, considering they still have to visit Vandy, Mississippi State and Texas A&M.
LSU may be dead last in the conference, but a win against Nikki Fargas's Tigers is never an easy task. Her teams are noted for tough defense, and using zone very well against the opposition. Their two SEC wins this year are over Ole Miss, who easily handled the Cats in Oxford, and Georgia, who gave the Cats all they could handle in Athens.
The Tigers may not look all that impressive on paper - shooting 37% from the field, 21% from three point range, and 62% from the charity stripe - but they press very well, average 9.2 steals per game, and with 12.5 offensive rebounds per game don't leave a lot of missed second chance points on the table. The only LSU players who averages double digits per game is 5'11" Alexis Hyder, but she's shooting 49% from the field.
Keys to Kentucky's victory today:
- Playing hard and smart tip to horn: It's hard to remember, but the Cats only trailed by 2 with 2:28 to go against South Carolina. The opposition is going to see Kentucky as wounded in every game we play, and will go for the jugular. UK simply cannot show weakness.
- Continue the improvement in the turnover battle: Again, it's hard to remember the positives after a loss but Kentucky only had 11 TOs to Carolina's 17. That's the second lowest they've had all season. If they can maintain that kind of focus in managing the ball today we should be well positioned for victory.
- Makayla Epps can't wait 20 minutes to get started: Not sure if it's an effort on Makayla's part to conserve energy or just a weird trick of fate, but she's been really consistent lately about not making much impact until third quarter. Frankly, the team needs her performance to spark confidence for the squad and that can't only come in the second half.
- Continued growth from our newbies: Batouly Camara is blossoming more every game, Maci Morris is showing signs of getting her shooting game back to form, and Taylor Murray is just a joy to watch. If they can watch the fouls, they can really contribute today.
- And from our transfers: I've been a little hard on Ivana Jacubcova, but was thrilled to see her defense against the Gamecocks. With her size, speed and shooting skills we should be seeing more from Ivana, and if she can really push on defense her minutes could increase by an order of magnitude.
We've reached a point in the season where either the Cats are going to pull off an improbable run that propels them into March, or they're going to succumb to the pitfalls of a short bench in the nation's toughest conference. I still think option A is firmly within reach. Tune in to the SEC Network at noon EST to see which situation unfolds.
Until Noon, Cat fans - Go Big Blue!