After a tough win against LSU Thursday, the Cats came out with a lackluster first quarter performance against Florida. After going 1 for 11 from the field - no, not a typo - and ending the first quarter trailing by 7, Kentucky hit a blistering 33 points in the 2nd quarter to end the half 42-29. For the final 20 minutes the game was never in much doubt, with the Cats ultimately winning 92-69.
Makayla Epps sounded fairly confident in her post-game interview yesterday, which seems logical after a 22 point game with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. When asked about facing South Carolina for a third time, she said "I've gotta lot of respect for them, they've got us twice already this season. My dad always told me it's hard to beat a team three times so I guess we'll see tomorrow." Far be it from us to question her Dad's wisdom, as I hear he knows a thing or two about basketball.
Kentucky fans also know just how hard it is to beat a team three times. They watched the 2012 National Championship men's squad lose to Vandy in the SEC Championship game after twice beating them in the regular season. Two years ago, South Carolina beat Kentucky twice in the regular season only to fall to them in the SEC Tournament in Duluth. This year, South Carolina has beaten Kentucky twice in the regular season....could history repeat itself?
To beat South Carolina today will take the same kind of effort the Cats demonstrated against Florida, only we can't afford to shoot a pathetic 17.6% in the first ten minutes. Basically we need to channel yesterday's 2nd quarter effort? FOR FOURTY MINUTES. Our keys to victory are:
- Aggressive defense that forces turnovers - we were fully in the game well into the final quarter in Lexington due to South Carolina repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot. Force that kind of play again and we have a serious shot.
- Hit free throws. I haven't had to rant on this in a while, but after a team hits 81% in a game, it's probably important to reemphasize how critical this component is to their game. Especially when they only hit 70% the day before.
- Effective ball management. As great as the game was yesterday, 17 turnovers is still too many. But the noticeable improvement in managing fouls needs a repeat performance: no Wildcats had more than three fouls yesterday vs. the five players who ended up with 4 apiece against LSU.
- Swish is a much prettier noise than clank. Pick your shots and be sure not to repeat the brick symphony that was the first quarter against Florida.