The Kentucky Wildcats women's basketball team looked poised to have a big season after securing huge wins over the Miami Hurricanes and Oklahoma Sooners, but those high hopes have been tempered recently.
It was easy to overlook the overtime loss to the unranked Arizona State Sun Devils last month, but Kentucky is now on the verge of getting knocked out of the AP rankings after a disappointing two-game losing streak.
The 24th ranked Kentucky Wildcats knew they were in for a tough game when they went on the road to face the 15th ranked Duke Blue Devils at the end of December. Duke historically has one of the best home court advantages in women's college basketball, but that was not the case during this game with most of the students home for the holidays.
Despite a rather empty stadium, the Blue Devils were still able to feed off the home crowd. Duke ended 2016 as the 13th ranked team in the country after surprisingly coming into the season unranked in the preseason polls.
The Wildcats did a good job of keeping this game close for a long time, but they were no match for Duke in the fourth quarter. A five-point halftime lead quickly got extended to 15 points by the end of the game. Kentucky had plenty of opportunities to stay in this game, but they simply missed way too many open shots. The Wildcats are never going to beat a solid basketball team when they shoot 30 percent from the field.
Three days after losing to Duke, the Kentucky Wildcats went on the road to face the Tennessee Volunteers on New Year's Day. Kentucky did a great job of holding on to the basketball with only five turnovers in the whole game, but it was still not good enough to get the victory.
The Wildcats got in an early six-point hole in the first quarter, and they were never able to recover after that. Both teams played tight basketball after the first quarter on the way to a 72-65 loss for Kentucky.
While no team wants to start conference play off with a loss, the Kentucky Wildcats have far more important things to worry about. The recent two-game losing streak now makes Kentucky winless in all four games played on the road this season. If the Wildcats do not figure out how to win a game on the road, then they are never going to make it through the tough SEC schedule.
While every team in the SEC has a winning record at the moment, only three teams in the conference are ranked. South Carolina and Mississippi State are both ranked in the top five, but Kentucky gets the benefit of playing both teams at home this season.
The state of the Kentucky women's basketball team should be known by the end of January. They play Alabama, LSU and Auburn on the road in the next few weeks. None of these three teams are going to threaten for the SEC title, but Kentucky needs to prove they can beat some solid teams on the road before anyone predicts a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
That needs to start Thursday when UK faces Missouri on at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum.