Funny story: my first ever UK game of any kind was the 1990 season opener at Commonwealth. We were playing Central Michigan and the drumline (I was in band) thought screaming "WHAT THE H*LL IS A CHIPPEWA" at louder and louder intervals was a great way to help beat the opponent. (The lack of care over this incredibly non-PC fan action is kind of hilarious in retrospect.) We won, and everyone was happy, and the "What the h*ll" cheer was retired until our next non-SEC opponent of irregular mascotage took the field. I can't tell you a lot about that season - I do remember we lost frequently - but the Central Michigan game will forever hold a warm spot in my heart as my official introduction to UK Athletics.
Tonight, UK Hoops takes their 3-0 record on the road to face those fiesty Chippewas again. Central Michigan is 1-0, their only other game thus far being at home vs. UMass where they pulled off a nailbiter 72-70 win. This was not the start Head Coach Sue Guavara was looking for from her defending MAC West Champion team, especially as the previous year they'd trounced UMass 105-61. 20 turnovers didn't exactly brighter Guavara's day either.
You may be wondering why this is important? I include it to show that like another team we know and love, this Chippewa team didn't take their opponent seriously and it nearly cost them a home win.
I have no doubt they're taking #9 Kentucky very, very seriously. When asked about playing Kentucky, Guavara said "They're good, there's a reason they're in the top 25...They're fast, they're aggressive. They know the kind of toothpaste you used in the morning. That's how tight they play you."
Chippewa players to watch include Chrystal Bradford, the reigning MAC Player of the year. Bradford went down at the end of last season with a knee injury and per reports is not quite back to 100% but still managed to grab 17 points, 7 steals and 5 assists. Her fellow senior Kerby Tam hit 3/3 from three point range and could prove herself quite a pest tonight. Also look to see some great play from Jewel Cotton, who scored her first double-double against t
he MinuteMen? MinuteWomen? MinutePersons? UMass.
As for our Cats, what should we look to see? I wouldn't base much of your expectations on how they shot at Rupp, which for some reason is a perennial challenge for our ladies. Contrast Monday night's 36% shooting to Wednesday morning's 42%. That said, free throw shooting at Rupp was great - 79% vs. 52% Wednesday. Let's all agree that 52% is flat out unacceptable and hope to never see a stat that awful again.
Jenn O'Neill, coming of a really rough first half against Baylor, has put her shooting skills to great work since. After posting 18 points in the second half against the Bears, the O' sank another 14 against Morehead. Expect to see that continue tonight. Jennifer's 3 point shooting has taken something of a nose dive the last 2 games, as she's only hit 2/16 this week. Let's hope to see that change and soon.
Janee Thompson has been quietly putting up some great numbers as well. She's 6/6 on free throws this week - not a lot of attempts but she's certainly making the most of them. I'd like to Janee get a little more active in really pushing the defense in steals, and am hoping to see that improve over the next few games. Our 2 returning sophomores Linnae Harper and Makayla Epps have put in really great work all season, and I'm hoping to see their swagger stock continue to escalate tonight.
Sadly tonight's game is not televised, but you can catch all the hoops action on ESPN3, with an 8 PM Tipoff. Hope to see you here at ASoB, cheering our Cats on to victory number 4!