It's been a GREAT weekend to be a Wildcat: Men's Soccer Goalie Callum Irving became the 4th Wildcat in history to be named an All-American, UK Hoops beat MTSU Friday night, the Men beat UNC Saturday afternoon, the 2014 Hittin' Kittens were honored at Rupp and received their WCWS commemorative rings, and Stoops Troops received a very enthusiastic commitment from the class of 2016's #1 ranked center Drake Jackson. Whew! Now we just need our Wildcat women to put the cherry on the top of this success sundae by beating Belmont.
Belmont is coming into Lexington with a less than stellar 2-6 record on the season, which places them at 9th in the OVC. Their 2 wins have been at Denver, and at home over Lipscomb. Their worst loss was on November 20th in Louisville, where the Cards absolutely steamrolled the Bruins on their way to a 95-35 victory. (No, that's not a typo.)
This is yet another team the Cats should handle easily, although whenever I say that the opposition tends to get all these crazy skills from the basketball gods. Belmont is shooting 36.6% from FG range, 28.2% from three point range, and is hitting 60.2% of their free throws. Averaging 59.4 points a game, they have some of the lowest (if not THE lowest) offensive efficiency performances the Cats have faced this season.
With Duke lurking as the Cats next opponent, this matchup with Belmont could have "TRAP" written all over it, but after watching our seniors the last few weeks I don't think they're going to let their current 8 game win streak falter tonight. Look for Jennifer O'Neill to build on her 22 point performance Friday night, which included 2 gorgeous 3 pointers and a perfect 4/4 at the charity stripe.
After all our hand-wringing about the offense, I want to take a moment to recognize the entire squad for a much improved offensive game Friday. UK Hoops shot 48.4% from FG range, 62.5% from the 3 (!!!!), and a respectable 72.2% from the line. Those are the kind of stats we need to see consistently going forward if we want to make noise when SEC play begins.
That said, one thing we should hope to never see again is the 28 turnovers we witnessed Friday, 11 of which came from O'Neill (6) and Janee Thompson (5). Our vaunted "40 Minutes Of Dread" involves playing hard and fast, but TWENTY EIGHT TURNOVERS is really not part of the game plan.
What I'm hoping to see tonight:
- Effective ball movement. MTSU absolutely OWNED us Friday in managing 17 steals, which is what kept them in the game despite bad shooting.
- Continuing to improve at the free-throw line. I'm sure you're sick of me harping on this, but 63.5% free throw shooting on the season, with this squad's experience, is simply not ok. Bria Goss, who shot +90% last year is at 71% on the season. Azia Bishop, who has been making some great strides in her overall game, continues to boggle the mind at the charity stripe where she's hitting 25%. Woof.
- Less foul trouble. Our bigs - Azia, Alyssa, and Kyvin - have been piling up the fouls, averaging 3 each per game, but when you start to see equally high numbers for key guards such as Jennifer (3.2 avg.) and Janee (2.8 avg) on the season? You start getting really concerned. Some of that can be attributed to referee insanity but generally we've earned those.
All that bemoaning of stats aside, tonight should really be a fun game in which the Cats go to town on the boards. So until gametime, Wildcat fans - Go Big Blue!