Kentucky women have Final Four in their sights

jsmith3@herald-leader.comOctober 23, 2012 

  • 2012-13 UK women

    Schedule

    All times p.m. unless noted; Home games in capital letters

    Date Opponent

    Nov. 5 BELLARMINE-x 6

    Nov. 10 DELAWARE ST. 1

    Nov. 13 At Baylor 6

    Nov. 17 HIGH POINT TBA

    Nov. 23 MOREHEAD ST. 4

    Nov. 25 USC UPSTATE 1

    Nov. 28 MIAMI (OHIO) 11 a.m.

    Dec. 2 At Louisville 2

    Dec. 7 DEPAUL-y 7

    Dec. 9 MIDDLE TENN. ST. 1

    Dec. 18 At Pepperdine 10

    Dec. 21At UC Santa Barbara6

    Dec. 28 ALCORN ST. 7

    Dec. 30 MARIST 1

    Jan. 3 FLORIDA 7

    Jan. 6 At Alabama 3

    Jan. 10 TEXAS A&M 6

    Jan. 13 At Missouri 1:30

    Jan. 17 MISSISSIPPI ST. 7

    Jan. 20 AUBURN 2

    Jan. 24 At South Carolina 7

    Jan. 27 LSU 3

    Feb. 3 GEORGIA 2

    Feb. 7 At Arkansas 8

    Feb. 10 At Vanderbilt 4

    Feb. 14 SOUTH CAROLINA 7

    Feb. 18 At Texas A&M 7

    Feb. 24 At LSU 3

    Feb. 28 At Mississippi 8

    Mar. 3 TENNESSEE 3:30

    Mar. 6-10 SEC Tournament-z

    x-Exhibition game; y-In Rupp Arena; z-At Duluth, Ga.

    Roster

    Jennifer O'Neill PG So. 5-6

    A'dia Mathies G Sr. 5-9

    Janee Thompson PG Fr. 5-7

    Bernisha Pinkett G Jr. 5-7

    DeNesha Stallworth C Jr. 6-3

    Jelleah Sidney F/C So. 6-2

    Bria Goss G So. 5-10

    Maegan Conwright G Jr. 5-8

    Samarie Walker F/C Jr. 6-1

    Samantha Drake F/C Jr. 6-3

    Kastine Evans G Jr. 5-8

    Brittany Henderson F Sr. 6-2

    Azia Bishop F/C So. 6-3

Honesty, hard work and discipline.

Coach Matthew Mitchell talks about those three tenets of his Kentucky women's basketball program so much his players hear the words in their sleep.

But if he talks about it, he has to live by it.

So when Mitchell was asked at Media Day on Tuesday if he believes this year's Kentucky team could be a Final Four team, he was honest.

"They're a potential Final Four team," Mitchell said. "That's easier for us to say than it is to happen, but if you look at our roster and if everybody were to come together and play really hard and you get some breaks, I think they are.

"So we don't huddle up every day and say we're trying to get to the Final Four, but we have tried to make them aware that we believe that they're championship caliber, that we believe they can be that kind of team."

Kentucky, which finished last season 28-7 before falling to Connecticut one game shy of the Final Four, returns nine of its top 11 scorers. Included in that group is reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year A'dia Mathies and SEC Freshman of the Year Bria Goss.

Not included in that group but on this year's roster are two McDonald's All-Americans in 6-foot-3 center DeNesha Stallworth, who sat out last season after transferring from California, and guard Jennifer O'Neill, who missed last year with a foot injury.

The roster also was supplemented with Janee Thompson, another McDonald's All-America point guard from Chicago, and a top junior-college transfer in Jelleah Sidney.

Does this mean UK could be even better than it was last year, when it won the regular-season SEC championship?

"I believe so," said Mathies, who was named pre-season conference player of the year on Tuesday. "We've got even more pieces, I think, to put in the puzzle and make it to the Final Four."

After making it to two Elite Eights in the past three years, Mathies said the team has its eyes toward the Final Four.

"That is the big step we are trying to make this year," the senior said. "We are definitely making strides to do that. We are working hard in practice every single day. We are working on drills, defense, and everything imaginable to make that run this year."

Junior forward Samantha Drake agreed.

"I do believe this is the year for us to get over the Elite Eight hump," she said. "We've worked so hard and we keep trying to learn from our mistakes and build on what we had last season to build onto this season."

But UK's pre-practice huddles never include making Final Four reservations, Mitchell said.

The Wildcats know there is no easy road to the Big Easy, home of the women's NCAA finals this season.

"I do think you need to set goals and have direction so we would love to get to New Orleans," Mitchell said. "It's a long way between today and there, but we will try to remind them how special they can be."

The Cats need little reminding.

"We think about the Final Four every day because it's one of our goals," senior forward Brittany Henderson said.

But a lot of work comes between now and April 7, 2013. "We still just want to take this season one day at a time," Henderson said. "The Final Four games are so far away."

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241Twitter: @jenheraldleaderBlog: ukwomen.bloginky.com

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