Kentucky women's basketball: Cats' summer drills included lesson in sacrifice

jsmith3@herald-leader.comDecember 8, 2012 

  • Lineups

    Kentucky (7-1)

    Starters — A'dia Mathies, 5-9, Sr., G (13.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.1 spg); Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, So., G (6.3 ppg; 1.4 rpg); Bria Goss, 5-10, So., G (8.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Jr., F (9.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Jr., F (10.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg).

    Key reserves — Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Jr., G (7.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, Fr., PG (6.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, So., F (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Jr., G (4.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg); Maegan Conwright, 5-8, JR, G (3.4 ppg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, Jr., F (2.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg); Brittany Henderson, 6-2, Sr., F (1.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, So., F (1.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg).

    Middle Tennessee State (6-3)

    Starters — Shanice Cason, 5-6, So., G (6.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.4 apg, 3.3 spg); Kortni Jones, 5-9, Sr., G (14.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.7 apg); Laken Leonard, 5-10, Jr., G (5.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg); Icelyn Elie, 6-1, Sr., F (14.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg); Ebony Rowe, 6-1, Jr., F (19.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.7 spg).

    Key reserves — Janay Brinkley, 5-8, Jr., G (3.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg); Lauren March, 6-2, Jr., F (1.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg); KeKe Stewart, 6-1, Jr., C (3.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg).

  • Women: Middle Tennessee St. at Kentucky

    Where: Memorial Coliseum

    When: 1 p.m. Sunday

    TV: Fox Sports South; CWKYT-27.2

    Radio: WLAP-AM 630

    Records: Kentucky 7-1, Middle Tennessee 6-3

    Series: Kentucky leads 9-4

    Last meeting: Middle Tennessee won 70-58 on Dec. 28, 2011

The names echo through the winding, sloping halls of Memorial Coliseum.

Names like "Timothy Davis" or "Randall Donaldson" or "Alfred Spence."

The Kentucky players that are screaming them out have never met these men, but they got a history lesson in the sacrifices they made.

This summer, when the strength and conditioning coach asked the UK players how many of them knew there were names of every Kentucky solider killed in a war on the walls of Memorial Coliseum, she was shocked when only half of the players raised their hands.

So Kentucky's players learned the history of the building in which they play. Three separate times in the pre-season, they did bear crawls and wind sprints up and down the ramps screaming out the names of Kentucky's fallen soldiers.

"It added another piece of incentive for the girls to really want to work hard, not only for their home record, but for the fans and now for those veterans on the wall," strength coach Stephanie Tracey Simmons said.

Before the start of summer conditioning, she sat down with UK head coach Matthew Mitchell and he talked about the Cats going undefeated at home last season and how important home-court advantage was to the team.

Including its 96-64 win over DePaul on Friday night at Rupp Arena, UK is now 54-2 at home over the past three seasons.

The Cats have won 26 straight at home, the second-longest winning streak in program history. They are just five wins from besting the longest streak, which went from Feb. 12, 1980-Jan. 31, 1982.

They will try to continue that streak, third longest in the nation, on Sunday against Middle Tennessee, a team that has beaten UK two of the past three seasons.

Knowing teams like MTSU, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas A&M would be coming into Memorial Coliseum this season, Mitchell asked Tracey Simmons to develop a "Protect this House" workout for the players.

"What we came up with was an exercise, getting in the building and saying, 'Look, we're going to put some sweat in this actual place to remind you that when we take the floor out here, we have paid a price to come out here and play a certain way so we've got to capitalize on it,'" Mitchell explained.

The players definitely earned some sweat equity in the hallowed halls of Memorial Coliseum. Three times they did the sprints and bear crawls up the ramps.

"We tried to get in every space of the building," Mitchell said.

Once they got in the actual gymnasium area, they did another workout of 50 double unders (jumping rope so the rope passes under you twice before your feet hit the ground), then they ran the steps. Up and down each section of steps.

"They had to snake the entire side until they touched every step," Tracey Simmons explained. Then UK players would run across the mezzanine and do every other step as they snaked the other side of the coliseum. Once they finished, they did 50 more double-unders.

"It's a tough workout, but we always compete with each other," said sophomore guard Bria Goss, who said junior guard Bernisha Pinkett won all three of the timed events.

Pinkett said a lot of time spent jumping rope as a kid gave her an edge.

"I'm really good at it, so that helps," she said. "I don't have to stop and then go over and over again, I can just go, go, go.

"By the time I get to the running part, Bria catches me every time and usually passes me, but then we get back to the last part, the jump roping again, I go really fast."

Every player was able to better her time each time she did the workout this summer, Goss said.

And because they did them with the veterans in mind, the workouts took on extra meaning. "It means a lot now because we're in here playing for those people and playing for ourselves," Goss said.

That was the idea, Mitchell said. "You can't be cocky, believe that just because you're at home you should win," he said.

He wants his team to believe that "we're going to win because we've worked that hard and this is a special place."

Kentucky was the only school in the Southeastern Conference to go undefeated (18-0) at home last season. He'd like that to happen again.

He hopes the old building and the unbeaten streak there mean even more to the players now.

"Those workouts really made us see how special it is to play someplace like this," senior A'dia Mathies said. "It makes you want to not let anybody come in and disrespect it."

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

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