Notes: Texas A&M expects 'unbelievable' pressure from UK women

jsmith3@herald-leader.comJanuary 9, 2013 

Gary Blair has seen pressure defense up close and personal.

As the women's basketball coach at Arkansas in the 1990s, the now-Texas A&M coach was courtside for men's practices and games when Nolan Richardson instituted what became known not so affectionately as "40 minutes of hell."

Blair expects he'll see it up close and personal again on Wednesday when the No. 20 Aggies come to Lexington to take on sixth-ranked Kentucky in Memorial Coliseum.

"We're fixing to have 40 minutes of hell in Lexington when we go up there because of the amount of pressure they'll put on the ball," Blair said Wednesday. "They'll front the post; they'll deny the wing; you better be able to handle the ball and not turn it over."

While Kentucky's defense has changed some with personnel this season, Coach Matthew Mitchell said he hopes Blair and his group are quite uncomfortable for the full 40 minutes.

"It might be a little bit different, but I still think it is a 40-minute game and 40 minutes of pressure," Mitchell said.

Kentucky leads the nation in turnover margin, forcing 10.8 more than it coughs up. The Cats force 26.5 miscues a game. Last season, UK forced a national-best 939 turnovers.

In an interesting twist, if UK gets the best of the Aggies with its softer self-described "40 minutes of dread," Blair has only his school to blame, Mitchell said.

Four years ago when UK was looking to move to a more up-tempo, pressure-defensive style, one of the first places he called was Texas A&M and assistant coach Vic Schaefer (now the head coach at Mississippi State).

"We watched how they played and we were inspired by that four years ago," Mitchell explained.

When Blair was asked about facing UK's defense this week, he sighed.

"It's all about that word pressure," said Blair, whose team averages just 15.9 turnovers a game. "It's the way we used to play. We're not playing quite as much pressure now due to the makeup of my team. Their pressure's unbelievable."

Forward Bishop out

Forward Azia Bishop will miss 3-4 games with a small fracture in a bone in her left wrist. The sophomore injured her non-shooting wrist when she fell to the floor going in for a fast-break layup against Alabama on Sunday. Bishop also hit her head hard on the floor. Alabama doctors advised UK to hold her out as a precaution.

"The blow to her head was not a major concussion or anything, so that was good news," Mitchell said. "She's in a splint right now and we're looking at 10-14 days, so that's probably going to be about three or four games."

Bishop will be able to shoot and do some cardio training for the next week or two, Mitchell said.

■ Junior guard Maegan Conwright will have surgery on her torn anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 25. She injured it in practice on Dec. 26.

Getting the message?

Freshman guard Janee Thompson never got out of her warm-ups for the Cats' trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., last weekend. Mitchell said after the game that it was a coaches' decision because the McDonald's All-American hadn't been playing hard enough in practice.

Did the benching get Thompson's attention?

"It is too soon to tell if the message has been sent clearly," Mitchell said. "We will evaluate that over a series of practices. It is not a complicated set of circumstances we have here. We just need great focus and effort and desire in practice. There is no way I can know you are going to do that in a game. It really starts there."

Numbers of note

■ A win would give UK its school-record 14th straight victory, a streak that leads the nation along with Duke.

■ A victory also would set a record for consecutive home wins for Kentucky with 31.

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

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