When Matthew Mitchell says his team needs a wake-up call, he means it literally.
So after Kentucky was upset by Georgia in Memorial Coliseum on Sunday — ending the Cats' 34-game home win streak — Mitchell decided it was time for a change.
That time was pre-dawn. Kentucky practiced at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, had another practice in the afternoon and then a 7 a.m. practice on Wednesday.
"We have talent at every position; we have more than enough firepower, we have more than enough ability to do everything we want to do this season," Mitchell said. "But you can't show up and talk about it; you have to do it."
Forward Samarie Walker said she cringed when she got the text notifying her of the first morning practice.
"I almost started crying," she said. "We haven't had those in a long time."
But the time is now, before No. 10 Kentucky makes back-to-back road trips, first to Arkansas (15-7, 3-6 Southeastern Conference) on Thursday, then at Vanderbilt on Sunday.
"With this team, there needs to be edginess," Mitchell explained. "They seem to be too willing to get into a comfort zone where we're not playing what Kentucky's been known for and that's being real aggressive and tough."
The UK coach pointed to two blown double-digit leads against the Bulldogs on Sunday. After that loss, the Cats' second in three games, Mitchell blamed himself for giving his team some down time during its first lull in the SEC schedule.
"I was trying to hit the reset button and let them refresh at midpoint, which wasn't the way we should've gone about it," he said.
His attempt to let the team reset ended in them hitting snooze against the Bulldogs.
"I thought you saw a really, really tough effort from Georgia and our players are walking around like we have the game won and it's not that important," he said. "Then, the momentum swings and we're not tough enough to get it back."
Mitchell hopes the morning practices are going to make his team tougher as it heads into the final stretch of the regular season, which includes five of the final seven on the road and three of those games against ranked foes.
But the coach doesn't care if the final handful of games are on the moon, he wants to see Kentucky (19-3, 7-2) giving greater effort, especially on defense.
"Where we play right now is not nearly as important as how we're practicing," he said Tuesday. "I'm more concerned right now with how we practice and how the players respond to that than the venue."
His message was sent and received, Walker said.
"He was trying to figure out a way to get through to us right now because of the way we've been practicing and playing," she said. "The practice was pretty intense for it to be a morning practice. We did mostly defensive stuff, but it was definitely to send a message."
It's important for the team to keep perspective, though, Walker said. UK is still just one game out of first place in the SEC title race. The two-a-days in February weren't ideal, but there seems to be a renewed fight in the team.
"We're just trying to move on and remember it's not the end yet," she said. "We're just trying to get better and move on."
NO. 10 KENTUCKY AT ARKANSAS
When: 8 p.m. Thursday | TV: NoneRadio: WLAP-AM 630 | Records: Kentucky 19-3 (7-2 SEC), Arkansas 15-7 (3-6) | Series: Kentucky leads 16-13 | Last meeting: Kentucky won 84-72 on Jan. 5, 2012, in Lexington
No. 10 KENTUCKY (19-3, 7-2 SEC)
Starters — A'dia Mathies, 5-9, Sr., G (15.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.2 apg); Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, So., G (10.2 ppg; 2.1 rpg, 2.6 apg); Bria Goss, 5-10, So., G (8.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Jr., F (9.3 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.0 spg); DeNesha Stallworth, 6-3, Jr., F (13.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 apg).
Key reserves — Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Jr., G (3.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, Fr., PG (4.2 ppg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, So., F (3.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Jr., G (3.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, Jr., F (2.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg); Brittany Henderson, 6-2, Sr., F (1.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, So., F (1.9 ppg).
ARKANSAS (15-7, 3-6 SEC)
Starters — Calli Berna, 5-10, So., G (7.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 5.9 apg, 2.3 spg); Dominique Wilson, 5-8, Fr., G (4.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg); Jhasmin Bowen, 6-1, So., F (6.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Quistelle Williams, 6-0, Sr., F (10.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg); Keira Peak, 5-9, Jr., F (10.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.9 apg).
Key reserves — Sarah Watkins, 6-3, Sr., C (13.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Erin Gatling, 5-4, Sr., G (4.7 ppg); Dominique Robinson, 6-0, Jr., F (3.4 pgg, 2.1); Melissa Wolff, 6-0, Fr., G (4.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg).
Tennessee 8-1 17-5
Texas A&M 8-1 18-5
Georgia 7-2 19-3
Kentucky 7-2 19-3
South Carolina 7-2 19-3
Vanderbilt 5-4 15-7
Missouri 4-5 15-8
LSU 4-5 13-9
Arkansas 3-6 15-7
Florida 3-6 14-9
Auburn 2-7 13-9
Alabama 2-7 12-10
Mississippi St. 2-7 10-12
Mississippi 1-8 8-14
Auburn at Georgia, 7 p.m.
South Carolina at Alabama, 7:30
Kentucky at Arkansas, 8
Tennessee at LSU, 9
Kentucky (19-3, 7-2)
All times EST and p.m.; home games in all caps
Date Opponent Result
Nov. 5 x-BellarmineW, 113-33
Nov. 10Delaware StateW, 90-50
Nov. 13 at Baylor L, 85-51
Nov. 17 HIGH POINT W, 80-46
Nov. 23 MOREHEAD STATE W, 73-37
Nov. 25 USC UPSTATE W, 100-34
Nov. 28 MIAMI (OHIO) W, 92-53
Dec. 2 at Louisville W, 48-47
Dec. 7 a-DEPAUL W, 96-64
Dec. 9 MIDDLE TENNESSEE W, 68-46
Dec. 18 at Pepperdine W, 80-62
Dec. 21 at UC Santa Barbara W, 66-38
Dec. 28 ALCORN STATE W, 90-23
Dec. 30 MARIST W, 78-56
Jan. 1 FLORIDA W, 76-69
Jan. 6 at Alabama W, 87-70
Jan. 10Texas A&MW, 65-62
Jan. 13 at Missouri W, 69-43
Jan. 17 MISSISSIPPI STATE W, 100-47
Jan. 20 AUBURN W, 97-53
Jan. 24 at South Carolina L, 55-50
Jan. 27 LOUISIANA STATE W, 73-60
Feb. 3 GEORGIA L, 75-71
Date Opponent TV Time
Feb. 7 at Arkansas 8
Feb. 10 at Vanderbilt ESPN2 4
Feb. 14 SOUTH CAROLINA 7
Feb. 18 at Texas A&M ESPN2 7
Feb. 24 at Louisiana State 3
Feb. 28 at Mississippi 8
March 3 TENNESSEE ESPNU 3:30
March 6 b-TBA TBA
x-exhibition; a-at Rupp Arena; b-SEC Tournament at Duluth, Ga.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241 Twitter: @jenheraldleader Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com