Women's SEC tourney notes: Here's the scoop on Kentucky

jsmith3@herald-leader.comMarch 6, 2014 

Winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament for the first time in more than 30 years would be sweet for Kentucky.

Matthew Mitchell would do his part to make it doubly sweet for the Cats on Sunday.

An SEC championship would be cause for a UK run to Dairy Queen (conveniently, there's one about 5 miles away from the Arena at Gwinnett Center).

The tradition of taking his team out for ice cream started last season and has continued into this season.

"The first one was against Missouri," senior Samarie Walker recalled. "We had to limit one of their shooters to a certain amount of threes and she didn't have any and so he took us to Dairy Queen after we reached a certain goal."

Before big games, the players will casually write the fast-food chain name up on the dry-erase board to remind their coach.

"Whenever it is allowed (by NCAA rules) we do it if they hustle," Mitchell said of the trips.

"We definitely try to do some things that make it fun. These kids show up in June and wake up at 5:30 in the morning four days a week and have a long tough pre-season and have a long season. ... You need to find a way to have a good time every now and then. That is one of our ways of doing that."

It's become regular enough that the players have their orders down pat. Recently, the UK seniors met with the media and were able to recite their usual orders without hesitation.

For Walker and DeNesha Stallworth, it's a medium chocolate chip cookie dough Blizzard. Kastine Evans goes for a basic banana split.

Bernisha Pinkett gets pretty specific about her banana split: "No chocolate, two sides of strawberry."

For freshman Linnae Harper, the DQ trips are quite the motivator for a blizzard of points. The guard always gets a large Oreo Blizzard.

"I eat the most of anyone on the team," she said proudly.

There's no argument from her teammates.

"She eats our food, too," Walker said. "Eats all our leftovers."

Gators look for third straight over UK

Florida Coach Amanda Butler had won just one game in seven tries against Kentucky before this season.

The Gators, despite losing several key players from graduation and defection, managed to knock off the Cats twice this season.

Butler was asked during a recent coaches teleconference if she'd noticed a special formula to knocking off UK this season.

No, it's been a good matchup for the Gators, she said.

"They're a team that likes to play at a certain speed and so are we," she said. "We've played well and had individuals who have really stepped up and done their jobs exceptionally well on the two times we've had an opportunity to play Kentucky this year."

But Butler said she has nothing but respect for UK and what the Cats have accomplished in the past few seasons.

"They're one of the most talented teams in the league and you don't come by one of those top four seeds easily," she said. "They definitely deserve to be there."

Goss nears milestone

As soon as Friday, Bria Goss could be Kentucky's latest member of the 1,000-point club. The junior guard needs 10 points to gain entry.

It would be an appropriate season for this to happen for Goss, whom Mitchell called a key leader when the Cats were struggling through a stretch where they lost five of nine games early in SEC play.

Her positive approach is just one of many ways she's been able to affect games this season.

"On the court for her, just her ability to be a well-rounded basketball player — she doesn't have to score necessarily — to impact the game," he said. "She can impact the game defensively. She can impact it with her energy; she can impact it with her communication. ... She can impact the game in a ton of ways and that makes her very valuable."

Goss is third on the team at 9.9 points a game and also averages 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists. The junior has drawn 27 charges this season, nearly half of UK's 50, and 18 more than the next-highest player.

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

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