Kentucky didn’t win at Colorado, but the Cats are looking for silver linings.
“Getting beat there is only a negative thing if we don’t learn the lesson from it,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the 79-69 loss at Colorado last Saturday. “You never want to lose, and you hate to lose and it stinks to lose, but we lost the game, so how are we going to benefit?”
And No. 20 Kentucky definitely learned a lot from the defeat, in which the Cats outshot and outrebounded the Buffaloes, but lacked in some of the other key hustle areas.
For instance, UK turned the ball over 17 times and forced Colorado into only seven mistakes. The Buffaloes had six more steals in their victory.
“We didn’t hustle enough,” assessed UK senior Makayla Epps. “Sometimes you think you’re hustling and then you watch film and you’re barely moving, but you don’t really realize it until Coach points it out and you see it on film.”
Kentucky hopes to carry some of those lessons into its game Wednesday night against Morehead State (3-1) in Memorial Coliseum. The Cats have just two more games before facing back-to-back ranked opponents to open December in No. 13 Oklahoma and then at No. 4 Louisville.
“One, is we have to play with great energy,” Mitchell said of lessons learned. “We were a little flat. … It was a great lesson there that we have to find some way to be enthusiastic every time we take the floor.”
Part of that lackluster effort was due to travel woes, but a lot of it had to do with Kentucky’s inability to make plays when Colorado went to a 2-3 zone, something Mitchell is confident UK will see again and again this season.
The Cats (3-1) were able to grab an early lead when Colorado was in man-to-man.
“And I think they figured, ‘Well, we are not going to be able to guard them in man-to-man,’ so they went to the zone and it slowed us down,” Mitchell said, noting that he thinks an inexperienced UK team will get better against that defensive scheme as the season progresses.
Both Mitchell and Epps saw a team that was focused after the loss and ready for an opportunity to learn from the costly mistakes early this season.
“We’ve learned a lot of things from this,” Epps said. “We can’t expect to be good and play games like that: turn the ball over, miss point-blank range layups and not work hard. That will never be our recipe for success.”
Morehead State at No. 20 Kentucky
When: 7 p.m.
Live video broadcast: SEC Network Plus (online only)
Radio: WLAP-AM 630
Records: Kentucky 3-1, Morehead State 3-1
Series: Kentucky leads 28-4
Last meeting: Kentucky won 112-57 on Nov. 18, 2015, in Lexington.
Probable starters: Maci Morris, 6-0, G, So. (10.8 pts, 2.8 rebs); Evelyn Akhator, 6-3, F, Sr. (18.8 pts, 12.0 rebs, 8 blks); Taylor Murray, 5-6, G, So. (8.0 pts, 4.0 rebs); Makayla Epps, 5-10, G, Sr. (16.3 pts, 5.0 asts); Alyssa Rice, 6-3, C, Jr. (7.0 pts, 5.3 rebs)
Key reserves: Makenzie Cann, 6-1, G, Jr. (10.0 pts, 4.8 rebs); Jessica Hardin, 5-8, G, Sr. (5.5 pts, 2.5 rebs); Jaida Roper, 5-6, PG, Fr. (1.5 pts, 2.0 asts)
Morehead State (3-1)
Probable starters: Eriel McKee, 5-10, F, Jr. (13.3 pts, 7.7 rebs); Miranda Crockett, 5-8, G, So. (9.8 pts, 4.3 rebs, 3.5 asts); Brianna McQueen, 5-3, G, Sr. (9.7 pts, 6.3 asts, 4.7 rebs, 2.3 stls); Shay Steele, 6-2, Sr., F (9.5 pts, 6.3 rebs); Aaliyah Wells, 5-8, G, Sr. (8.8 pts, 6.8 rebs, 2.3 asts)
Key reserves: Brooke Todd, 6-2, F, Jr. (8.3 pts, 7.3 rebs); Kayk Tate, 5-8, G, Sr. (5.5 pts, 2.3 asts), Bruena Jackson, 5-5, G, Fr. (8.8 pts, 2.3 asts)