DULUTH, Ga. — Not a single Kentucky player was born the last time the Cats played — and won — in their only Southeastern Conference title game back in 1982.
But the No. 19 team in the country getting ready to face the fourth-ranked Tennessee team that beat up on them in Knoxville less than two weeks ago can't just be happy to be back in the title game.
The Cats, who fell 81-65 to Tennessee on Feb. 25, know that happy to be here won't cut it against the Lady Vols.
UK learned quickly in that loss that allowing Tennessee to get an early lead spells certain doom.
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"We didn't play defensively sound enough early in the game to have an idea of where we were stacking up right there," Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We allowed a huge run early."
UK's players said they are going to have to show Tennessee what has made them the team that has now won 25 games this season, tied for the most in program history.
"Go out there and play the type of ball that got us here in the first place," freshman A'dia Mathies said.
Junior Victoria Dunlap agreed.
"We can't go out there hesitant or looking down," Dunlap said. "We have to go out there with the mentality that we can win the game and not worry about anything except how we can play."
Mitchell has been stressing defensive-minded, aggressive play to his team this week.
He expects to see that team — not the one that lost to the Lady Vols — on the Gwinnett Center floor on Sunday night.
"Our team needs to do and play as close to their identity as they can to give themselves a chance to win this championship," he said. "I expect them to do that.
"We'll see if it's a good basketball game," he continued. "It should be."
Walk this way
One could say Amani Franklin went the extra mile for UK in the semifinal victory over Mississippi State.
Whenever the senior forward was out of the game, she spent her time pacing behind the bench trying to keep her sprained ankle loose so she could go back in again.
"I just gutted it out," she said. "I couldn't let my team down. So I just kept walking and walking and walking."
Franklin, who sprained her right ankle in the Cats' quarterfinal win, finished with four points, six rebounds and two steals in 26 minutes.
"She did a little extra exercise back there behind the bench today," Mitchell joked before praising Franklin's grit.
"It was swollen on her all throughout the night and this morning," Mitchell said. "She did a whale of a job fighting through that."
Morrow ill again
Carly Morrow has been battling illness for much of the past few weeks. The junior has played just two minutes of the SEC Tournament and she didn't play at all Saturday.
"She was not good today," Mitchell said without specifying the illness. "It's kind of been going through our team."