For Kentucky’s guards it’s often about making a pass into an opening that’s just too small.
“We have the right idea, it’s just not usually there and we try to force a lot of things too much,” Maci Morris explained of UK’s miscues.
Fellow freshman guard Taylor Murray agreed that many of Kentucky’s turnovers are caused by players that are “anxious” or because they “see something that’s not there.”
For the Cats’ post players, it’s been about spending a few too many seconds in the lane or picking up their pivot foot at the exact wrong time.
“Everybody that is in the post rotation right now, is called for picking their pivot foot up,” Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said Wednesday. “They have worked too hard on their footwork and had too many reps to be doing those kinds of things.”
Many of No. 9 Kentucky’s wounds are self-inflicted this season with an average of 17 turnovers a game, fourth-most in the league. That number has increased to 19.2 in five league games.
Against Ole Miss and its up-tempo, pressure-cooker style Thursday night, there will be plenty of turnovers to go around, but Kentucky’s players need to do a better job of not shooting themselves in the Nikes.
“We don’t always show a lot of patience and we just get a little bit rushed and a little bit frantic and that is what the press is supposed to do,” said Mitchell, whose team has turned the ball over 19 or more times three times in the past five games.
The press and pressure defense is there to create anxiety and it is almost like a sixth defender. You do some crazy stuff at times and those are the ones that we need to try to eliminate through repetition and practice.
Two of Kentucky’s most turnover-prone games have occurred in the last five, with 26 at Auburn two weeks ago and 22 at Georgia a few days later.
“The press and pressure defense is there to create anxiety and it is almost like a sixth defender,” Mitchell continued. “You do some crazy stuff at times and those are the ones that we need to try to eliminate through repetition and practice.”
Ole Miss (9-9, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) has made a living out of making opponents look bad this season. The Rebels’ 24.8 forced turnovers a game are third nationally and first in the league.
“We have to prepare ourselves mentally that they’re coming to trap us and remain poised and not freak out,” Morris said.
The Rebels average 13.1 steals a game, second-most in the league and fifth-best nationally.
“They will be very aggressive and very well coached and so you are going to turn the ball over some,” Mitchell said of Ole Miss, which has forced 25 or more turnovers in a game eight times this season. “But I think for us, it is mainly a mental focus issue.”
2.7 Steals per game this season by Ole Miss guard Erika Sisk, the most in the SEC
The statistics certainly back up Mitchell’s theory with Kentucky averaging 10.1 turnovers in the first half and just 6.8 in the second half.
They’re learning from their mistakes, but they need to find ways to learn from them in practice and avoid them in the games.
Earlier this season, Mitchell said Kentucky “desperately needs to become a 12-turnover a game team” to be successful.
He amended that a little bit Wednesday before the Cats (14-2, 3-2) travel to Oxford, Miss.
“Well, I think for our team right now we have to be realistic and I think if we can get below 15,” he said. “If we can get under 15 turnovers, that would be great.”
Mitchell is hopeful that 12 turnovers or fewer per game will be a reasonable goal by the end of the season because “that would mean we are playing some excellent basketball,” he said.
But on Thursday night, he’ll be happy if his team can just avoid the avoidable turnovers.
Kentucky at Ole Miss
When: 9 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: WWTF-AM 1580
Records: UK 14-2 (3-2 SEC); Ole Miss 9-9 (1-4)
Series: Ole Miss leads 21-16
Last meeting: Ole Miss won 67-59 on Feb. 23, 2015 at Oxford, Miss.
UK’s probable starters
Reserves: 1-Batouly Camara, F, 6-2, Fr.; 2-Ivana Jakubcova, C, 6-6, Sr.; 24-Taylor Murray, G, 5-6, Fr.; 45-Alyssa Rice, C, 6-3, So.
Ole Miss’s probable starters
Reserves: 00-Kiara Golden, G, 5-8, So.; 2-Jonell Williams, F/C, 6-3, Fr.; 4-Precious Person, G/F, 6-1, Jr.; 10-Cecilia Muhate Pena, F/C, 6-2, Fr.; 15-Kelsey Briggs, F, 6-3, So..; 24-Bretta Hart, F, 6-1, So.; 25-Alissa Alston, G, 5-8, Fr.; 44-Torri Lewis, G, 5-11, Fr.