UK Women's Basketball

Cats need a change in lopsided rivalry

It's been nearly 10 years since Kentucky beat Louisville at Freedom Hall.

The Cats haven't beaten their main in-state rival in four straight tries.

It's hard to call it a rivalry game as of late.

"We have struggled a bit in the series," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said Saturday. "We haven't held up our end of the bargain. It would be more exciting if we started playing better, definitely."

But the lopsidedness in the past few years hasn't turned this game into some ho-hum competition, both coaches say.

It definitely means more to Kentucky these days.

Coming off an unexpected loss to 1-5 East Tennessee State University on Friday night, Kentucky has to right itself quickly against No. 12 Louisville, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 last season.

"It's important for our players to put (Friday) night behind us and move on," Mitchell said.

Beating Louisville (8-1) and star senior All-American Angel McCoughtry could go a long way toward fixing what ails the Cats (5-4).

Coach Jeff Walz has made that point abundantly clear to his Cardinals. They learned in their lone loss this season versus unranked Nevada that all opponents are coming at them with vigor.

Louisville has won three straight since then behind McCoughtry, who ranks seventh in the nation in scoring at 22 points a game.

"Our kids know that it's not the days of old where it's just another game," Walz said. "We're not just another game on somebody's schedule now. It's a chance to get a top 20 win."

Walz also likes to give a quick history lesson to any Louisville player who might think of UK as an easy win given the recent history.

"They still lead the all-time series," he said of UK. "Even though they've lost the last three or four, it's not like they don't have the upper hand in this rivalry the last 20 years.

"We're going into this game with the utmost respect for Kentucky and what they're capable of doing."

Kentucky itself is still trying to figure out what it is capable of doing. It will play Louisville less than 48 hours after the bad loss against East Tennessee State.

Mitchell said UK's biggest opponent isn't the team in the other jersey.

It's a "lack of confidence on the offensive end.

"We have to move in a positive direction," he said. "We've gone through slumps before and I'm positive we'll get out of this one."

And getting a win over a top 15 team might be just what the coach ordered.

"The best way to get some confidence is to go beat Louisville tomorrow," he said. "That'd be a great confidence booster."