UK Women's Basketball

UK women undaunted by 'beatable' Vols

If Kentucky is going to make its move, it doesn't have much time to waste.

That sense of urgency was evident the day before the Cats play Tennessee, their final ranked opponent of the regular season.

"We have four games left, and you can drastically improve your position in four games," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "You can make a lot happen in four games. ... It's a critical, critical game for us.

"We need to fight for this victory. We need it badly."

Eleia Roddy, one of three seniors on UK's team, said the sense of the clock winding down on the season has been evident in practice the past few days. She's seen a different Kentucky team.

It's a group clinging to slim hopes of making the NCAA Tournament and trying to forget that it has lost six of its last seven games, including an 81-69 loss at No. 5 Auburn the last time out.

"There's definitely been a sense of urgency in the past few days, recognizing that there's four games left and the season's definitely not over," Roddy said. "We know we don't have much time left, and we have to capitalize on every moment."

Roddy, who averages 12 points and 8.5 rebounds, called the extra two-day break in UK's schedule a "blessing" because it's given the team time to prepare for the No. 13 Lady Vols, coming off a 62-54 home loss to Duke Monday night.

UK blew an opportunity to get a signature win in its Southeastern Conference opener at Tennessee on Jan. 8. The Cats led by four points late in the game before Tennessee used a 10-0 run to win 69-64.

Knowing how close they came in Knoxville has provided extra incentive, Roddy said.

"We know the team we're playing," she said. "They're very beatable, and the game is winnable for us."

UT Coach Pat Summitt expects to see a strong effort from Kentucky, which hasn't beaten the Lady Vols (18-7, 7-3) in Memorial Coliseum since 1986. (UK beat Tennessee 66-63 at Rupp Arena in 2006.)

"I'm sure they'll have a great crowd and be ready and have revenge on their minds," she said Wednesday.

Mitchell has been waiting the entire conference season for UK (13-12 3-7) to get that big win, that signature win. He said Wednesday that this team still has the potential to "rise to the occasion and do something special.

"Our players need to understand that's an important thing to do," he said. "To win a game like tomorrow night for this team would be very special."

It could build momentum in the final three games of the season, at Louisiana State, versus Georgia on Senior Night next Thursday and then at South Carolina on March 1.

A win over Tennessee on Thursday could tilt things in the right direction for UK.

"It would say we're still in this race," Roddy said. "Right now we're still fighting, and we still have our confidence."

Note

Thursday's game is a part of a Pink Zone initiative started by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. UK's players will wear pink warm-up shirts and pink shoelaces to increase breast cancer awareness.

Fans wearing pink may purchase general admission tickets for $1, while supplies last. Pink T-shirts will be distributed to the first 1,000 fans at Memorial Coliseum starting when the gates open at 6 p.m.

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