UK Women's Basketball

Unbeaten UK women playing it cool

It sounds glamorous to say that Kentucky is just one win away from the best start in program history.

It sounds exciting to say the 9-0 Cats can get to historic win No. 10 with a victory over in-state rival Louisville on Sunday.

But you might as well be telling UK Coach Matthew Mitchell a bedtime story.

He might as well have held back a yawn when the 9-0 record was discussed this weekend after Kentucky's 52-point win over Florida A&M.

"We don't ever need to think that just because we won the last nine that we're going to win the next nine," Mitchell said. "We don't really talk about it as a team."

When prodded further, Mitchell said 9-0 is nice and all, but he's not going to enjoy it too much.

"Our reality right now is 9-0 means absolutely nothing," he said. "If there was some award we would receive for being 9-0, we might be happy about it.

"What I am happy about is we've played with some energy and enthusiasm and effort. That gives me a lot of reason to be optimistic for the future."

Kentucky is one of four Southeastern Conference schools still unbeaten.

The others are No. 4 Tennessee (8-0), No. 5 Louisiana State (7-0) and No. 13 Georgia (9-0).

Getting off to such a fast start and winning games by a nearly 28-point margin so far would seem like a big deal to UK's players who need just seven more wins to tie their total for all of last season, but they seem as equally uninterested as their coach.

"You don't get a trophy for 9-0," guard Rebecca Gray said. "You just get a pat on the back."

But starting off so well has to give confidence to a young group, right?

That's not necessarily a good thing, Mitchell said.

"We want them to be confident, but we don't ever want them to lose their humility or their focus," he said. "We need to stay humble and hungry, and we need to keep working real hard."

Freshman A'dia Mathies said the fast start does give the team a boost of confidence, but she spun it back around quickly.

"Sure it does give us some confidence knowing we're 9-0," the Cats' second-leading scorer said. "How much confidence do you think we'd have if we were 0-9? Probably not as much.

"We just have to continue to work hard."

Fast starts have gone well for UK teams of the past. The last group to go to the NCAA Tournament started the 2005-06 campaign with eight straight wins.

The 1998-99 team that went dancing won five straight to start the season and seven of its first eight games. Sharon Fanning's 1990-91 team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament won 12 of its first 13 games.

This year's Cats have the same number of wins as the 1980-81 team that fell short of winning 10 straight in overtime at Rutgers.

That team, which started Valerie Still, Patty Jo Hedges, Lea Wise, Maria Donhoff and Elisabeth Lukschu, finished the season 25-6.

It also advanced to the second round of the AIAW Women's Basketball Tournament, a precursor to the NCAA Tournament for women's basketball.

Gray said she can get excited about being 9-0 when it helps UK make the post-season.

That's when it will mean something, she said.

"This just feeds into later on in the season," she said. "Every game's important to us and our mind-set every time we step on the court is to win."

Of the 13 undefeated teams left in the nation, Kentucky is one of the three that is still unrated. The other two, Saint Bonaventure and Syracuse, are both receiving more votes in the poll than the Cats, who received two votes this week.

But again, Mitchell said that's of little consequence.

"I have a long list of priorities, and that one's not even on the list," he said. "As far as being ranked, our focus and our goal is to be the best team we can be.

"We'll just try to win all of them."

'Pack the House'

Kentucky has not beaten Louisville (5-3) in five straight tries. If the Cats are going to do it in their next game on Sunday, Mitchell hopes it's in front of a sold-out Memorial Coliseum crowd for UK's annual "Pack the House" day.

Single-game tickets are available for $5 for adults and $2 for senior citizens and children 6-18. Ages 5 and under are admitted free, as are UK students, faculty and staff.

To purchase tickets, go to www.ukathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at (859) 257-1818.

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