UK Women's Basketball

UK women rested, revved up for tourney

There was Lydia Watkins' back and knees.

There was Amani Franklin's badly sprained ankle.

There were cuts and scrapes and bruises for everyone else.

There was the mental fatigue.

That's what playing nine straight weekends without a bye in the Southeastern Conference will do to you.

The Kentucky women's team needed a break, and it got one.

Now Coach Matthew Mitchell says his team is better than ever.

"Mentally for them to have a few days to recharge has been tremendous for us," Mitchell said on Sunday. "They've come back, and the way they've been playing in practice is encouraging."

No. 19 Kentucky, a four seed in the NCAA Tournament scheduled to play Liberty in the opening round on Saturday in Louisville's Freedom Hall, benefitted greatly from just a few days off since finishing a close second in the SEC Tournament championship on March 7.

"Mentally and physically, we're in good shape," forward Victoria Dunlap said after the team watched the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night.

Freshman A'dia Mathies' eyes lit up when she was asked about getting a few precious days off before the rigor of a tournament run begins.

"It was great," she said, smiling. "Really good."

After the SEC Tournament, Mitchell and the team drove back on Monday, then he gave them Tuesday and Wednesday off.

They went back at it in practice on Thursday and Friday before he gave them their first full weekend off in nearly 10 weeks.

"They came back with great pep, great attitude," he said. "We came back with a lot of hunger."

It hasn't just been good for the Cats mentally, it's given them time to heal.

Franklin, who had to pace behind the bench like an expectant father during the SEC Tournament because she didn't want her sprained ankle to swell up, has improved greatly, Mitchell said.

Watkins, who has aches and pains all over, seems to be back to her usual self, the coach said.

The time off still wasn't enough for reserves Anna Cole and Crystal Riley to completely heal the stress reactions that have sidelined them for weeks.

They probably will not see action in the NCAA Tournament, the coach said.

The biggest question mark remains guard Carly Morrow, who has sat out most of the past couple of weeks with what was being described as an illness.

Mitchell listed Morrow, who started 24 games this season, as day-to-day.

"We maybe misread some sickness with her," Mitchell said. "She's struggling with fatigue right now, so our medical staff is on top of that; we're looking into what's causing it. We're not sure exactly.Some days she's got more energy than others."

Tickets selling quickly

Less than 24 hours after Kentucky's opponent and site were announced on the selection show, the school has sold almost 1,000 ticket packages for the first and second rounds, said UK spokeswoman Susan Lax.

Tickets for the first two rounds at Freedom Hall include all three games (Bowling Green and Michigan State play in the first game) and are $27.

The deadline to buy tickets at UK has passed, but they are still available at the box office or by calling 1-800-633-7105 or (502) 852-5151. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.