UK Women's Basketball

Conwright settling in at point guard as UK women start SEC play

Kentucky  Maegan Conwright (#20) drove the ball under pressure from Kentucky Wesleyan Bianca Barton (#14) in the first half of the first exhibition game in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky.   Kentucky won 99-55. Sunday November 7, 2010.  Photo by Joseph Rey Au
Kentucky Maegan Conwright (#20) drove the ball under pressure from Kentucky Wesleyan Bianca Barton (#14) in the first half of the first exhibition game in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 99-55. Sunday November 7, 2010. Photo by Joseph Rey Au

Maegan Conwright has no doubt had moments this season where she wishes she'd just kept her mouth shut.

There have probably been times when Kentucky's 5-foot-8 freshman kicks herself for volunteering to fill in at the point guard spot, which was up for grabs when longtime starter Amber Smith went down with a knee injury.

"I knew it was going to have some responsibilities, but as far as how much, I had no idea," she said on Wednesday as No. 10 Kentucky tried to shake off a heartbreaker at No. 3 Duke and prepare for a big game at No. 25 Arkansas.

"I knew that being a point guard was an important job — it's like being a quarterback, it's the most important job on the court," she said.

Kentucky's system, both the intense pressure on defense and the quick hitting of the offense, requires much from its point guard.

Smith was a veteran.

She did all of the things that Coach Matthew Mitchell said UK has been lacking for parts of this season.

Before the Duke game, he laid down a list of things he wanted from Conwright.

"We need her to be more fiery; we need her to be more vocal; we need her to clap her hands and get the huddle a little bit tighter, all the things you want a point guard to do," he said. "Up to this point, she's had a difficult time understanding what all we need the point guard to do."

After the Duke loss, in which Conwright played 36 minutes guarding one of the nation's most seasoned and gifted point guards in Jasmine Thomas, Mitchell was complimentary of his freshman guard.

"I couldn't have asked a whole lot more of her tonight," he said. "She finally came in with a little tenacity and played hard. I was proud of her."

Conwright's numbers weren't exceptional: five points, four assists, two steals, four turnovers.

But Mitchell was pleased with the way she fought through the adversity — which included having her pocket picked by Thomas more than once — and tried to lead the Cats (11-2).

"She still has some trouble at crucial times getting us into stuff, but that's just inexperience, things she will grow into," Mitchell said. "The thing I was so pleased with her about is she tried to hustle and stay in it and play tough.

"One of the most positive things is Maegan now seeing if she will keep the right mind-set, she can function at a very high level."

This one good game doesn't mean Mitchell is going to stop demanding more from his new point guard.

He definitely wants to see Conwright become more of a floor general, he said in the pre-Duke news conference.

"Maegan's a real outgoing kid, a great personality, but then when she gets on the court," he trailed off. "She chooses the wrong time to stop using her personality."

It has become clear that he believes she is UK's best option right now.

Neither returning reserve, Crystal Riley nor freshman McDonald's All-American Jennifer O'Neill, saw a minute of action against the Devils.

Conwright, who played high school ball at Arlington, Texas, is fourth in the team in scoring, averaging 8.5 points. She is one of only two UK players who have fewer turnovers (23) than assists (29). The only other is lesser-used senior guard Carly Morrow.

Conwright said the hardest part has been preparing mentally for the games.

"We have so much stuff to go through and so much stuff to remember, a lot of plays," she said. "In high school you didn't have plays. It's just a lot of mental stuff that's been hard for me."

But she's trying to keep getting better game by game.

"I'm not perfect," she said. "I make a lot of freshmen mistakes, but I still take it one game at a time."

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