UK Women's Basketball

Road trip to test UK women's newfound maturity

Coach Matthew Mitchell said he's encouraged that his team is still improving this late.
Coach Matthew Mitchell said he's encouraged that his team is still improving this late.

No coach wants to lose three straight games.

But Coach Matthew Mitchell said last week that those three losses to start January probably "couldn't have come at a better time" for the No. 17 Kentucky women's basketball team.

They came in time to — he hopes — kick-start the rest of the Cats' season.

Since those losses on the road at Duke and Arkansas and then a close loss to Georgia at home, UK has won four straight games, including a come-from-behind win at Florida last week.

It was one of the first clear signs to Mitchell that his UK team, which has six freshmen, might be starting to show signs of maturity.

Practices have been more crisp and focused. The team seems to be figuring it out, the coach said.

"It sure looks like we're gaining maturity," he said on Wednesday. "We took a significant step last week."

He pointed to the Florida win, which Kentucky (15-4, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) followed up with a big win over Vanderbilt at home.

It was yet another sign of the light coming on.

"They showed a lot of maturity, backing up that tough, tough win on the road," Mitchell said.

Senior Victoria Dunlap is starting to see it, too.

"As a team, we grew, trusting each other and not letting up," she said after the win over Florida. "We pulled together as a team, and we got it done."

The next big maturity test comes Thursday at Mississippi (9-9, 2-4). The Rebels snapped a four-game losing streak by upsetting No. 24 Arkansas on the road Sunday.

After the game at Oxford, Miss., UK will travel to Alabama, where the Tide are still looking for their first conference victory.

Road victories are tough to come by, and UK is going to have to use its newfound maturity to earn wins.

"On the road, you can't afford to have extended stretches of the game where you're not focused and you're not playing well and you're not producing," Mitchell said.

If Kentucky can get through those games with wins, Mitchell sees only good things in the Cats' future as they move toward the post-season.

"If we zoom out a little bit and look at the big picture, we have five weeks here in the regular season, and I think this team can improve a tremendous amount if they put their mind to it," Mitchell said. "A lot of times, by this time of year, teams have gotten what they can get out of a team. ... We're still improving."

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