UK Women's Basketball

UK women have evolved since loss to Georgia in first meeting

There aren't always a lot of second chances to right wrongs in life.

But No. 19 Kentucky is getting one of those opportunities Thursday when it faces Georgia, a team that slipped past the Cats in Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 9.

UK players said they should have won that game, which snapped a long home streak and was the bookend of a three-game losing streak.

"We were a missed block-out here or a missed assignment there or a missed closeout here or there from winning," sophomore guard A'dia Mathies recalled of the 61-59 loss. "We still think about it, but we have to move on and try to make this game in Athens a win."

Does knowing you were that close to getting a win motivate players more?

"Most definitely," senior Victoria Dunlap said. "We didn't play to our full potential. At the end, we didn't make things happen to get the win."

There's so much more on the line Thursday night than just pride and bragging rights, though.

Kentucky (19-6, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) is getting ready to start its toughest road swing of the season, first at Georgia, in second place in the conference (one game ahead of UK), then at Vanderbilt, tied for third in the SEC with the Cats.

The fact that both games are on the road — three of UK's final four games left in the regular season are away from home — doesn't seem to bother Mathies.

"We feel like we can get a win anywhere if we play the way we should," she said. "Being aggressive, having energy and passion. If we play like that, we have a good chance to win anywhere we play."

With so few games left, UK has to make every game count if it wants a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament the first week of March, Coach Matthew Mitchell said.

"If we want to gain some ground or be one of the top teams in the conference, we need this game," he said.

After the loss to Georgia, Mitchell made wholesale lineup changes that have helped produce eight wins in 10 games. Mathies moved full time to point guard, which has helped give UK stability.

"We were still kind of in that unknown stage," Dunlap said of the first game versus UGA. "We're now more set on who's going to be where at certain times of the game. We have more of a together mind-set."

Mathies said the team is still improving, which is good at this time of the year.

"We're still growing every day," Mathies said. "All of this season, but especially from when we changed positions, we're doing a better job of coming together and playing together as one."

Mitchell said both Georgia (19-6, 9-3 SEC) and Kentucky have improved since early January, and it will be interesting to see how the evolution changes this game.

He's even more interested to see how his team handles its business down the stretch.

"It's a great challenge Thursday and Sunday to see where you are," Mitchell said. "If you can get one of them or you can get both of them, it says something about your team in a real positive way."



Probable starters — Kastine Evans, 5-8, Fr., G (3.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Carly Morrow, 5-11, Sr., G (2.0 ppg); A'dia Mathies, 5-9, So., G (13.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.2 spg); Victoria Dunlap, 6-1, Sr., F (17.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.2 spg); Brittany Henderson, 6-2, So., F (5.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

Top reserves — Keyla Snowden, 5-7, Jr., G (9.4 ppg); Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Fr., G (6.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg); Maegan Conwright, 5-8, Fr., G (6.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Jennifer O'Neill, 5-5, Fr., G (5.2 ppg); Samantha Drake, 6-3, Fr., F (3.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg); Crystal Riley, 5-5, Jr., G (2.6 ppg); Sarah Beth Barnette, 6-2, Fr., F (2.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg)


Probable starters — Jasmine James, 5-9, So., G (11.9 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.4 rpg); Meredith Mitchell, 6-1, Jr., G (7.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.7 apg); Anne Marie Armstrong, 6-3, So., G (7.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Porsha Phillips, 6-2, Sr., F (11.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg); Jasmine Hassell, 6-2, So., F (9.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

Top reserves — Khaalidah Miller, 5-9, Fr., G (9.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg); Tamika Willis, 6-2, So., F (4.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Ronika Ransford, 5-7, Fr., G (4.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Ebony Jones, 6-2, So., F (1.5 ppg); Arieal Johnson, 6-4, Fr., F (1.6 ppg)

SEC standings

Conf. All

Tennessee 12-0 24-2

Georgia 9-3 19-6

Kentucky 8-4 19-6

Vanderbilt 8-4 17-8

Auburn 7-5 14-11

South Carolina 7-5 15-10

LSU 7-6 17-10

Arkansas 4-8 16-8

Florida 4-9 14-13

Mississippi 3-9 10-14

Alabama 2-10 13-12

Mississippi State 2-10 10-14

Thursday's games

Kentucky at Georgia, 7 (FS South)

South Carolina at Tennessee, 7

Alabama at Auburn, 7

Vanderbilt at Mississippi St., 8

Arkansas at Mississippi, 8

Sunday's games

Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 2 (WKYT-27)

Auburn at S. Carolina, 2 (FS South)

LSU at Arkansas, 3

Mississippi at Alabama, 3

Mississippi St. at Florida, 4:30

Monday's game

Georgia at Tennessee, 7 (ESPN2)

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