UK Women's Basketball

UK women get wake-up call

Middle Tennessee forward Ebony Rowe, left, battled Kentucky guard A'dia Mathies for the ball in the second half of Wednesday's game. Rowe, a former Paul Laurence Dunbar star, helped Middle Tennessee upset the Cats.
Middle Tennessee forward Ebony Rowe, left, battled Kentucky guard A'dia Mathies for the ball in the second half of Wednesday's game. Rowe, a former Paul Laurence Dunbar star, helped Middle Tennessee upset the Cats. ASSOCIATED PRESS

It was a long, long bus ride home from central Tennessee.

After getting rolled by Middle Tennessee, Kentucky's bus rolled in at about 3 a.m.

But Coach Matthew Mitchell became confident that his team would rebound from the loss when he heard the familiar sound of basketballs dribbling on the Joe Craft Center floor less than six hours later.

The players didn't really discuss the impromptu shootaround among themselves, but nearly every one of them was back at the practice facility bright and early the next morning.

"It started yesterday morning around 8 o'clock," freshman Bria Goss said Friday. "There were a lot of people in the gym. It was before a film session, but everybody was in the gym. Multiple times that day."

Senior point guard Amber Smith said she expected nothing less from her teammates, who took the loss at unranked Middle Tennessee hard.

"We had a bad shooting day so I'd expect people would get in the gym and work on their games," Smith said. "It doesn't really shake the loss. We still have that loss in the back of our head. We're trying not to have a game like that ever again."

The coach didn't tell his team to get back in the gym either, but he was pleased to see the team refocus after being beaten badly on Wednesday.

"What I hope Kentucky players will always do to respond to adversity is go back to work quickly, put the adversity behind them," he said. "That (loss) was just a lack of effort so that was a good response to come back and show effort the next day."

It was a bad loss for UK, which had just been elevated in the polls to the No. 6 team in the nation, the Cats' highest ranking since the 1982-83 season.

Middle Tennessee was able to easily break UK's press and led by as many as 17 points at one point in the game. UK was held to 32.3 percent shooting (including a season-low 11.1 percent from three-point range).

MTSU was able to shoot 56.5 percent in the first half and 46 percent for the game, many baskets on layups out of the Raiders' press break.

"When you're a step slow, you look silly and we were a step slow on Wednesday night," Mitchell said on Friday. "Those things happen. We must move past it.

"I have a lot of confidence that our team is ready to go and ready to play Sunday."

UK (11-3) starts Southeastern Conference play on Sunday at Florida (10-3) against the Gators, who have won three in a row.

In Kentucky's three road games this season, the Cats are 1-2. They're going to have to learn to play together on the road if they want to rise to the level of elite team, Smith said.

"Winning on the road, that's what great teams do," Smith said. "That's how we're going to separate ourselves from other teams."

Kentucky needs to focus on what it does best, which is play defense and play together, she said.

"We can win wherever we play," she said. "It's just about being focused and bringing energy no matter where we play. It's all about energy and hustle with us."

Hearing the familiar sound of balls bouncing at the Craft Center gave Mitchell faith that his team will rebound from an atypical loss this week.

"It was a very good response from our team yesterday," he said.

"(Losses to unranked opponents) happen. It's a long season. What we're trying to do in the growth of our program is to cut down on those. ... Hopefully this year we have just one."

O'Neill remains on bench

Sophomore guard Jennifer O'Neill will continue to wear the protective boot on her surgically repaired foot until at least Jan. 15, Mitchell said on Friday.

She had X-rays on her foot late last week. Jan. 15 is the new date doctors and trainers have set for her to get the boot off.

Mitchell also hinted that a redshirt season is a big possibility now.

"I do think there's an option that her season's in jeopardy right now," he said. "Anybody could tell that. We'll just have to see."

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