UK Women's Basketball

Freshman Goss lights Kentucky's competitive fuse

Kentucky's Bria Goss drove past Arkansas Pine-Bluff's Corredur Vaden. Goss is second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.2 points.
Kentucky's Bria Goss drove past Arkansas Pine-Bluff's Corredur Vaden. Goss is second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.2 points. Herald-Leader

Bria Goss sat stoically, looking straight ahead with her arms folded tightly.

But the freshman's eyes gave her away.

They were wet with tears.

They threatened to fill up again and again as she quietly answered reporters' questions after Kentucky's loss at Middle Tennessee.

The guard from Indianapolis wasn't crying because she was injured.

Well, not physically anyway.

"She just wants to win in the worst way," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell would say about Goss later. "She takes losses really hard."

Goss has never been a big fan of losing.

"I only lost three games in my high school career," she said of her 83-3 record at Ben Davis. "So losing isn't something I'm really good at."

In fact, losing might be the only thing at which Goss isn't any good.

The reigning Indiana Miss Basketball has been competitive like this since she was small. It helped that she had sister DeAirra, 22 months her senior, to push all of her competitive buttons.

"We've always gone at it," Bria Goss said. "Doesn't matter what it is. It could be checkers or we could have a card game. It could be 'I'm going to beat you from here to the door.'"

Or maybe Goss got the competitiveness from time at the gym with her father, Derrick Goss.

"I was little and he'd say I had to find a way to score on him," she recalled. "He's 6-foot-3.

"He just tells us to have a fight in us for everything we do, don't get pushed around."

Goss doesn't get pushed around much.

As a freshman, the 5-foot-10 guard is second on the team behind junior A'dia Mathies in charges taken. Goss spends a fair amount of time on the floor diving for loose balls.

"She wants to win every day in practice and every game," Mitchell said.

Goss is second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.2 points, the most for any freshman in the Southeastern Conference.

She has scored in double figures a team-best 12 of 14 games this season, including six straight.

"Bria's one of the hardest workers that I've played with," UK senior point guard Amber Smith said.

So Smith tried to give the best advice she could come up with after Goss came to her after that loss in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

"I told her to just keep working hard and everyone else will get on the same page," Smith said. "I told her don't get weary."

It's good advice with the always exhausting SEC season under way, including No. 11 Kentucky's conference home opener Thursday night against a gritty Arkansas (11-2, 0-1 SEC) team.

It would be easy for a player who was named an All-American (both the McDonald's and Gatorade kinds), who won a high school national title (in which she hit the game-winning shot as time was winding down) to be full of herself.

It would be easy for a player who was part of an 81-game win streak at Ben Davis to think she's better than other players on the floor, but she's just not that way, UK coaches and players said.

"She is not selfish at all," Mitchell said. "She is totally for Kentucky trying to win games. It is refreshing to be around."

The player who already has won two SEC Freshmen of the Week honors is not your average freshman at all, Mitchell said.

"She is very mature from a basketball standpoint and how she goes about her business," her coach said. "She understands her importance to the team without being a ball hog and all of these different things that a lot of freshmen struggle with."

In fact, Mitchell said Goss is one of the most coachable players he's ever coached.

"We'd love to have a team full of that kind of attitude."

Especially the part about hating to lose.

The coach just hopes he doesn't let Goss down.

"She lost three games in high school," Mitchell said with a smile. "We have lost two now, so she is probably thinking she is in for a long year at Kentucky."