UK Women's Basketball

UK women don't have much time to celebrate

Coach Matthew Mitchell and the Wildcats sang the UK fight song after their 61-60 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night.
Coach Matthew Mitchell and the Wildcats sang the UK fight song after their 61-60 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night.

The Memorial Coliseum scoreboard that brightly flashed the 61-60 Kentucky win over Tennessee wasn't even turned off Thursday night before Matthew Mitchell was trying to dim the win.

The coach knew that another ranked opponent, this time No. 24 South Carolina, awaited his ninth-ranked Cats three days later.

So as happy as the UK coach was to top Rocky Top, he didn't mince words with the media after the big win.

"You have to make certain that you understand what this is," he said. "It's a win on a Thursday night in the Southeastern Conference."

He let his team enjoy the moment for a moment, and then he urged the players to move on.

"We didn't win anything here tonight except a Thursday night game in the SEC," he said.

Mitchell reminded them that they needed only to look at UK's two previous trips to Columbia (both losses), to realize what they're up against.

Last season, the Cats went there ranked No. 15 and came out a 66-61 loser.

"We've struggled there always," he said. "We need to try to do everything we can to get ready for that."

Junior A'dia Mathies, who had a career-high 34 points against the Lady Vols, was more than ready to move on the next day.

"It's easy to come back down," the guard said. "The last two times we went down (to South Carolina) we lost. We just always have to stay focused, especially now that they're in the top 25.

"Our mind's not on Tennessee now, it's on South Carolina."

Mitchell didn't think it would be too difficult to get the Cats refocused after they watched game film of their one-point win over Tennessee, snapping the Vols' 36-game SEC win streak.

"There's enough that went wrong (against Tennessee)," he said. "It's not like it was a real easy night and they just think they're the best thing in the world. That was a real difficult game and we certainly could've lost the game."

There was the 12-point lead in the second half that UK saw vanish in seconds.

There was the more than five minutes the Cats went in the first half without a single point scored.

And they're about to play a team that makes points a commodity.

South Carolina (14-3, 3-1 SEC) is holding opponents to a league-best 45.9 points a game and 36.2 percent from the field (not to mention the 20.3 percent teams are shooting from long range against the Gamecocks).

"They're a great defensive team," Mitchell said. "They play with so much energy there. It's always difficult when you go against a real tenacious defense that's playing with energy."

And the Gamecocks, who start four seniors, are coming off their first SEC loss of the season, a 58-48 defeat at Louisiana State on Thursday night.

So they have something to play for, but so does Kentucky, which would love to stay unbeaten in the SEC. The Cats (15-2) moved to 4-0 in the conference for the first time in school history with the win over Tennessee.

They would love to keep that momentum going, especially with road games at South Carolina first and then at No. 19 Georgia on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Mitchell referred to it as "murderer's row."

"South Carolina's really tough; Georgia's really tough," he said. "It's not like you're gonna get a breather at some point."