UK Women's Basketball

Kentucky women puzzling Mitchell in the post

Kentucky Azia Bishop (#50) attacked the basket under pressure from Mississippi State Catina Bett (#34) in the first half of the game at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky.  Sunday January 8, ©2012.  Photo by Joseph Rey Au
Kentucky Azia Bishop (#50) attacked the basket under pressure from Mississippi State Catina Bett (#34) in the first half of the game at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. Sunday January 8, ©2012. Photo by Joseph Rey Au

Trying to predict the Kentucky post rotation has been like trying to predict the weather this season.

One game, Samantha Drake will dominate; a few games later, she plays just a handful of unproductive minutes.

One game, Azia Bishop starts to make a name for herself and, a few games later, she plays like the freshman she is.

One game, Brittany Henderson barely gets off the bench, then she's a major player in a tough Southeastern Conference road win for the ninth-rated Cats.

"The post position has been a little bit like the stock market," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said recently. "I need some blue-chip stocks that are just real steady. I don't need all this volatility."

He reminds the media (and himself, probably) that three of the top four post players are sophomores or freshmen.

"Probably youth and inexperience has more to do with the inconsistency than anything else," he said.

And it's not just inconsistency from post players Samarie Walker, Drake, Henderson and Bishop.

"We're not helping them a lot of times," Mitchell said.

The coach reeled off several instances in recent games when a UK post player had a smaller guard on her and the Cats (15-2, 4-0 SEC) failed to take advantage of the interior mismatch.

Mitchell gave examples of UK forwards getting into position and the guards failing to get the ball inside in a timely manner. Case in point, Henderson had a great seal under the basket during one possession in the UK win over Tennessee on Thursday.

"She couldn't have done anything better," Mitchell said of Henderson's positioning, "and we just throw the ball 3 feet wide of her. We're not feeding the post, so it's not all of our posts, it's our guards, too."

But Mitchell wasn't just blaming the guards or the post players.

He took a lot of the blame on himself.

"We have to get that figured out as a coaching staff and make some adjustments because we have some good players and good passers," he said.

A game like the one at No. 24 South Carolina on Sunday could be a good place to start getting more action for the Kentucky bigs.

As UK often does, the Gamecocks (14-3, 3-1) often play a smaller, quicker lineup, and Kentucky might have an opportunity to take advantage of its size.

Drake improving

One of the more puzzling post players this season has been sophomore Samantha Drake.

At second-ranked Notre Dame, the former Nelson County star scored a career-best 21 points. She followed that game up with an 18-point performance.

But when the Cats went on break, so did Drake, and she never really came back, her coach has said.

Since returning from the holiday, Drake is averaging five minutes (and two points) a game. All of that is a direct reflection of her practicing poorly, Mitchell said.

The 6-foot-3 forward who has started 10 games for UK this season, never saw the floor against Tennessee, but the coach said she's showing signs of getting out of her post-holiday funk.

"She had a good week in practice but made a lot of mistakes in practice," he said Friday. "Every game is so tough, and we have a deep roster. So it's not necessarily a poor reflection on Sam, but it's a better reflection on the other kids in practice."

But don't count out Drake as the Cats continue with SEC play, Mitchell said.

"I have a lot of confidence that Samantha Drake's going to be a very good player here," he said. "I'm not down on her; I still have total belief that she's going to be a good player here."

'Showing me love'

After her career-best 34 points, including hitting UK's game-winning shot over Tennessee on Thursday, A'dia Mathies got really popular.

"I got a lot of texts," she said the next day. "Everyone was texting me, just congratulating me on the game. ... A lot of people have been showing me love, saying they're proud of me."

Mathies also is counting on SEC foes from here on out showing her a different kind of love, in the form of double teams, after her big performance against the Lady Vols.

But the junior guard isn't too concerned about that.

"I don't worry at all," she said. "If they double-team me, that means someone else is open, and I have all of the confidence in the world in my teammates. They'll knock down the shot or make the big play."

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