UK Women's Basketball

UK women notes: Size, depth could give UK women an edge

Kentucky's Azia Bishop (50) battled McNeese State's  Martika Hull for a rebound 
on Saturday night.
Kentucky's Azia Bishop (50) battled McNeese State's Martika Hull for a rebound on Saturday night. Lexington Herald-Leader

AMES, Iowa — When two teams look so identical on paper, as Green Bay and Kentucky seem to, the game comes down to subtleties.

"It's going to be whoever can get their advantages to work for them," Coach Matthew Mitchell surmised in the news conferences the day before the NCAA Tournament second-round game at Hilton Coliseum.

One place both coaches conceded UK has a distinct advantage is in the paint, where UK has more size and athleticism.

"We've got to put a body on them," Green Bay Coach Matt Bollant said. "If we rely on our jumping, we're going to lose that battle nine times out of 10."

UK's post players gave them a sizable advantage in the Cats' first-round win over McNeese State on Saturday night.

Samarie Walker, Samantha Drake and Azia Bishop combined to score 26 points, grab 22 rebounds and block eight shots. They helped UK outrebound McNeese by 18.

Mitchell just hopes UK is able make use of that advantage against Green Bay, which doesn't start a player taller than 6-foot.

"We do have some size and athleticism at the rim, but the problem is getting the ball there," he said. "If we can get the ball inside, that's good for us, but they make it awful tough to get that done."

UK's other potential edge could be its overall depth.

In what promises to be a speedy, up-tempo game, the Cats seem to have the most available players. Mitchell used 12 on Saturday and has 11 different players who average 11 minutes or more.

"It could play a huge factor in the game," said guard A'dia Mathies, whose 29.1 minutes a game average is the most on UK's team. "Hopefully it will wear them down."

Green Bay has four players who average 30 minutes or more per game.

In their three Horizon League Tournament games, which the Phoenix won by an average of 19 points, they had five players average 31 minutes or more per game.

They played five players 31-plus minutes on Saturday in their win over Iowa State, but Bollant said the Phoenix have more players available if needed.

"If we show some fatigue tomorrow, we'll go deeper," he said.

The UK coach called on guards like Mathies, Bria Goss, Bernisha Pinkett and Maegan Conwright to play at a higher level defensively on Monday and make "our depth make a big difference."

No alarm clocks needed

Because of television, Monday's game won't tip off until 9:45 p.m., which both teams said caused concern.

It's hardest on the coaches, though, Bollant argued.

"We get up early in the morning and think about the game all day," he said. "The hardest thing about game day is sitting and waiting for the game. Anticipation and anxiety, all of those things that come with game day."

Ten or 10,000?

Despite the Iowa State men playing UK at about the same time, nearly 5,000 people turned out to watch the first-round games at Hilton Coliseum on Saturday night.

But when Green Bay knocked out the home team, some wondered if anyone will come back Monday to watch two out-of-towners play.

UK's Mathies said she didn't care either way.

"I don't think it really matters what the atmosphere is going to be," she said. "We just want to come out and try to get a win whether there are 10 people in the stands or 10,000 people."

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