KINGSTON, R.I. — If Kentucky gets to Denver, site of the women's Final Four, the climb will have started with baby steps.
As Matthew Mitchell's UK team struggled with its shooting this season, the coach went back to the basics.
After an early exit from the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Mitchell took his players and placed them in a line next to the basket.
He had each of them shoot layups. Then he'd have them take a few steps back and shoot again. Then they'd take a few more steps back and shoot again.
"Mentally and emotionally, we just had to believe," he said. "It seems like that (exercise) helped get their confidence back a little bit."
Even though he was discussing Kentucky's shooting struggles, he could just as easily have been describing UK's rise from a Southeastern Conference bottom dweller to its regular-season champion.
It's all about baby steps, doing little things to bring about big change.
In the NCAA Tournament Kingston Regional finals Tuesday, Kentucky has a chance to take more than a baby step.
"We know we can make history," UK senior Keyla Snowden said, with her team one win away from a trip to the Final Four in the Mile High City. It's a height UK has never reached.
But the Cats have a big obstacle Tuesday in seven-time national champion Connecticut, whom UK will face in the Ryan Center, about 60 miles from the Huskies' home.
Part of that obstacle is getting his team past the Connecticut mystique.
"Connecticut has earned the mystique, and Tennessee has earned the mystique," he said. "You're silly to act like it's just another game and tell your kids it's just another game."
But it doesn't mean UK is going to fall over when it sees the name on the front of the jersey, either.
"This is a huge, big game, and the winner gets a big payoff," Mitchell said. "We're not playing all of the Connecticut teams of the past; we're playing these players. They're an excellent team. They're very good."
But Kentucky is a good team, too, he said, especially because it seems to have rediscovered that elusive shooting touch.
Against Gonzaga on Sunday night, UK hit 12 three-pointers, a school record for the NCAA Tournament.
Players who had been struggling seemed to have found their touch again, shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 57 percent from three-point range.
"We were clicking on all cylinders," UK star junior A'dia Mathies said after the Gonzaga win. "We did a good job of knocking down open shots and creating off the dribble, just being aggressive."
UK also gained more confidence with each shot that went through the hoop, Mathies said.
Kentucky (28-6) is going to need all the firepower it can find against the Huskies, who lead the nation in scoring defense and hold opponents to 29.9 percent shooting (also best in the nation).
UConn (32-4) is fourth in the nation in three-point field-goal-percentage defense, holding opponents to 24.4 percent.
Foes are averaging just 45.5 points a game against the Huskies, who have won six straight games, including the Big East Tournament championship.
Mitchell likes UK's chances, though, after he saw Mathies and freshman guard Bria Goss both hitting against Gonzaga.
"When A'dia and Bria play (well) at the same time, then we're a very good team," he said. "When we can get those two going at a high level, we're tough."
Add in Snowden, who has led UK in the NCAA Tournament with 13.7 points a game, and forward Samarie Walker, who is averaging a double-double in this event, and Kentucky could be dangerous.
"That's when you start to take the shape of a team that's set a goal to get to Denver that looks possible," Mitchell said.
Connecticut has plenty of star power, too, creating a matchup that one would expect at this time of the year, Coach Geno Auriemma said.
"Kentucky has a really good team, and we have a really good team and, if a couple of their key guys struggle, then they're going to lose," he said. "If our guys struggle, then we're going to lose.
"So it's just a matter of, one or two kids are going to wake up tomorrow morning, and they're going to have a great moment, and that team's going to go to the Final Four."
It's about taking baby steps to climb the mountain.