UK Women's Basketball

Kentucky women eager to move on from Duke defeat

Kentucky's Bria Goss drove the lane for a layup against Duke last week. "I'm still not over it," Goss said of the 69-61 loss.
Kentucky's Bria Goss drove the lane for a layup against Duke last week. "I'm still not over it," Goss said of the 69-61 loss.

Most of the country woke up on Christmas morning to decked halls and high spirits.

Bria Goss wasn't quite so merry.

Like many of her Kentucky teammates, a loss to No. 2 Duke in Rupp Arena three days before was still fresh in her mind.

It was the Cats' first loss of the season and it bugged her the entire break.

"I'm still not over it," the UK guard said.

The 69-61 Duke loss came up over and over again, too.

"I was with family and the family watched the game, they all had questions," she said. "It always came back around. Definitely it was on my mind every morning, even Christmas morning. I didn't let it get me too down, but it was still there."

Goss and her teammates have a chance to wipe out that loss with a win Sunday as they close their non-conference schedule against Grambling State (3-7) in Memorial Coliseum.

The Cats' first Southeastern Conference game is Thursday at Alabama.

Between now and then they have a lot to practice.

"I'm not saying (the loss) defines our season, but if we want to do the things we say we want to do, we're going to have to put some work in," Goss said.

She rattled off a list of improvements like a kindergartner on Santa's lap: "Everything: Our passing, our shooting, our finishing with contact."

Lowlights of the Cats' loss to the Blue Devils included fewest points scored (61) this season, lowest field-goal (33.3), three-point (20), and free-throw percentages (42.1), and fewest assists (seven) and steals (seven).

More than anything, Coach Matthew Mitchell hopes the loss to Duke helps UK start to put a premium on making better decisions and becoming more consistent on both ends of the floor.

"We just didn't make as good of decisions as Duke did, so they won the game," he said, adding that the UK he saw in stretches of the first half could lose to anyone in the SEC.

And that the UK he saw in stretches of the second half could win the conference title.

He just needs to help them become that second-half UK team in this upcoming second half of the season.

Grambling State should help UK improve in some key areas on Sunday, Mitchell said.

"They really like to push the ball in transition, so that will be a challenge for us to sharpen up our transition defense that we had some breakdowns in, in the last game, so we're going to be working hard on that," Mitchell said.

"(Grambling's) going to play some 2-3 zone defense which we also didn't do very well against in the last game, so it's a great opportunity for us to get prepared and see how far we can come."

So far so good, Goss said.

She has seen new focus from her Kentucky teammates since the players returned from the break.

"There's been a sense of urgency on that practice floor since we got back," Goss said. "The willingness to get better, the energy is definitely better."

Free-throw woes

Kentucky made just eight of its 19 free-throw attempts against Duke, which means the Cats will be ringing in the new year working on their foul shots.

"We're just trying to get reps, mental focus and mental preparation," Mitchell said.

On Friday morning after weight training and before practice, the UK players had to shoot 100 free throws.

"We're trying to get everybody at 80 percent this morning," Mitchell said. "If they don't shoot 80 percent this morning, they'll have to stay back after practice this evening."

The goal is for the team to shoot 78 percent every game for the rest of the season, he said. UK is hitting 66.6 percent 12 games in, seventh-best in the SEC.


Grambling St. at No. 6 Kentucky

When: 2 p.m. TV: None

Records: Grambling St. 3-7, UK 11-1

Series: First meeting

Radio: WLAP-AM 630



Starters: Joanna Miller, 5-8, Sr., G (18.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.7 spg); Jasmine Godboldt, 6-0, Grad., F (7.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Jessica Watkins, 6-0, Sr., F (6.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Dennisha Chambers, 5-6, Fr. G (8.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Victoya Ricks, 6-1, Sr., F (11.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg).

Key reserves: Tyler Anderson, 5-8, Sr., F (8.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Jordan Mitchell-Harmel, 5-9, Fr., F (5.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg); Dominique Patrick, 5-6, Fr., G (5.8 ppg); Channelle Fisher, 6-3, Fr., F (2.2 ppg); Jaylan Bodiford, 6-3, So., F (2.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg).


Starters: Bria Goss, 5-10, Jr., G (9.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Kastine Evans, 5-9, Sr. (11.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Janee Thompson, 5-6, So., PG; (10.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.3 apg); Samarie Walker, 6-1, Sr., F (10.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg); Makayla Epps, 5-10, Fr., G (5.5 ppg, 2.1 apg).

Key reserves: Jennifer O'Neill, 5-6, Jr., G (13.3 ppg, 3.5 apg); Linnae Harper, 5-8, Fr., G (7.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Azia Bishop, 6-3, Jr., F (6.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg); Bernisha Pinkett, 5-7, Sr., G (5.6 ppg); Jalleah Sydney, 6-2, Jr. (3.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg).