UK Women's Basketball

Scouting report: UK women hope to be back in SEC title hunt

Kentucky  head coach Matthew Mitchell talks to his players in the first  half of a semifinal women's Southeastern Conference tournament NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina  Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Duluth, Ga. (AP Photo/Jason Getz)
Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell talks to his players in the first half of a semifinal women's Southeastern Conference tournament NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Duluth, Ga. (AP Photo/Jason Getz) AP

Coach: Matthew Mitchell, 200-100 overall (170-71 in seven seasons at UK; 30-29 in two years at Morehead State)

Last season: 26-9 overall (10-6 SEC, finished fourth overall and tournament runner-up); lost in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16; final national rankings of No. 10 (Associated Press) and No. 11 (ESPN/USA Today)

What's at stake: Even though it finished as SEC Tournament runner-up again and in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, Kentucky felt like it took a step back last season in a year many (including its own coach) thought the Cats would break down the Final Four door.

UK returns three of its top five scorers, including leading scorer Jennifer O'Neill along with assists leader Janee Thompson, blocks leader Azia Bishop and best on-ball defender Bria Goss, but the Cats lost two fifth-year senior post players and will be trying to fill their spots in some cases with true freshmen.

Injuries and personnel — among other things — kept UK from being able to implement what had become its signature 40 minutes of dread defense but it will be back in full force this season with an "attack" mentality on every play, offense or defense, Mitchell said.

Also, UK might be attacking with four or five guards on the floor at once.

There might be some growing pains and the schedule isn't so user friendly (two games each against Tennessee and South Carolina, the league's best teams in the preseason) but UK is hopeful to be right back where it was: in the hunt for a conference championship and maybe even more.

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