UK Women's Basketball

Willingness to take charges 'key to our team' Kentucky's Mitchell says

Kentucky Wildcats guard Jennifer O'Neill (0) celebrated with Janee Thompson (3) left, Alyssa Rice (45) and  Bria Goss, (13), right, as Kentucky defeated  Baylor 74-64 on Monday November 17, 2014  in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats guard Jennifer O'Neill (0) celebrated with Janee Thompson (3) left, Alyssa Rice (45) and Bria Goss, (13), right, as Kentucky defeated Baylor 74-64 on Monday November 17, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

Taking charges is a painful art form: standing firm and barely flinching as an opposing player plows into you, through you, on top of you.

Kentucky took six charges against Morehead State on Wednesday. And after each one, UK's women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell leapt off the bench cheering wildly.

"It's very, very important that we're good at it," he said Friday before the No. 13 Cats head to Central Michigan. The veteran Chippewas, led by reigning Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Crystal Bradford, excel at lowering their heads and getting to the basket.

"They run a lot of drive-and-kick stuff that I think charges will be available in the game, we just have to take them," Mitchell said.

He was happy to see UK get in the stance and take the hits against Morehead because he saw some players avoiding them against Baylor two days before.

"What we were doing some in the Baylor game is bailing on the charge and moving," he explained. "We were in position and you've got to take the hit, let the officials know you're there.

"It's hard to be the best charge-taking team. You really have to not mind the contact."

Aside from a few missteps against Baylor, UK has shown a willingness to take one for the team early in the season — some more than others.

First-year forward Kyvin Goodin-Rogers took two in the first game alone.

She rivals Bria Goss, who has three this season and has led the team in charges drawn each of the three seasons she's been at Kentucky.

In her career, Goss has drawn 74 charges. She drew 30 of the Cats' 57 last season, followed by Jennifer O'Neill's 12.

But what Mitchell is most pleased about is seeing young post players like Goodin-Rogers and Alyssa Rice being willing to take the charge.

"They're not fatal; they won't kill you if you'll take them," Mitchell said he tells his players. "We have two of them that are really searching for them and trying to get that done. It's key to our team."

In the past two seasons, neither forward Denesha Stallworth nor Samarie Walker was credited with taking a charge, according to UK's unofficial count.

Having players willing to do it will make UK a much better team, Mitchell argued. He only needs to point to the Cats' Southeastern Conference championship season in 2012 when they took 62 charges to opponents' 22.

"We've got a lot of people taking them and if we can get everybody taking them, we'll be a better defensive team," he said.

Kentucky drills it in some way almost daily, but emphasizes it most in a drill called "hustle" in which players take the charge, then have to dive for the loose ball.

"Early on, it was the first thing we'd do every day because I knew how important it was going to be," he said. "We just couldn't pay lip service to it. We had to instill it."

Cats sign No. 12 class

Kentucky officially announced four players in its 2015 signing class, which is ranked No. 12 nationally by the All-Star Girls Report.

It's the sixth straight Kentucky class ranked No. 20 or better and includes two in-state stars in guards Maci Morris and Morgan Rich.

"Kentucky got four good recruits," ASGR analyst Bret McCormick said. "Batouly Camara is the headliner. She has a college-ready body and a very high motor. She could develop into something special."

Camara, a 6-foot-2 forward from New York City, was rated the ninth-best post player in the country by ESPN and the No. 2 power forward by ASGR.

"I would characterize her as a power post player, very good athlete, can really move, can run and great explosive jumping ability, but real tough, really well put together," Mitchell said. "She is very, very strong and is very energetic on the court."

Batouly chose the Wildcats over Connecticut, Louisville, Michigan, Virginia, Oklahoma, Princeton and Northwestern.

Morris, a 6-foot shooting guard from Bell County, chose UK over Louisville, Marquette and Dayton. She averaged 22 points and 9.5 rebounds last season.

Allen County-Scottsville's Rich, a 6-foot left-hander, is an explosive athlete, Mitchell said. Rich averaged 20.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.2 blocks last season before tearing her right anterior cruciate ligament in February.

Rich chose Kentucky over Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky.

Taylor Murray, a 5-foot-6 point guard from Odenton, Md., averaged 22.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season. She chose UK over Penn State and West Virginia.

Murray's 9.3 steals per game last season are the number that stands out most to Mitchell, though.

"Taylor Murray is a Kentucky point guard," he said. "She wants to play defense first. She will get her nose up on the ball. ... She is very fast, very explosive end to end with the basketball and does not turn the ball over."

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