UK Women's Basketball

UK women searching for consistency

Kentucky Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell tried to fire up his team in the second half as Kentucky defeated Baylor 74-64 on Monday November 17, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell tried to fire up his team in the second half as Kentucky defeated Baylor 74-64 on Monday November 17, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

Flight delays and a crazy travel schedule have left Kentucky little time for actual practice.

And even though the No. 13 Cats have managed to go 6-1 during their opening stretch, including wins over a few likely NCAA Tournament teams, they still don't feel like they're where they need to be yet.

"We've been very inconsistent so far," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of his team, which just returned from the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas Virgin Islands with a tournament trophy.

"We've had good halves and bad halves, and we just have to get to a spot where we can level out and we can know what we're going to bring every game."

Because of travel issues, Mitchell gave UK the day off on Monday and they were back at practice on Tuesday night in preparation for a game against Northern Kentucky (4-3) on Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum.

Then UK gets a few days to really dig into practice before a game at No. 7 Louisville on Sunday.

It needs all the practice it can get, the head coach said.

"We put the team in a tough spot," Mitchell said of the schedule, which included a trip to Central Michigan before the Cats traveled to the Virgin Islands. "The first seven games were really, really difficult where once we closed down preseason practice, the first seven games, we just didn't have a lot of practice time. This team needs it.

"Over the next two and a half weeks as we lead up to Christmas break, we really need to take advantage of our time on the court and take some steps forward as a team."

It's not often that players actually crave practice, but two UK sophomores said they're ready to get in the gym and get better.

"This practice time is going to be essential," guard Makayla Epps said. "We took a loss early which lets us know where we are as a team and what we have to improve on. We'll get some practice time now, and he's going to make us work, which will make us better in the long run."

The wins in St. Thomas were nice, but Kentucky learned a lot about itself in the loss against Illinois in the tournament opener.

"We just have to get back to practice and work on the same things, just try to get better so we can be the fastest team, the most disruptive team in the country," Linnae Harper said.

Those goals Harper talked about — being the fastest and most disruptive team — don't just happen, Mitchell said.

UK — which is last in the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense allowing, 70 points per game; last in field goal percentage defense (40.9 percent); and second from the bottom in three-point field goal defense (31.2 percent) — has to get back to doing what it does well.

It has to practice a certain way to play a certain way. And not enough practice lately has been a problem.

"Our defense has to work together as a team, and so we're vulnerable when we don't do that and when we don't push the basketball in transition offensively and use our depth and our speed," he said. "Then we suddenly become ordinary."

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