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UK Hoops falls to LSU, looks ahead to NCAA Tournament

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Following a 72-61 loss to LSU in the SEC Tournament, UK Hoops will wait to learn its NCAA Tournament seeding on March 12. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Following a 72-61 loss to LSU in the SEC Tournament, UK Hoops will wait to learn its NCAA Tournament seeding on March 12. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
After Kentucky's come-from-behind 71-67 win over Florida in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference women's basketball tournament the old March adage of "survive and advance" resurfaced.

One day later, UK Hoops fell to fourth-seeded LSU 61-72 for the second time this season. They didn't survive LSU's initial blow in the first half, and they won't advance to the conference championship game for the third straight season, but there is plenty of March basketball yet to be played.

Saturday's game wasn't exactly a thing of beauty. The two teams combined to hit just 15 field goals in the first half, and LSU finished the ball game with more free throw attempts than field goal attempts. But just as Kentucky didn't care that they defeated Florida while shooting a season-low 29.7 percent from the field, LSU will take a win over the SEC regular-season champions any way they can get it.

It's now up to the Wildcats to regroup and see what else March may hold.

"My hope for them is they're never satisfied," UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I think when you do that in life, you have a lot of problems. If you get to the point of success and you stop working, I don't think that's a good formula for them as they go forward."

With its spot in the NCAA Tournament all but set in stone, the Wildcats will now have a week off before learning the first step in their path to Denver for the NCAA Final Four. After Saturday's loss, the team was together in its belief that the first step in that trip, even before the first game, would be in the same place it has been since the summer.

The gym.

"We need to get in the gym and get some shots up and get (our) confidence back," senior guard Keyla Snowden said. "I think a lot of people are lacking confidence in their shots (and) their abilities right now. The main thing (is) we just have to play together."

Playing together is what paced the Wildcats to a program-record 13 regular-season conference wins. Playing together is what won Kentucky its first SEC regular season championship since 1982. And playing together is what will enable the Cats to achieve their ultimate goal.

"Our main goal is winning an NCAA Championship and that's still available," said Snowden, who hit a season-high five 3-pointers Saturday. "We just have to want it."

For Mitchell and company, falling short of winning an SEC Tournament Championship hurts. But it isn't the end-all be-all for them and their season.

The Wildcats still look strong in their hopes of attaining a top-three or four seed in the Big Dance, and will be a formidable matchup for opponents that have not seen Kentucky's pressure defense as many times as the teams of the SEC have. Let's not forget this Kentucky team defeated Louisville and Duke earlier this season, and led at No. 3 Notre Dame with five minutes to play in nonconference action.

"I think our team is built for tournament time," Snowden said. "We just have to use that to our advantage and play hard every possession."

Snowden said after the game the loss to LSU was a learning experience. How much, and what Kentucky decides to take away from Saturday's loss will be important. What is also important is that they decide, as Mitchell says, "how special they want to be."

"We're already a special team," Mitchell said. "We've already done something that hasn't been done in 30 years. ... Today is disappointing, but we need to bounce back and really try to focus in practice and try to take advantage of some of this time we have off to maybe regain some confidence shooting."

If they can do that, what's to say the Cats can't survive and advance when it really counts?

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