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Cats turn in 'better effort' with tough stretch looming

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You would not have known it looking at the 73-37 final score, but Matthew Mitchell wasn't particularly happy with the way his team played against Morehead State.

The Wildcats shot poorly, hitting less than 40 percent from the field, but that wasn't what had him wanting more.  

"The team we played Friday in Morehead State really made us play a very physical game as far as being in-tune physically for the entire possession and I just thought that after looking at our film on Friday didn't have a great effort there," Mitchell said.

Less than 48 hours later, his team turned it around in a dominant 100-34 victory over USC Upstate on Sunday in Memorial Coliseum.

"I really wanted a better effort today, and I will have to look at the film to see, but I felt like we gave a more energetic performance today," Mitchell said. "I felt like it was a lot closer to where we are trying to get."

Riding that energy, the Cats led by double digits within six minutes and only added to the margin from there. All 13 players on the roster played at least six minutes and every one of them scored. UK forced 38 turnovers and scored 52 points off Spartan miscues.

"I think we just did a great job of playing defense and going out there and hustling and giving great effort," said A'dia Mathies, who led all scorers with 17 points. "I think that's what made the game so lopsided."

UK's hot shooting didn't hurt either. The Cats shot 50 percent from the field, hit a season-high 12 3s and proved their confidence was unshaken following Friday's effort.

"We do a lot of shooting and we know we all can make shots," Mathies said. "We see it in practice every day, everybody's knocking down baskets. So coming off a game like last game, we just had a bad shooting night so we got in the gym and put up extra shots and I think it showed today that we're capable of knocking down open shots."

With all those made shots creating a big lead, the Cats even got a chance to do some experimenting on defense, spending extended time in an attacking 2-3 zone.

"We gave up a ton of open shots and we didn't look as good as I hope we will at some point in time," Mitchell said. "I thought that they hustled in it today and we had a couple of groups out there that really looked good in it. When you have long, athletic, quick players, it can be very effective if you can hustle in the zone. You don't want a zone where you are resting and standing."

During Mitchell's tenure, the Cats have established an identity based on high-pressure man-to-man defense. But with difficult opponents like Louisville and Middle Tennessee State and a West Coast road trip awaiting the team in the coming weeks, the zone could prove useful.

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