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UK Hoops ready to 'ride again' after end of winning streak

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Matthew Mitchell and the Wildcats saw a 17-game winning streak end at South Carolina on Thursday night. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Matthew Mitchell and the Wildcats saw a 17-game winning streak end at South Carolina on Thursday night. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
During Kentucky's 17-game winning streak, opponents tried any number of things to take the Wildcats out of their game.

As his team prepared to put that streak on the line at South Carolina, Matthew Mitchell knew how the Gamecocks would attack. They were going to be tough, they were going to be physical and, just like any of UK's previous 17 outings, it was about responding.

Unfortunately, they were unable to answer the bell effectively enough and the Cats lost for the first time in two months, 55-50.

"It was just physical contact on every play," Mitchell said. "We have no control over that. That is totally out of our hands on how the rules are administered in the game, so we have to do a better job of adjusting to that."

When the Cats got bumped, their reaction was to wonder why there was no whistle.

"That was the most disappointing thing for me," Mitchell said. "Just the look in our eye last night was not one that says, 'Hey I'm going to get determined and respond.' "

With a game against LSU (12-7, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) coming up on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum, No. 5/4 UK (18-2, 6-1 SEC) won't have to wait long for another chance to respond under similar circumstances. The Tigers twice defeated the Cats last season - 61-51 in the regular season and 72-61 in the conference tournament - using a rugged style UK couldn't overcome.

"They were really, really physical and tough games," Mitchell said. "A lot of contact in both games and we didn't do a great job then."

The Tigers lost four of their top five scorers from last season's NCAA Tournament team, but have actually increased their scoring average by more than nine more points per game in 2012-13. Forward Theresa Plaisance - the SEC's top scorer - leads the way at 18.3 points per game, up from her 4.5 average from last season, to go with her 7.9 rebounding average.

"They are well-balanced and can score a lot and are capable of putting points on the scoreboard," Mitchell said. "I think they're a really good SEC team with good athletes, good players, very well-coached so it will be another tough one Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum."

It might be tough, but it's a challenge Mitchell is glad his team will have to take on.

"I think we'll do better and I think last night can be real valuable for us if we can adjust and make sure that we learn the lesson that needs to be learned from that tough loss," Mitchell said.

That's certainly a different tune from the one he was singing after the defeat.

"It was a bad, bad mood," Mitchell said. "I was in a terrible mood coming back. We were not happy to lose. The team has done such a great job. We had not tasted defeat in a long time, so it was not a happy occasion."

On the flight back to Lexington, Mitchell made sure to impart to his team how he felt. But no matter how he disappointed he may have been, he wouldn't allow himself to succumb to emotion and undo everything his team has accomplished.

"You have to react appropriately and the players have done a real good job for a long, long stretch this season and so I don't think this is anytime for drastic measures like that," Mitchell said. "I just think the sense of urgency from the players needs to be, let's learn a lesson from a really, really physical, tough game and if we're in that position again, which I hope that we're not, but if we are we have to really respond differently than we did last night."

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