Kentucky women's basketball players put their alarm clocks to the test on Tuesday morning.
Two days removed from a loss to Georgia that ended the Wildcats' 34-game home winning streak, Matthew Mitchell summoned his team to the Joe Craft Center for a 6 a.m. practice. Later in the afternoon, UK would reconvene for another.
If you're thinking that two-a-days in the middle of conference play seem out of the ordinary, you're on the right track.
"It hadn't been common, but that was not a common performance from us (against Georgia)," Mitchell said.
A loss against a top-15 team is hardly cause for panic, but the way it happened troubled Mitchell. Against a UK team renowned for defense, Georgia scored 45 points and shot better than 50 percent from the field after halftime.
"Just you look at the film and we had some real chances to put that game away and win that game," Mitchell said. "You had double-digit leads in both halves and it was a series of plays where Georgia ended up being tougher than us. You credit them, but we just can't allow that to happen. We have too good of players and too much talent to perform that way."
It was a performance that Mitchell immediately blamed on himself, at least in part. With a week without a game to prepare for the Lady Bulldogs, the UK head coach had the completely reasonable thought process that giving his team a little rest in the midst of a grueling season was the right course of action.
"When you practice poorly like we did last week, which I take responsibility for, I was trying to hit the reset button and let them refresh at the midpoint, which wasn't the way we should've gone about it," Mitchell said.
UK has had unprecedented success over the last three seasons under Mitchell, but both the Cats and their coach are still learning. Every team is different, and it turns out opponents are treating this Kentucky team differently too. UK is coming off its first Southeastern Conference title in 30 seasons and has found that its foes are coming to play at a consistently higher level when the Cats are on the other bench.
"I think another that we're learning is that - it's a credit to the players and a sign of respect - teams have come to know that they have to play real hard (against UK)," Mitchell said. "I thought you saw a really, really tough effort from Georgia and our players are walking around like we have the game won and it's not that important."
Mitchell's goal in a Tuesday two-a-day was to remind his players just how important these games are. He said the effort in the morning practice was "pretty good," but it's impossible to draw any conclusions until the next time the Cats take the floor when it counts.
That will happen when No. 10 UK (19-3, 7-2 SEC) travels to face Arkansas (15-7, 3-6 SEC). It's the beginning of a six-game stretch during which the Cats will play five road games, including their next two. Of course UK would rather be in the comforts of Memorial Coliseum, but that's not Mitchell's primary worry.
"I'm more concerned right now with how we practice and how the players respond to that than the venue," Mitchell said.