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Competitiveness Mitchell's only concern after Alabama loss

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UK is looking to rebound from a 57-55 loss to Alabama on Thursday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) UK is looking to rebound from a 57-55 loss to Alabama on Thursday. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
Matthew Mitchell never misses a chance to express his gratitude for the position he is in as Kentucky's head coach, but he found a new reason to be thankful on Thursday night.

UK had just suffered a disappointing 57-55 upset at the hands of Alabama. Following a nearly two-hour meeting with his coaching staff, Mitchell went home to get a few hours of sleep and forget about what had just happened.

It was in that moment he realized how fortunate he is to have won 125 games since 2009-10.

"For me, I am glad that we have won a lot around here because I don't sleep at all on a performance like last night's," Mitchell said.

It wasn't Daisha Simmons' layup with 2.3 seconds that had him tossing and turning, rather a troubling absence of the fire that has come to define UK Hoops during his tenure.

"I was surprised with just the complete lack of effort and competitiveness last night and it was just all across the board," Mitchell said. "It just can't happen. Clearly there's an atmosphere that exists now that people think that's acceptable and that's 100 percent on me."

With that in mind, Matthew Mitchell returned to the Joe Craft Center early on Friday morning and got back to work. He drew up plans for Friday's practice, but his priorities have little to do with Xs and Os.

"Everything will be competitive-based in practice and we'll figure out who we can take the floor with on Sunday afternoon," Calipari said. "Between now and Sunday afternoon it is all about who is going to compete and who is going to work hard and who is going to play really, really hard for Kentucky. Hopefully, it's everybody."

Against Alabama, Samarie Walker and Bria Goss were the only two Wildcats who consistently turned in the kind of work Mitchell is demanding. Walker had 18 points and seven rebounds in 21 foul-limited minutes and Goss 14 points and six rebounds.

Now, Mitchell will be looking for more Cats to join them.

"If we can find a few players that will really, really compete hard I think a lot of things will flow from that," Mitchell said. "Until we get that straightened out, you can have all the talent in the world, if you don't play hard and don't compete and it doesn't mean something to you to win then I don't know who you are going to beat."

UK's next opponent certainly won't make life easy.

Arkansas (15-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) will enter Memorial Coliseum for a matchup with UK (15-4, 3-3 SEC) on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET having lost three of four, but don't let that fool you.

"Well, they have really, really great ball-screen offense and they put a lot of pressure and stress on your defense," Mitchell said. "They have some tough, aggressive players. They have a point guard in (Calli) Berna, who I think is one of the better ones in our league."

Berna is averaging a league-high 7.7 assists per game, most often finding freshman leading scorer Jessica Jackson (16.4 points per game), but game-planning for the Razorbacks isn't Mitchell's primary concern.

"Quite frankly, we can't worry about Arkansas this afternoon," Mitchell said on Friday. "We have to 100 percent try to see who is going to have a chance to play against Arkansas and that will be all about competing in practice this afternoon."

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