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Matthew Mitchell didn't even need to get back to the Bluegrass to come up with a plan.
Within a couple hours of Kentucky's loss at LSU on Sunday, he had a clear picture of how to move forward. He wasted no time passing it along to his team.
"Before they left the airport after Baton Rouge, we really talked about what the week was going to look like," Mitchell said.
With an open date on Thursday ahead of a Sunday trip to face Missouri (11-8, 1-5 Southeastern Conference), the No. 14 Wildcats (15-4, 4-2 SEC) took an off day on Monday to regroup. Returning to practice early on Tuesday morning, they were challenged physically in the wake of a disappointing performance.
"We showed them on film where just the energy level and the approach to the game did not indicate how important one of these opportunities," Mitchell said. "You only get 16, and we didn't look like it was a very precious opportunity. We just tried to do some soul searching this week and figure out what we are going to do."
The soul searching is all targeted at addressing one core issue.
"Well, there is no in between with our team; it is truly a feast or famine proposition," Mitchell said. "When the energy is not there, we have no chance to make up for some of the mistakes that we are just going to make right now."
The mistakes, oftentimes, come from UK's talented but young frontcourt. Freshmen Alexis Jennings, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and Alyssa Rice have all had their moments, but defensive lapses have been inevitable. Searching for an explanation, Mitchell is certain of one thing.
"I'm there with them and it's not physical in my mind," Mitchell said. "They are capable of everything that they need to do and I cannot place my finger on it. My suspicion is or my guess is that they don't trust their ability to play the way I'm asking them to play."
That's not altogether surprising. Playing in UK's fast-paced, high-pressure system isn't easy, especially not for young post players who have never been asked to do what Mitchell is now demanding of them.
"It's just uncomfortable," Mitchell said, "and I don't think any of them want to get beat and that's just the process you have to go through to play here is the understanding that you have to play hard enough and you've gotta accept that people are going to go by you some and your teammates are going to pick you up, taking a charge or forcing the ball out or forcing one more pass, whatever our rotation is able to produce."
Not making things any easier has been Bria Goss' month-long absence and a season-ending injury to Janee Thompson. UK's depth and margin for error have suffered as a result, but the Cats aren't about to make any excuses.
"The situation exists as it exists right now and there is no changing the circumstances," Mitchell said. "The only thing we can change right now is how we are going to deal with these circumstances, what are our actions going to be."
To that end, Mitchell is undertaking a balancing act. On one hand, he has no choice but to accept mistakes. On the other, he has to correct them as they happen.
"It is a fight every day," Mitchell said. "We have a very good group of young players and we just have to coach them up and they have to play hard. We have tried to address who we are going to be and what kind of effort are we going to give on Sunday and that is really what we are focused in on right now. We are going to have to give a really good effort on Sunday to win."
Missouri may have lost six of seven games, but Mitchell has seen a team that could give the Cats fits if they aren't prepared.
"They are a team where their strengths will definitely stretch our defense and we have been working hard this week to make some headway in the area of our defense," Mitchell said. "We will sure get some sort of indication of how we have done this week because they will test us in every way possible."