Mitchell Hopes Cats Will Player Harder, Smarter

Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell wants his team to play harder and smarter. If he needs to show them an example of what happens when they don’t, he should look no farther than the Wildcats’ 71-69 loss to Vanderbilt on January 28.

In that game, Kentucky raced out to a 12-5 lead, and led 20-11 after the first quarter. But the lead could have been even bigger.

“It really could have been 30-11 if we had really bared down and concentrated on the offensive end,” Mitchell said. 

Instead, Vanderbilt started the second quarter with a 14-4 run to take the lead in a game where they were clearly dominated in the first quarter.

“In the second quarter, we didn’t play with any fight or any fire,” Mitchell said. “So I think that was an important game for us to understand how we have to play and that every possession is precious. “

The loss to Vandy started a three-game losing skid for the Wildcats, a streak that was broken on Sunday when Kentucky topped LSU 70-58. The Wildcats have not played since Sunday, and have used their bye week to rest and to work on the things that have ailed them of late.

Namely, Kentucky has spent this week focused on defense.

“We continue to seek defensive improvement,” Mitchell said. “We were trying to do a few too many things a few weeks back. It worked in the Tennessee game, then we lost three in a row that were really close and I felt like it was our defense that wasn’t solid enough.”

Kentucky is 16-6 overall and 5-6 in the SEC heading into Sunday’s rematch with Vanderbilt in Nashville (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network). Mitchell thinks his team understands what happen the first time around.

“I think that they understand where we lost the game,” he said. “It was a lack of intensity and not treating every possession as being so important.”

The Wildcats find themselves in a tie for ninth place in the SEC with only five regular season games left before the postseason begins. Mitchell is trying to get his team ready for a postseason run.

“Our team is working hard, they want to win, they’re motivated to win and I’m seeing some really great things from them,” he said. “We’re going to try to turn that into a win on Sunday.”