Preparation Paves Way for Impressive Offensive Showing
The Kentucky Wildcats gave everything they had in the days leading up to a Sunday matchup with Colorado.
In Matthew Mitchell’s mind, they deserved to be rewarded.
“They really worked extremely hard the last three days,” Mitchell said. “It was a lot of fun to coach them and watch them work so hard. Coming into the game, we really wanted to get something out of it. I wanted them to reap some benefit from their great preparation.”
The Cats (4-0) saw their work pay off with an 86-61 win over visiting Colorado (2-1).
“We spent a lot of time on our offense the last three days and I think that’s the best we’ve executed in a very long time,” Mitchell said.
UK (4-0) shot 34 of 70 (48.6 percent) for the game, hitting 11 of 18 from 3-point range in the process. The Cats committed only 11 turnovers and had 24 assists, with Janee Thompson, Makayla Epps and Taylor Murray combining for 17.
“I give the players just so much credit,” Mitchell said. “They came a long way in three days and then you see the turnovers are down, the assisted baskets. Those are all good signs for this team because I don’t think we’re just going to show up and totally blow people out with talent and depth. So we’re going to have to make sure we don’t beat ourselves, make sure that we are crisp and able to execute.”
Mitchell, as he has seemingly every time he’s spoken publicly this season, raved postgame about the coachability of his team. Thompson – UK’s senior leader – has seen the same thing.
“We got a lot of new faces and they’re just so willing to do whatever it is that he asks of them,” Thompson said. “That’s everybody on the team. If we have a focus, if he sets a focus for the week or that day or that practice or a game, we’ve really been able to lock and focus on it.”
As part of UK’s preparation this week, Thompson’s role shifted somewhat on Sunday. Mitchell elected to take the ball out of her hands, but it wasn’t because she’s not playing well.
“She’s shooting the ball better than anybody on the team right now,” Mitchell said. “So I really asked her to go in this game really more off the ball and let Taylor and Makayla run more the one. And it was a big adjustment for our team because she did a great job at the one.
Thompson rewarded her coach with 17-point performance, including 3-of-5 shooting behind the arc. If the rest of the Cats had any trouble with the adjustment, they certainly didn’t show it. UK was a well-oiled machine, with all nine players who saw the floor scoring, five reaching double figures and eight scoring at least seven points.
“I think that’s what we’ll need to be,” Mitchell said. “I think we’ll need to be a well-rounded team. I think Makayla Epps will get a lot of attention and as Janee plays. People will figure out who’s good. If everybody can score, it helps out a lot and people can’t key on you as much.”
If you were going to pick nits in UK’s performance, you’d likely point to the 40 points Colorado scored after halftime as a sign that the defense still needs work. Mitchell doesn’t dispute that, but it also concerns him little.
“This game was great because we worked on the offense (and) the offense really showed up,” Mitchell said. “There’s clearly some things on defense that we need to get better, but I think they’re going to work hard at defense and give great effort. So I would say we’ll end up being a good defensive team.”
All it will take, in Mitchell’s mind, is a little time and attention.
“What I’ve noticed with this team is whatever you spend time on, they’re going to get,” Mitchell said. “You’re going to get results. They’re going to do what you ask them to do.”