Thompson, Wildcats Know They Must Do the Little Things

With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Kentucky women’s basketball team still has no idea how it will finish in the wide-open SEC standings. The Wildcats also know that they can’t focus on things such as the postseason, because they have seen what a lack of focus has done to the team in 2016.

Kentucky was in a good spot in the conference race after beating Tennessee at home on Jan. 25. However, the Wildcats promptly lost their next three games to fall from 4-3 in the conference to 4-6. 

However, Kentucky has bounced back, winning its last two games to even its SEC record at 6-6. And with four games left before the SEC Tournament, the Wildcats know that anything can happen.

Kentucky visits Mississippi State on Thursday night (7 p.m., SEC Network) in a battle of ranked teams. Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell knows that his team needs to give its best effort in each and every game that remains.

“Yeah, we were losing games – the Florida game – not to take anything away from Florida because they were outstanding, but we did not hustle on defense in that game and they did not see our best defensive effort,” Mitchell said. “The Vanderbilt game – they didn’t see it (UK’s best defensive effort) – the first Auburn game, against Ole Miss. Those are four of our six losses where you just didn’t see maximum effort.”

Senior point guard knows that her team has talent, but that its margin for error is very slim.

“We have to do everything well,” she says of the Wildcats. “And that’s boxing out, talking on defense. The biggest change in what we’ve been doing is our focus defensively, and that has to be our focus every game. I think our offense comes a lot easier to everybody on the team when we get a good start defensively.”

Thompson knows that she and her fellow upperclassmen must show the younger players what it means to play hard at all times.

“It took some of our younger players a while to understand the level of intensity they have to play with all the time,” she said. “There is no resting, there isn’t a second that you can’t always be on fire, talking to the next person. I think we’re starting to understand that. I think Makayla (Epps) and I have stepped up and tried to lead by example.”

As Kentucky prepares to face yet another ranked opponent, Mitchell hopes his team is starting to realize that every game, not just those against ranked opponents, must be given equal weight.

“You can’t get jacked up for that game (against South Carolina) and loaf around in some game that you deem not to be important and that was just really immature of us and the process of time and experience is helping them mature,” he said. ‘”Hopefully, we won’t show up with any more poor defensive efforts because if we do it is going to shorten our opportunities and we just can’t do that right now. We will focus a lot of defensive intensity and working to get better there. It is an on-going process.”

A process that will continue on Thursday night in Starkville, Miss.