Wildcats Hope to Learn from Tight Games

It’s been an exciting week for the Kentucky women’s basketball team. The Wildcats have played two games this week, and those contests have been decided by a combined three points. Kentucky topped Tennessee 64-63 on Monday night, then lost 71-69 against Vanderbilt on Thursday in a pair of nail-biting finishes.

While those games may not be great for one’s nerves, Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell is hoping the experience of playing in those games can help some of the younger members of his team as the season progresses.

“That is the key, we must learn from them,” Mitchell said of the close games. “We have a senior and junior in Janee (Thompson) and Makayla (Epps) who just have to really make sure their experience is transferred to the other players.”

Thompson, one of just two seniors on the roster, also knows that the team must learn from these games.

“It’s extremely valuable for where we are,” Thompson says of the tight contests. “We have somewhat of an inexperienced team and moments like those are good for us to learn from and good for younger people to experience because we’re going to be in those positions again.”

Kentucky is now 15-4 overall and 4-4 in the SEC after Thursday’s loss to Vandy. The 12th-ranked Wildcats now hit the road for four of their next five games, beginning with a trip to Gainesville to face Florida on Sunday.

While Thompson knows that she and Epps must show leadership, she also knows that her younger teammates need to step up their games. “Each player has to take accountability for their own game and make sure they’re ready to play,” she said.

Mitchell wishes his team was further along at this point, but he plans to keep working with his younger players. “As a coach, you just have to do everything that you can to construct practice in a way that is going to benefit (the younger players),” he said. “They have to go make something happen with their fundamentals. It doesn’t have to be a super play, just a real simple play done correctly.”

Kentucky’s three freshmen have had their struggles this week. Batouly Camara, Maci Morris and Taylor Murray have combined to score 19 points in the two games, while playing 119 minutes. That inefficiency is hurting Kentucky’s offensive attack, and that attack has played a key role in the Wildcats’ success this season.

“Offensively, we are just a little bit paralyzed right now and we have to just show it to them and go out and practice,” Mitchell said of his freshmen. It is tough as a freshman sometimes when you get to where you are feeling like you are too far behind the eight ball to think the sky is falling and that they may never come out of this. But they just have to practice and they can and hopefully they will.”

Thompson also knows that little things can go a long way in terms of the team’s improvement. “Practice is really important and executing the game plan is really important,” she said. “If we can do those things, we’ll be fine.”