Wildcats Using Simple Approach During Tough Week

Many times in the world of athletics, coaches will overthink things when they are presented with difficult circumstances. Sometimes, coaches will “switch things up” to try and confront what appears to be a difficult task or situation.

And then there’s Kentucky women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell. With his team in the midst of a tough span of three Southeastern Conference games in seven days, Mitchell is not trying to complicate things for his team. On the contrary, he’s trying to make things as simple as possible.

“You just do your best as a coach to try to keep them focused,” Mitchell said on Wednesday. “We can’t worry about anything other than trying to keep them really positive and really hungry for learning.”

Kentucky is coming off of a hard-fought, emotional win over No. 19 Tennessee on Monday night. In a game that went back and forth throughout the second half, the Wildcats were able to claim a 64-63 victory, beginning this difficult three-game stretch in style.

“The win over your rival, it should count for more than it counts, but it just doesn’t,” Mitchell said of the win over Tennessee. “It’s our fourth win in the conference against three losses. We need to fight for improvement.”

Kentucky will not have long to wait to show that potential improvement. The Wildcats are back on the Memorial Coliseum floor on Thursday, when they face Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. ET (SEC Network+).

The short time between games does not allow for many changes to be made, and Mitchell realizes that. He knows he has limited time with his team this week, and he’s trying to take advantage of that time, while not overwhelming them with new information.

“(We) went real short yesterday,” Mitchell said of Tuesday’s practice. “(Wednesday), we need to improve our defensive positioning.”

Kentucky is 15-4 on the season and 4-3 in the SEC. The Wildcats are currently tied for third in the conference with three other teams (Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi State), while Tennessee and Vanderbilt are at 3-3 in the league. 

While there is still a lot of basketball to be played, this week could be a pivotal one for the Wildcats. After Thursday’s game, Kentucky will hit the road to face Florida on Sunday. That turnaround provides yet another tight window for Mitchell and his team. But again, the coach is keeping it simple.

“If they’ll just get in the right position and hustle, good things will happen for us,” Mitchell said. “But we’ve got to be sharper than we’ve been. That’s hard with an inexperienced group.”

Mitchell hopes that his simplistic approach will be the thing that gets his young group through this treacherous week of games.