Cats Working to Return to Overachieving Ways at LSU
Matthew Mitchell had plenty of time to think about how to address his team after a disappointing loss.
The Wildcats had a built-in day off the Monday following Kentucky’s defeat against Ole Miss, so when Mitchell spoke to his team at the start of practice early Tuesday morning, he knew what he would say.
What he settled on was quite straightforward.
“Listen, good teams every now and again play poorly and that is what happened on Sunday,” Mitchell said. “What you have to do is you have to own up to that and face the facts.”
The Cats, in Mitchell’s mind, temporarily got away from what propelled them to a 15-2 start and a top-20 national ranking. The onus is on Kentucky to make a return to that identity when the No. 16/15 Cats (15-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on LSU (11-5, 2-2 SEC) Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
“We are a team that overachieves,” Mitchell said. “We have to be overachievers. We are not showing up blowing you away with sheer talent. We have to overachieve and come with tremendous focus and energy and when you don’t do that you get the result that we got on Sunday.”
The Tigers will surely be ready to punish the Cats if they don’t come ready, but Mitchell likes what he has seen from his team.
“We have another big challenge ahead of us,” Mitchell said. “We worked hard (Tuesday), I was proud of the team and how they bounced back with a great practice yesterday morning. We need to have another great session (Wednesday) and it will be important for us to go down and earn a victory at LSU. It is going to be a tough game.”
Tough games on the road have been the norm for the Cats, who have faced three ranked opponents – Mississippi State, Louisville and Tennessee – in their three true road games. In the first two, UK was unable to dig out of big early holes. In the most recent – an impressive victory over the Volunteers last Thursday – the Cats built a double-digit first-quarter lead and held on even as Taylor Murray went down with a knee injury and Maci Morris and Rhyne Howard fouled out.
“Now, you start to learn from the success that you had,” Mitchell said. “If you have a challenge, you try to bounce back from that, if you had something that worked, you try to lock back in and replicate that. LSU is a very similar team and this will be a very similar game to Tennessee. It is a tough place to play, they are always well prepared and well coached and big, strong, athletic and disruptive.”
The question heading into this trip is about the availability of UK’s two senior stars, Morris and Murray. Murray played through a bone bruise in her knee in the Ole Miss loss, though she didn’t score in 35 minutes, and Morris sat out with a knee injury of her own. Mitchell says Murray is “trending in the right direction” to play and Morris will be a game-time decision.
Whether they play or not, UK’s task will be the same.
“We are so fortunate that we have done such a good job of putting ourselves in a great position,” Mitchell said. “We just need to stay the course and keep working hard and earn every victory that we can and maybe the light at the end of the tunnel starts to show up there towards the end of the season. You can get really energized for postseason play if you can work really hard during these dog days to put yourself in that position.
“So it is part of the game. We have had very, very few seasons where we have went unscathed throughout the season without no injuries. You just have to stay the course and keep working hard and our team has done that all season long and I expect us to do the same now.”