Basketball Preview: UK Hoops looks to avoid injuries

By Nick Craddock

The UK women’s basketball team faced an ailment much worse than the H1N1 virus last year: the injury bug.

Sometimes injuries, along with suspensions, dwindled the Cats’ roster so much toward the end of the season that UK was forced to dress just seven players in their Feb. 22 contest against Louisiana State.

A small bench often leads to difficulties when dealing with foul trouble and fatigue, something UK head coach Matthew Mitchell is well aware of.

“It gives you the ability to do some things when you have a deeper roster,” Mitchell said. “You can play a little more up-tempo, and when you add talent, you can do some things offensively that we were challenged to do last year, like shooting the perimeter shot.”

If there’s one group of players the Cats can’t afford injuries to this season, it’s the frontcourt players. Currently, UK has Victoria Dunlap, Anna Cole, Brittany Henderson and guard/forward hybrid Lydia Watkins as their potential low post players. An injury to one of these four could wreck the team’s rotation and ultimately hinder the team’s ability to open up shots for the outside players.

WBB vs LSUDunlap believes a healthy frontcourt will enhance the chances of a dangerous offense.

“Who’s going to want to guard a 6-(foot)-7 girl (Cole) in the paint and want to deal with people on the outside?” Dunlap said.

Ironically, some players on last season’s roster stayed healthy despite the fact they were the most unlikely candidates to do so because of their history of injuries.

Mitchell said everyone on the roster this year is “in good shape right now” and ready to get play started.

Mitchell said injuries are not a valid excuse for UK’s 16-16 record last season, but that having healthy players, and more of them, obviously increases UK’s chances of winning this year.

“You hope to have good luck with injuries and we try to prepare for injuries through our strength and conditioning program,” Mitchell said. “Then we just have to go out and work hard every day and see how it all turns out.”

See more from the Kernel’s 2009 Basketball Preview:

Degree, NCAA tournament keep Patterson from NBA

Recruits aim to revive program

SEC rebounds from bad reputation

New coach gives sophomore a second chance at UK

The third time’s the charm: Harris, Stevenson cope with third coach in four years

Dunlap finds her voice as a leader

SEC East predictions

SEC West predictions