By Alex Forkner | @AlexFork3
In the last outing before the calendar rolls into 2013, UK hoops showed a little New Year’s resoluteness in fending off the Marist Red Foxes for a 78-56 victory.
UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said preparing for a team like Marist in one day was a tough task.
“Their offense is designed to beat our defense,” he said.
And Marist’s offense did just that, outfoxing the Cats for stretches of the game, even leading late in the first half. The Red Foxes limited their first half turnovers to a mere 10, not allowing UK, only scoring 13 points off those turnovers, to run rampant in the fast break.
The result was a scant eight-point halftime lead for UK, unfamiliar territory for a team used to having a win practically sealed after the first 20 minutes.
But, as millions of people will ponder their identity and consider what the New Year has in store for them, the Cats found the toughness and grit to keep Marist, a team with experience playing top-ranked teams, at bay.
UK is the fourth ranked team Marist has played this year. The Red Foxes lost by 11 to No. 14 Purdue, by 13 to No. 12 Oklahoma and by 42 to not-of-this-world UConn, who likely will take the No. 1 ranking after pasting top-ranked Stanford in Palo Alto. So, Marist knows what it takes to at least hang with talented teams.
And a lot of UK’s talent showed up in the second half. Jennifer O’Neill and DeNesha Stallworth both netted career highs of 21 points. The two combined to score 23 of their 42 points in the second half.
A’dia Mathies managed to bounce back from bouncing her head on the floor and getting hit in the funny bone — “Wasn’t too funny,” Mathies said — in the first half, finishing with 10 points while moving up to sole possession of the No. 4 spot on UK’s all-time scoring list.
The Cats stuck to who they are, forcing 17 second half turnovers, turning those into 22 points.
The win, hard-fought unlike Friday’s 90-23 shellacking of Alcorn State, is probably beneficial for the team heading into SEC play, where foes will be just as physical, if not more so, than Marist.
As for New Year’s resolutions, Mitchell had a few for himself.
“I want to gain 20 pounds of lean muscle mass. I want to eat at more Mexican restaurants. I really like Mexican food, and didn’t make it to many in 2012,” he said. “I’m also going to wear my cowboy hat more often.”
And his players?
“I don’t want to gain any weight,” O’Neill said.
“No cowboy hats,” Mathies said, before adding, “Win the SEC and a national championship.”
If the Cats are truly resolute, maybe 2013 will be a good year for them.