Women’s basketball to return to ’40 Minutes of Dread’


Junior guard Taylor Murray gets ready to pass the ball during the game against California on Thursday, December 21, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky was defeated 62-52. Photo by Olivia Beach | Staff

Jake Maynard

Full court press is back in the Bluegrass, and Kentucky has a very successful history with stifling defenses under head women’s basketball coach Matthew Mitchell.

The Wildcats defense was dubbed “40 Minutes of Dread” back in 2012 for a reason. That season saw an NCAA-high and school-record 939 turnovers forced by the Cats. The best performance was in Kentucky’s 76-40 win over Mississippi State, when Kentucky forced 33 turnovers from 20 steals.

Mitchell knows how to run a defense, but he doesn’t have to run it by himself this year. Former UK standout point guard Amber Smith has moved from director of player development to assistant coach.

Smith was known for her defensive prowess during her days as a player.

“We were a little worried early in the summer, she was our best on-ball defender at 29-years-old,” Mitchell said jokingly at media day. “I told her, I was like, ‘Amber, your eligibility is completed.’”

Mitchell said he believes that Smith’s addition is “invaluable.” He raved about her passion and dedication to Kentucky, attributing this to her own time rocking the blue and white uniforms.

Mitchell sounded extremely confident in the addition to the coaching staff.

“We are in really good shape with Amber being back on staff,” he said.

UK doesn’t have a player taller than 6-foot-3 this year (Dorie Harrison and Nae Nae Cole), but the Wildcats do have plenty of athleticism and length. Mitchell talked about how the team has plenty of long, explosive players between 6-foot and 6-foot-3.

Mitchell said he thinks the team does have “the athleticism and the personnel to get on the attack.”

Mitchell said that he’s seen his players enjoy playing an aggressive full-court defense, “but it’s not always fun getting to that spot and it’s a lot of hard work.”

A full court press requires a lot of conditioning to execute properly, but running a defense this demanding for a full 40 minutes requires a certain mindset as well. No one wants to run for an extra 47 feet when they can wait for their opponent to walk to them.

The hungry, determined mindset it takes to embrace the extra work of this defense is something the team is building in practice. The team yells, claps and cheers at everything that happens. The energy in practice alone is infectious, but come game time, the Cats are going to become explosive.