End of regular season more a slog than race for UK Hoops

By Joshua Huff

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It’s about time to start conceiving a notion of UK Hoops ending the regular season on a five-game losing streak.

After Monday’s loss to Ole Miss down in Oxford, Miss., the thought of UK entering the SEC Tournament winless in its final five games seems plausible. With a trip to Arkansas on deck, and a season-finale matchup against South Carolina, the odds of UK winning either of those games appears bleak.

The nagging Achilles injury to Makayla Epps, an injury that caused her to miss some of the Ole Miss game, doesn’t bode well for a UK team that misses the production of Janee Thompson. However, the reemergence of guard Linnae Harper is a welcome sight. She finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, a solid performance after a slew of poor games.

But for a team that opened the year with early season wins against Baylor and Louisville, the race to the finish is beginning to be more of a slog than a sprint. Injuries, lack of depth and an inability to harness any form of physicality has doomed the Cats.

What UK needs is for head coach Matthew Mitchell to take a page out of fellow UK coach John Calipari and insert a “tweak.” Last season, Calipari’s team limped into the SEC Tournament then proceeded to blaze through the competition and through the NCAA Tournament, which it nearly won.

Though, other than Willie Cauley-Stein’s injury, the men’s team hardly suffered from the same issues that plague this Hoops team: a short bench, inconsistency in the perimeter and porous post play.

With a conference that boasts an undefeated team in South Carolina, a one-loss Tennessee team and two four-loss teams (Mississippi State and Texas A&M), the climb up the conference ladder becomes more like a summit up Everest without an oxygen mask.

Not saying its out of the realm of possibility. If given time to rest, Epps has displayed the ability to become a great point guard, as her 42-point game against Mississippi St. attests to, and guard Jennifer O’Neill has shown the ability to carry the Cats when needed, as Baylor remembers.

The post play, however, is a year or two away from becoming a true contender, and that spells doom for this year’s team. Senior Jelleah Sidney is running on borrowed time, as her knees have little left, Alexis Jennings may be the best offensive post player but she’s inexperienced and UK’s tallest starter Azia Bishop is on her farewell tour.

It’s tough to say whether UK can bounce back after these setbacks, as the Rebels provided the Cats with its best chance to right the ship. But the loss on Monday was the first shovel of dirt into an already dug grave.