Mitchell, Hoops’ success based around S



By Alex Forkner | @KernelForkner

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When UK suited up for its exhibition against Bellarmine Monday night, the outcome was never in doubt.

During the 113-33 beat down, the Cats showed why they sport a preseason top 10 ranking and were picked as the favorites to repeat as SEC champions.

The list of reasons why the UK hoops team will be successful this season includes a lot of S words.

They are smart.

Mitchell’s team exploits opponents’ weaknesses, finding mismatches and making the right pass at the right time. They take charges. They know when to push it and when to slow it down, only committing seven turnovers against Bellarmine.

They have speed.

Feet and hands are always moving on defense. Fast breaks are just that — fast. Freshman guard Janee Thompson will be one of the more agile players on the court this season, dribbling like she’s auditioning for a lead role in an And1 Mixtape. Junior guard Kastine Evans moves her feet so well on defense that it will be a rarity when an opponent beats her off the dribble.

They have size.

Junior forward Samarie Walker and junior center DeNesha Stallworth are imposing presences in the paint. Even more impressive is their quickness on the perimeter, easily drifting out past the three-point line to pressure the ball.

They can shoot.

The Cats sank 10 three-pointers against Bellarmine, good for 41.7 percent from behind the arc. Sophomore guard Bria Goss was 3-5 from outside, squaring up and knocking down open shots.


This is a made-up word, but one aptly describing the team’s depth. Mitchell can easily substitute five-for-five and not see much drop-off in talent or effort. Eleven of the 12 players available for the exhibition scored, with six reaching double figures. Mitchell will also have junior guard Maegan Conwright, who sat out Monday with an ankle injury, but was available off the bench.

They are scrappy.

Scooby Doo’s pugnacious puppy cousin has nothing on the Cats, who forced 46 turnovers, including 28 steals. Albeit the competition wasn’t as stiff as what’s down the road, rest assured the turnovers forced statistic will be high in every game. UK is constantly battling for loose balls, hitting the deck and diving. Hands are in faces and swiping for the ball. Eventually opponents will become a puddle of frustration, forcing passes and throwing the ball into tight spots where the Cats are waiting to pounce.

They have a senior leader.

Senior guard A’dia Mathies makes playing basketball look easy, gliding down the court with the ball, dropping perfect passes into the post or to the wing, nailing jumpers as if she were shooting in the gym by herself. She tallied a quiet 13 points and five steals in the exhibition game, but her stats don’t capture what she means to this team. Mathies is the steady hand her teammates can rely on, and she will do what it takes to win games.

One more S word will determine how far UK will go this year.

Can they sustain? Lack of focus happens. Injuries happen. Playing hard for 40 minutes a game might wear on his players, but Mitchell has coached this way for years without much problem.

This season could be special. Sensational, even. Forecasting too much based on an exhibition game is unwise, but the Cats’ style of play stays turned on. What Bellarmine saw is what opponents will be seeing all season long: scary defense and speedy offense.