Cats, Dunlap move on from a bittersweet SEC

While some members of the UK women’s basketball team may say winning is the most important thing, there was a lot it’ll be proud of after the team went 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference Tournament this weekend.

The No.17 Cats (24-8) are proud of the way they fought in the SEC this year, after starting league play 0-2 the Cats overcame adversity and finished second in the league standings and second in the SEC Tournament.

“I want to compliment our players on a really good run after starting our SEC portion of the season 0-2 to get to the SEC Championship game they put a lot of hard work in,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said.

After finishing second in the regular season standings and receiving a bye to the quarterfinals it seemed apparent that the Cats would be well rested and poised to return to the SEC Championship game for its second straight season but after being down to underdog Louisiana State on Friday it seemed the Cats were lackadaisical.

But UK was to make the necessary plays and had a refuse to lose attitude to put away the Tigers on a last second and one by sophomore A’dia Mathies.

“The players and fight they showed, it was such a tough game and LSU is an opponent that has our respect and we knew it’d be a real right,” Mitchell said. “I was really proud of our players for being able to find a way to win against LSU.”

It looked as if UK would ride that momentum well into the SEC Championship game after blowing the doors off the Commodores in the semifinals Saturday.

UK cruised out to a 27 point lead against Vanderbilt and foreshadowed its championship game play in the closing minutes allowing Vanderbilt to get as close as eight before winning 69-56.

Senior Victoria Dunlap was the only Cat who made a field goal in the last 10 minutes of the semifinal game.

But nonetheless UK was in its second SEC Championship game in two years, once again playing No.4 Tennessee. Last season the Vols beat UK in the SEC Championship game and earlier this season Tennessee was able to scratch its way past the Cats in Lexington 73-67.

While Mitchell says he didn’t have the team ready for its championship performance, there wasn’t much any coach in the country could do against Tennessee’s’ white-hot shooting.

Tennessee made a school record 16 threes for an astounding 76 percent from deep but still Mitchell blamed himself for the 90-65 loss.

“I didn’t give the team much help today with our gameplan,” Mitchell said. “I put them in some bad position, a lot of that is on me.”

But despite the disappointing end to an emotional erratic weekend, Mitchell believes his Cats will once again bounce back.

“We have had some tough times this year, some very deflating losses,” Mitchell said. “But each time, this group has been able to bounce back, this is another chance for us to bounce back and show the great character these kids have.”

The Cats will have to wait until Monday, March 14 to find out what seed they’ll receive in the NCAA tournament.