Cats prepare for rival Tennessee


The UK Hoops played Nebraska in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Sweet 16 Tournament on Sunday, March 28, 2010 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. Photo by Brandon Goodwin

The No. 7 Cats (18-4, 7-2 SEC) will put aside their seven game winning streak and a rare home winning streak against Tennessee because UK head coach Matthew Mitchell says the team is focused on raising its level of play and not dwelling on the past.

“For us, every time we take the floor in the SEC there are three things you have to do,” Mitchell said. “With Tennessee and the talent they have and fire power they have you have to raise your level a little bit and see what you can do.”

Mitchell suggested that there is never a great time to play Tennessee, but if there was a right time it would be now.

After losing three straight games to start the 2011 campaign the Cats are playing as well as any team in conference.

In UK’s most recent winning streak UK has outscored its opponents by 13 points per game, and that margin swells to nearly 18 in UK’s home games.

But those stats are child’s play when you look at Tennessee’s numbers. The Vols have won 12 straight games heading into Memorial Coliseum. Tennessee is used to winning on the road. Four of Tennessee’s last six games have been on the road, and in all four of those road wins no team has come within 15 points of the Vols.

While both teams are playing hot, Mitchell’s focal point is on three aspects that the Cats must master in order to move within a game of the SEC lead.

The three phases are winning 50/50 plays, rebounding and the turnover battle.

Mitchell suggests the 50/50 play is nothing the Cats can specifically work on, but when it comes to rebounding Mitchell knows he is facing a tough test.

“It takes a lot of hard work to rebound in this league and to win that battle on the boards, and Tennessee is probably without a doubt one of the most powerful rebounding teams in the country, and certainly statistically the best team in our league,” Mitchell said. “Rebounding will be a huge part of the game.”

UK’s lack of size has been problematic, but in its last six games UK has only been out rebounded once.

While UK doesn’t always excel in rebounding, they do in the turnover department. In the Cats most recent outing against Auburn, UK forced 26 turnovers.

“The third area is the turnover battle. Can you somehow find the way to have the discipline on offense to take care of it and on defense to play hard enough and have the discipline to carry out your assignment and turn the other team over,” Mitchell said.