UK Hoops preparing for Florida


Junior forward Victory Dunlap goes up for a layup during the first half of the game at Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. Photo by Zach Brake

Although UK has only played four Southeastern Conference games, it’s been a roller coaster ride.

In the confines of Memorial Coliseum the Cats are 2-1 in conference, beating the opposition by an average of 14 points per game. But No.19 UK’s (13-4, 2-2 SEC) lone road conference game didn’t go as planned.

UK lost its only conference road game at Arkansas 78-67 on Jan. 6, in a game when the Cats were coming off one day of rest and looked less than impressive. But outside the conference the Cats are 2-2 on the road.

Despite the losing record on the road, the Cats see Thursday’s 7 p.m. game at Gainesville as an opportunity.

“This is a big game for us, an exciting opportunity for us to go on the road and play against a very good Florida team,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I think that the team is better equipped this time than the last time we went on the road and I think we have practiced a little better so I am excited to see how we handle this challenge.”

UK hasn’t won at Florida since 2006. The Gators (12-7, 2-3 SEC) have had and up and down season of its own.

Mitchell said what makes Florida such a difficult matchup is the fact they don’t have any players averaging over 10 points and they can beat you many ways.

“Florida is an extremely difficult team to prepare for and I have a lot of respect for their coach and how she runs that program,” Mitchell said. “There are a lot of players involved with them and it is very difficult to key in on one player and our team will have to be excellent in our preparation, very mentally focused, to get ready to go down to a place we haven’t won in quite some time.

“It will be a big challenge for us and we are excited to play.”

While Florida doesn’t have any player averaging over 10 points, it has six players averaging over six points per game.

“It makes it difficult in the sense you have to be prepared for everybody to be the player that’ll make the difference that night,” Mitchell said. “It’s not a team like Kentucky that you can be like, ‘Hey let’s shut down (senior forward Victoria) Dunlap, let’s shut down (sophomore guard A’dia) Mathies.’ You just can’t do that with Florida.”

Despite the teams highs and lows already in conference play, Dunlap has been steadily efficient. In conference games Dunlap is averaging 21.3 points per game to go along with 10 rebounds.

But Dunlap, who is four rebounds away from becoming second in UK history for all-time rebounding, isn’t worried about her play. She is focused on the team and mental preparation.

“It’s great to be able to win on the road it’ll be difficult and it wont be easy but we have the ability to get it done,” Dunlap said. “We just have to put our minds to it.”