UK Hoops set for rematch with Georgia


UK’s Amani Franklin shoots the ball against Ole Miss at Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010. Photo by Scott Hannigan

The tables have turned since the last time the UK women’s basketball team met the Georgia Lady Bulldogs.

“We’ve won several straight and (Georgia) has struggled a little bit (recently),” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “But those trends don’t seem to really work if that’s what you’re playing off of. If we’re not totally invested and totally committed to the things that will help us beat Georgia (Thursday) night, we will lose.”

In the first meeting between the two schools, the No. 17 Cats (20-3, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) almost escaped from Athens, Ga., with a win over the then-undefeated Lady Bulldogs, but came up short in overtime. UK surrendered the final five points to lose 61-60.

That game was the Cats’ first in SEC play, and many people questioned if their soft non-conference schedule had prepared them enough to face quality SEC opponents. Since the first meeting, UK has become the hottest team in the SEC and rides a seven-game win streak into Thursday’s rematch.

On the other hand, Georgia’s early-season momentum has all but disappeared. The Lady Bulldogs (19-5, 6-5 SEC) are 5-5 in their last 10 games, including losses in four of their last five games.

But the Lady Bulldogs shouldn’t be a pushover. Georgia holds the distinction of being the only SEC team to knock off SEC leader and fifth-ranked Tennessee, who UK trails by one game in the SEC standings.

“We don’t want to remember last game, but we also don’t want to forget it because we can’t go in with the same mentality we had first time,” said junior forward Victoria Dunlap when asked if the close loss would be an additional source of motivation.

Dunlap, who fouled out in overtime before UK surrendered its lead in the first meeting of the two teams, said playing aggressively in an “attack mode” will go a long way in proving that the Cats are capable of defeating the Lady Bulldogs.

UK will need Dunlap, the team’s leading rebounder, to stay out of foul trouble because the Lady Bulldogs “beat (them) up on the boards” in the first game, Mitchell said.

Senior guard Amani Franklin managed just four rebounds in the first game, but she thinks familiarity will take away the element of surprise.

“We kind of know what their personnel is and what we need to do,” Franklin said. “I think (Wednesday) in practice that’s going to be our focus because they have some great rebounders and post players.”

Georgia also has do-it-all senior guard Ashley Houts, who scored a career-high 27 points against UK in January.

“I think Ashley Houts is one of the toughest competitors that I have seen in my 10 or so years being real close to the (SEC),” Mitchell said. “I think she’ll have a lot of confidence coming into the game because she played so well against us the first time.”

UK shot a season low 31.7 percent from the field in the first game ­-­­against Georgia. Despite a poor shooting — and rebounding — performance, they still had a chance to pull out a win on the road against a ranked team.

This time, the pro-UK crowd at Memorial Coliseum may be the deciding factor.

“We’ll look for an edge anyway we can get it,” Mitchell said. “Being back home certainly helps.”