SEC Tournament will determine Cats’ fate

By James Pennington

In a season characterized by close finishes, the women’s basketball team has fittingly left its postseason hopes up in the air until the very end of the season.

The Cats (14-14, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) open play in the SEC tournament tonight in Nashville, Tenn. against No. 23  Georgia (21-8, 8-6 Southeastern Conference) tonight at 7:30, after having a first-round bye by earning the fourth seed in the tournament.

“It’s a testament to our players’ perseverance,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We have so much respect for this conference, and to be in the top four in the SEC says a lot about our players and how hard they have worked throughout the season.”

This season, Mitchell’s first at the helm for the Cats, has featured a lot of ups and downs. A grueling non-conference schedule left UK in a tough spot: 6-8 before they played their first SEC game.

Despite the early struggles, the Cats toughened up once conference play began and finished with an 8-6 record in one of the country’s toughest leagues.

With a strong conference schedule and a weak record outside the SEC, the Cats’ hopes for the postseason are anything but certain. With UK eyeing its second NCAA tournament appearance in the last three years, the players know what they have to do to decide their own fate.

“I just told the team that we need to go down to Nashville with the mindset of winning the SEC Tournament,” Mitchell said.

On Jan. 31, the Cats traveled to Athens, Ga., and earned the first signature win of Mitchell’s young tenure. Freshman guard Amber Smith led the Cats with 12 points and seven rebounds, including two clutch free throws with 5.6 seconds left, and the Cats upset the Bulldogs, 47-44.