Smith’s injury leaves void at Cats’ point guard position

By James Pennington

More devastating than the UK women’s basketball team’s loss at No. 2 Tennessee on Sunday was the injury freshman point guard Amber Smith suffered in the game’s first half.

Smith hurt her knee while attempting a layup with .5 seconds left before halftime. She sat out the rest of the game and after it was over, found out she had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee — an injury that will sideline her for the rest of the season.

“She is one of the special people on our team with a very strong, competitive fire burning, and it burns hot,” head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It was definitely a big blow to her when she got the news, but she has already bounced back. The competitive fire in her will now be directed towards rehabilitation.”

The significance of Smith’s injury is amplified because of the increased role she played on the floor since a foot injury sidelined junior guard Carly Ormerod in December. Ormerod has not logged a minute of playing time since the Louisville game on Dec. 20 due to sesamoiditis.

The team has only had two practices to cope with its losses and prepare for tonight’s game against the Ole Miss Lady Rebels.

Smith started all 12 games in Ormerod’s absence and provided a steady hand to guide the Cats’ offense, averaging 6.8 points and 2.8 assists per game. With Smith gone for the season and Ormerod out indefinitely, Mitchell will look for a host of players to fill the void.

“Coping with the loss of Ormerod was a bit easier because we knew Smith was going to be solid at the point guard,” Mitchell said. “Now we’re left without a true point guard. We’re going to have to come together and do it by committee. That’s tough, but I think our players are ready to step up.

Despite a depleted roster, Mitchell said his team has what it takes to remain competitive in the Southeastern Conference.

“In order for us to win against Ole Miss, some players are going to have to fill roles they don’t normally fill,” Mitchell said.

The first-year head coach also said his team was inspired by their upset of then-No. 17 Georgia on Jan. 31.

“You don’t believe a team could go on the road in this conference and beat a ranked team by shooting 30 percent from the field,” he said. “We did that last week against Georgia, so this team has done things outside of the norm. I won’t ever put anything past this team, because they’ve proved a lot of people wrong.”

After a brutal non-conference schedule, in which UK finished with a 6-8 record, Mitchell said he was pleased at how his team has turned the tides on its season. The Cats have won five of their first eight SEC contests.

“We told the team yesterday that we’ve come a long, long way,” Mitchell said. “We’re in a position to do some very good things this season, and we’re not going to turn back now.”