Cats face tough task on road against Georgia, Tennessee

The UK women’s basketball news conference yesterday didn’t have the allure of Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day extravaganza. There was not a charter airplane waiting for the Cats or reporters lined up outside Memorial Coliseum. However, the Cats do share a common goal with the Super Bowl-contending Patriots and Giants: winning a big game away from home.

The Cats (10-10, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) travel to take on 17th-ranked Georgia (16-4, 3-2 SEC) today and then to No. 2 Tennessee (18-1, 5-0 SEC) on Sunday. Though UK is coming off its worst loss of the season — a 72-46 thumping against No. 9 Louisiana State on Sunday — head coach Matthew Mitchell said the team has made strides in practice.

“I thought we had good energy in practice this week,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t see people hanging their head, and their effort and spirits were very good. It’s hard to see positives from the loss until we looked at the game film and saw individual effort and an effort rebounding.”

UK is 4-4 when playing away from home this season with road wins over conference foes South Carolina and Mississippi State. Mitchell said the close nature of the team has proved vital to its road success this year. But the Cats face a daunting task when they travel to Athens today, as Georgia has not lost a home game all season.

“I don’t think our players will view Georgia as a place we can’t have success,” Mitchell said. “They know we’ll have to play well in order to have success, but they believe it’s possible. One thing that seems to give our team an advantage on the road is they enjoy spending time with each other and are a very close team.”

The Lady Bulldogs have lost three of their last five games but have won 12 of their last 13 meetings against UK. They are led by senior forward Tasha Humphrey, who is averaging 16.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Humphrey is complimented by sophomore guard Ashley Houts and sophomore forward Angel Robinson, who both average more than 10 points per game.

“Georgia is one of the top teams in the country and certainly one of the top teams in our conference, and Tasha Humphrey is one of the best players in the league during the last 10 or 15 years,” Mitchell said. “It’s been a long time since the Cats have had success down in Athens, and we’re looking to change that trend.”

Sunday’s game at Tennessee will be a bit of a homecoming for Mitchell. UK’s head coach spent a year as a graduate assistant in Knoxville, Tenn., under Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt in 2000. Despite the homecoming, and the fact that the Cats will be looking to avenge the 65-40 loss suffered at the hands of the Tennessee in Lexington on Jan. 17, Mitchell said the Cats are focused only on Georgia for now.

“We’re very aware of how good Georgia is as a team and know not to look ahead of them,” Mitchell said. “We will have our hands full and will start worrying about Sunday starting Friday morning.”

The Cats will again be without the services of Carly Ormerod for the road trip. The junior guard has not played since Dec. 20 after being diagnosed with sesamoiditis in her foot, a condition that causes forefoot pain.

Mitchell said there is a chance Ormerod could be ready when UK hosts Ole Miss on Feb. 7 in Rupp Arena.