Women’s basketball hopes to correct shooting woes, turnover problems

The women’s basketball team has yet to storm the court and fire on all cylinders for 40 minutes during the first seven games of the season.

Although they have shown flashes of excellence, the Cats’ inconsistency has led to a 3-4 record and sloppy play at times.

For first-year head coach Matthew Mitchell, the only way to ensure the Cats improve is in practice.

“Consistency starts on the practice floor,” Mitchell said. “If we’re not practicing consistently at a level high enough to win games, we won’t win games.”

The stat most easily linked to the Cats’ early-season woes is field goal percentage. Through seven games, UK is shooting 39.7 percent as a team, including a meager 29.2 percent from 3-point range. However, the low average may be misleading because of how inconsistently the Cats have performed.

UK has broken the 40 percent mark for field goals in three games this season, all coming within their last four matchups, including a season-high 52.4 percent in a 92-80 loss to Minnesota on Nov 23.

The other four outings this season have been characterized by particularly poor shooting. Although they won the game 61-53, the Cats’ worst performance from the field was against Florida Atlantic on Nov. 18, when the team hit only 28.8 percent of their shots.

“Everybody has to step up,” freshman forward Victoria Dunlap said. “When you question how you’re going to shoot, it leads to a lack of confidence.”

Another problem that has marred UK’s season so far is the Cats inability to hang on to the ball. The Cats are averaging 16.7 turnovers per contest.

“We have to work on handling the ball, especially under pressure,” Dunlap said. “We just need to be more patient.”

Minimizing poor shooting and sloppy ball handling is what the Cats have been working on in preparation for tonight’s game against William & Mary.

However, running drills in practice is much different than running the floor during a game. For practice performance to directly translate to in-game results, the team must focus on maintaining mental toughness every time they hit the court, Mitchell said.

“We have to make sure we’re mentally prepared and that we execute in practice,” Mitchell said. “We have to come out of the blocks prepared and ready to go, otherwise we won’t execute.”

So far this season, senior guard Samantha Mahoney leads the team in scoring with 17.4 points per game. Although she is shooting 41.0 percent from the field, which is above the team average, she acknowledged that there is a long season ahead and that everybody, including herself, must continue to work hard.

“This season has just started, so we have a lot of time,” Mahoney said. “Improving our turnovers is at the top of our list, but we just have to maintain focus.”

Although the Cats wish they were sitting at 7-0 right now, Mitchell said all teams go through dry spells every season. The Cats hope to end their early-season slump when they battle the Tribe tonight at 7 in Memorial Coliseum.

“Teams struggle and sometimes, there’s no control over that,” Mitchell said. “We just have to prepare ourselves to compete every time we have the opportunity.”