Coach Matthew Mitchell’s team returned to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum after having a less-than-successful trip to Baylor. After suffering their first loss of the season to the #9 Bears, Mitchell told his team immediately after the game, “We got better today even though we lost. I saw a lot of good things, especially how we battled in the fourth quarter.” Sunday’s matchup against Tennessee Tech provided his Cats the opportunity to see how much they had improved.
While the Golden Eagles’ 1-5 record suggested they would be an automatic “W” for the Cats, Tech is definitely better than their record suggests. On Monday, they played Georgia and though they ultimately lost by 8 points, they held UGA to their lowest score of the year (56).
While the first quarter wasn’t the cleanest basketball the Cats have played (7 turnovers, 14 for the game), they managed to hold a 9 point lead after 10 minutes. When the second quarter got underway, the Cats began to roll. Led by Maci Morris, the Cats saw their lead swell to 25. Morris finished the game with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 assists. Tennessee Tech Head Coach Kim Rosamond noted in her post-game remarks that Morris is “just such a smart basketball player. She’s very difficult to guard.”
Midway through the 3rd quarter, Mitchell was able to replace most of his starters which allowed Tatyana Wyatt, Jaida Roper, and Dorie Harrison to get some valuable game experience. Wyatt finished the game with 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists and logged 16 minutes of playing time. Roper ended up playing 24 minutes and scored 7 points while dishing out 6 assists.
For Coach Mitchell, it was a very successful day after the tough game at Baylor.
Great victory for the team today. (We) tried to make it about the hustle and getting better. We are a work in progress and we will keep working. Really pleased with the effort today.
At the beginning of the season, Mitchell had expressed a need for the team to work really hard on improving their rebounding. As for today’s effort? The coach was very pleased to see progress has been made and specifically mentioned Alyssa Rice in his comments. “When you see kids go hard after the ball, and go after the ball with 2 hands…Rice is going as hard as she can as long as she can.”
Offensively, the Cats are doing solid work. Mitchell pointed out, “The starters are shooting the ball well. Morris, Makenzie, Taylor…it’s good and it’s important (because) we’re not operating at full capacity defensively yet.”
The Cats hope to continue with their hot shooting and improving their defense as they take the court again on Tuesday night to face Evansville. This is part of an 11-day stretch that includes 5 games. After the Evansville game, the Cats will hit the road again before returning to Lexington to face Louisville on December 17th.
Will Mitchell’s team have time to improve before they get into the meat of their schedule? Considering Coach said he had seen improvement from some players “from the beginning of this game until the end of this game”, it would seem likely these Cats will only continue to grow and learn. Only time will tell, but I’m a believer in the Blue!
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