- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell isn’t worried about his team despite the fact they’ve lost four of seven games and are .500 in the Southeastern Conference.

With half a season left in league play, there’s time for the 13th-ranked Wildcats (16-5, 4-4 SEC) to get back to their effective ways but they must do it quickly with No. 14 LSU (17-4, 6-2) up next on Sunday.

Inconsistency on both ends has been an issue for Kentucky, but its defensive falloff has been startling for a squad that prides itself on smothering opponents. The Wildcats are 10th in SEC scoring defense at nearly 67 points allowed per game, a statistic that must improve against the Tigers. Theresa Plaisance leads LSU, averaging 14.4 points, 7.3 rebounds per contest.

Mitchell believes achieving those goals begins with the Wildcats believing they can defend and score the ball, and then doing it.

“At some point, you’re going to have to step out of that spotlight and play and stop worrying about, ‘I’m going to miss this shot’ or ‘We’re not going to win,’” the coach said Friday.

“There’s no better opponent than LSU because they will put a lot of stress on us to score. It’s a great opportunity on Sunday.”

Kentucky shot a season-low 30 percent and Samarie Walker was the only double-digit scorer (10 points) in Thursday night’s 58-56 loss at Georgia. That team effort came two games after the Wildcats bottomed out in a 57-55 loss home loss to Alabama, which trails them by a game in the standings.

Things must improve for Kentucky against the Tigers, who are averaging 71 points per contest in SEC play. LSU is second in 3-point shooting at nearly 40 percent overall but nearly 43 percent in conference games.

Mitchell believes better defense can create offensive opportunities, and he’s seeking consistent effort from his players.

“One game we’ll have a player, then the next game we won’t have a player,” Mitchell said. “Then, one possession we’ll have a player and then the next possession, she’ll take off. That’s where I see the biggest problem right now, the lack of consistency.”

LSU begins a challenging second-half slate of ranked SEC foes for Kentucky. Besides the Tigers, the Wildcats must face seventh-ranked South Carolina and No. 17 Texas A&M; - both tied for first - along with No. 10 Tennessee and No. 16 Vanderbilt.

There’s also the rematch against Florida, the first SEC opponent to show the Wildcats that contending for the league title will be harder. Mitchell thinks they can be one by reclaiming a relentless approach on both ends - which starts with them blocking out negativity.

“One thing that we do know is that we have the talent to get it done,” he said.

“The time for discouragement does not exist. We don’t have time for it.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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