Matthew Mitchell spoke on Friday about the uphill battle Kentucky still faced despite its upset victory over No. 13/19 Tennessee.
On Sunday at Louisiana State, the climb got unexpectedly steeper.
Just minutes before tip-off, the Wildcats learned senior center Eleia Roddy, the team's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, would be unable to play after coming down with flu-like symptoms.
With just seven players able to play, it appeared toppling the Lady Tigers in Baton Rogue, La., would be near impossible. Yet UK almost did the unthinkable without Roddy, coming up just short in a valiant comeback loss.
Rallying from 12 points down, UK (14-13, 4-8 Southeastern Conference) got as close as one in the final seconds before falling 57-56 to LSU (15-9, 8-4 SEC) on Sunday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
UK played admirably without Roddy and even had a chance to win it on a last-second shot, but Carly Morrow's game-winning attempt just before the buzzer was blocked by Lasondra Barrett.
"You're going to have days like that (where you're missing a player)," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "You have to walk uphill sometimes to get to your destination. That was what we needed to do today. We didn't talk too much about (Roddy's absence). We just got in there and talked about how we were going to win the game. We got real close, but I'm just real disappointed we didn't get the win."
Without Roddy (Columbus, Ohio), Mitchell knew his Wildcats would have to play a near flawless game to stick around with LSU.
Besides a nagging turnover problem, UK nearly did.
Sophomore Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) led the valiant comeback in the second half and finished with 21 points. She also pulled down a career-high tying 15 rebounds for her 12th career and ninth season double-double.
LSU had led comfortably for most of the second half, but when Dunlap nailed a jumper and got fouled with 1:51 to go in the game, suddenly the game got a little too close for LSU's comfort.
UK then forced a turnover on the ensuing possession and cut the deficit to three points on Amber Smith's free throws. The Wildcats got as close as one point in the closing minute, but Morrow's final shot never hit iron.
"The kids executed the play but the shot didn't go in," Mitchell said. "It's really sad to lose one like that."
UK never led in the game, mainly due to turnovers. Despite outrebounding LSU 39-27, the Wildcats' 21 turnovers were too much to overcome. LSU capitalized on UK's miscues with 15 points.
"It was just terrible, terrible ball security by our team today with 21 turnovers that were just not forced," Mitchell said. "We had too many unforced turnovers and that was the story of the game."
After a quiet half, LSU's Allison Hightower went on to score a team-high 20 points.
Junior guard Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) chipped in for UK with 14 points and senior forward Jenn'e Jackson tallied six points and four boards in her second career start, but with only seven players, UK came up just short in its second loss to LSU this season.
"We had very young players out there on the court," Mitchell said. "You have to believe that they grew up some today and got some great experience on the road. It was a tough game.
"If they told LSU before the game that we weren't going to have Eleia Roddy today, they probably thought it was going to be pretty easy for them," he said. "We don't want to ever be happy with a loss and I certainly am not, but there are certainly things we can take from today."
The Wildcats will return to action on Thursday for the final home game of the regular season against Georgia. UK will honor its three seniors – Roddy, Jackson and Carly Ormerod – before the game for Senior Night.
The game, which is slated for a 7 p.m. start at Memorial Coliseum, will be broadcast live on FSN South and on the Big Blue Radio Sports Network with Neil Price.