KANSAS CITY — All anybody wanted to talk about Monday at Sprint Center was the Kentucky defense.
Actually, that’s not true.
It just seemed like it.
“We knew Nebraska hadn’t faced really any pressure, and so we knew that was going to be effective in the game,” Wildcat guard Amber Smith said. “I mean, that’s our game plan … It’s been working for us this far, so (we’re) just going to stay with it and work hard on it.”
One question later, it was whether or not Kentucky’s defense, as though it might be impossible, was still improving?
“I think it will never fail for us as long as we work hard,” Smith said. “And I think it has gotten better and I think it will get better.”
Kentucky and Oklahoma tip at 8:07 p.m. today in the NCAA Tournament’s Kansas City Regional final. Neither team, according to the seeds, was supposed to get this far, though OU’s No. 3 seed outranks UK’s No. 5 seed.
Seeds aside, the Wildcats’ narrative is now established.
What Kentucky lacks in size — the Wildcats run a four-guard set around 6-1 forward Victoria Dunlap — it makes up for in quickness, athleticism and unrelenting in-your-face defense.
Thus far in the tournament, the Wildcats have won three games by an average margin of 14.3 points while receiving an average 18.7 turnovers from opponents. Meanwhile, the Sooners have won their three games by an average 10 points despite turning the ball over 17.3 times per outing.
But if that sounds like a bad deal for the Sooners, coach Sherri Coale believes her team will be fully prepared for Kentucky’s defensive onslaught. In short, OU’s seen it before.
“I think we have a pretty good guess (what it will be like) because we play in the Big 12 South. If anything can prepare you for that, it is that,” Coale said. “We’ve played Texas A&M three times. We’ve played Baylor three times. We’ve learned some things about ourselves over the course of that … I think we’re probably just about as prepared as anybody could be.”