Did players-only meeting ready UK for South Carolina?

A loss to unranked Florida was not acceptable to Kentucky’s leaders.

So they didn’t wait long to do something about it.

On Sunday, just hours after the Gators upset UK at Memorial Coliseum, the players were back in the gym working out.

“It was a meeting/workout, just to get us back in the groove (remind us) that this is how hard we have to work every day,” senior forward DeNesha Stallworth said on Wednesday before the ninth-rated Cats head to No. 10 South Carolina.

The coaches didn’t demand it, nor were they a part of it, she said.

“It was just something that needed to be done,” she added. “It was a players’ choice, just our leaders stepping up.”

Since then Coach Matthew Mitchell and Stallworth have seen a more focused group.

“Everybody has stepped up so much in practice,” Stallworth said. “We’re on the right track right now.”

Kentucky had better be, Mitchell reminded.

South Carolina (14-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) has won three of the last four over UK at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks

But more than anything, the Gamecocks are a physical challenge for a team that wilted under that kind of challenge versus Florida on Sunday.

“It’ll have our players’ attention – certainly needs to have our players’ attention – and the key to this game is being able to hustle and stay really tough mentally, emotionally, physically,” Mitchell said.

As UK’s permanent home-away SEC opponent, there are no secrets between the teams, Mitchell said.

It’s usually the team that plays the hardest wins the game.

“The key, can we keep that strength about us and can we really hustle and try to outhustle South Carolina,” he said. “That’s going to be such a key.”

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at jsmith3@herald-leader.com.
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