O’Neill feeling good, likely a go vs. Alabama

It sounds like Jennifer O’Neill’s time on the Kentucky bench will be minimal.

The senior guard and the Cats’ leading scorer has been practicing this week in preparation for No. 11 Kentucky’s Southeastern Conference opener at Alabama on Friday.

After playing in 76 straight games, O’Neill missed the Cats’ last game against Tennessee State nursing a strained patella tendon in her knee.

“I’m feeling good,” she said on Wednesday after going through an individual workout that gave the knee a good test. “Felt good. It was hurting the first day, but now I’m fine.”

The senior guard, averaging 15.2 points and 2.9 rebounds a game, likely will be available when the Cats head to Alabama, a team that upset them last season at Memorial Coliseum.

“She went through about an hour of shooting last night and those were game-like shots and she looked good and bounced back this morning,” Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It looks to me like she’s progressing well. We are feeling good about her progress right now.”

Other updates

Another Kentucky senior, forward Jelleah Sidney, is back on the floor and trying to get into shape to be available for the Cats during the stretch run of conference play.

Sidney has missed nine straight games with soreness in her knees. Mitchell said she has a limited number of games left in her knees, so UK is trying to use her sparingly until the last part of the season.

“I would say we are at a couple of weeks, three weeks of trying to get her conditioning back and hopefully by February, maybe sooner, I don’t know,” he said. “We’re going very conservative. The whole idea has been can she make a contribution for us at the most important time of the year.

“Can she help us compete for a conference championship? Can she help us get to the NCAA Tournament and advance?”

  • Freshman forward Alyssa Rice played just 11 minutes last game battling back from an illness, but Mitchell said she should be fine for the game against Alabama. “She looked very good in her defensive individual and has worked hard the last couple of days,” he said. “She’s playing really tough defensively, so we’ve got to get her going offensively.”

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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