In Mitchell's opinion, what was missing from the equation in Kentucky's 72-61 loss to the Lady Tigers in the SEC Tournament semifinals Saturday was a lack of desire by the 10th-ranked Wildcats.
"I thought (the Lady Tigers) were really, really tough — a lot tougher than us," Mitchell said. "From the opening tip, it looked like their desire was greater than ours. They really wanted to play for a championship (Sunday)."
The loss cost Kentucky (25-6) a shot at adding an SEC tournament championship to its regular-season title. The Wildcats had earned the top seed in the tournament for the first time since 1982, the only previous time they won it all.
The fourth-seeded Lady Tigers (22-9) will make their first trip to the conference title game since appearing in four straight starting in 2005. LSU will square off with No. 2 seed Tennessee, a 74-58 winner against South Carolina in Saturday's other semifinal.
LSU coach Nikki Caldwell won six SEC titles as either a player or an assistant at Tennessee.
"I think LSU still hasn't had its big game yet," said Courtney Jones, who led the Lady Tigers with 18 points. "I think there's so much more to this team. We decided to come out and give all our effort and work hard because we wanted to win bad."
One of Kentucky's three SEC losses in the regular season as against LSU, 61-51 on Feb. 5 in Baton Rouge. The Lady Tigers put on a shooting clinic in that game, finishing 56.7% from the floor and 25-of-31 at the free-throw line.
This time, it was more about strong defense in addition to hitting 24-of-32 foul shots in the second half. The Wildcats finished with 30 fouls.
"We clearly fouled too much," Mitchell said. "I was disappointed with that, that we could not play a cleaner game."
LSU never trailed against Kentucky and used a 10-0 run early in the game to take control. The Lady Tigers kept the Wildcats away from the basket for most of the game and forced them to take bad shots.
Though the Lady Tigers turned the ball over 14 times in the first half, they held a 22-9 rebounding advantage that turned into 10 second-chance points before halftime.
|LaSondra Barrett: Scored all of her 15 points in the second half.|
LaSondra Barrett, who leads LSU with 12.5 points per game, spent the first half in foul trouble and scored all 15 of her points after halftime, nine of them at the line.
With the game knotted 6-6, LSU reeled off the next 10 points. Theresa Plaisance hit a layup, one of 14 points by the Lady Tigers in the paint in the first half, to give LSU a 16-6 lead with 10:13 before halftime.
Kentucky answered by turning three LSU turnovers into a 6-0 run that cut the Lady Tigers' lead to 16-12 with 7:51 in the first half. LSU scored the next six, and took a 26-16 lead into halftime.
"I felt like we tried to really establish our inside game because we're big. We're going to take advantage of our size," said. "When we did do that, it put a lot of pressure on them to guard us, which allowed us to get to the free-throw line."
Azia Bishop's third foul of the game sent Plaisance to the charity stripe, where the Lady Tigers seemed to hang out for the rest of the game. LSU hit eight of its first 10 foul shots in the second half to build to a 48-37 lead.
LSU built its second-half lead to 18 points with 6:23 to play. That's when Keyla Snowden and A'dia Mathies attempted to get Kentucky back in the game from the perimeter.
With the Lady Tigers up 59-41, Snowden sank back-to-back 3-pointers, and Mathies hit a jumper with 1:53 to play that helped the Wildcats pull within nine points, but it was as close as they would get. Mathies finished with 18 points and Snowden had 17.
"We need to get in the gym and get some shots up and get confidence back," Snowden said. "I think a lot of people are lacking confidence in their shots, their abilities right now."