Recently in video Category
At a moment when the competitor inside him surely wanted to be angry, Stoops was calm.
"It's not easy," Stoops said. "Nobody likes to lose. Our fans don't ... and nobody likes to lose. It's not fun."
UK (5-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) fell at Tennessee (5-5, 2-4 SEC) on Saturday, 50-16. The outcome, no question, was disappointing, especially after the Wildcats jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a field goal on their first drive. The Volunteers were dominant, rolling up 511 yards to UK's 262.
"Give Tennessee credit," Stoops said. "They beat us. They outcoached us, outplayed us. They were very prepared, very energetic. They had two weeks to prepare and did a heck of a job."
The Cats, on the other hand, played their eighth game in as many weeks. Seven of the games have been against SEC opponents, taking a toll on a young team still building depth.
"I'm proud of this team, and that's hard to say. ... They did some good things," Stoops said. "We're 5-6 and we're in the middle of a tough stretch right now. I don't think -- and I would never say this before the game, and I'm never gonna give an out for any of us -- we didn't have a lot in our tank.
In spite of that, UK turned in a solid week of preparation for a trip to Knoxville, Tenn. Unfortunately, it didn't translate on game day,
"I have no problem with our team's attitude and their effort," Stoops said. "And some people may have a hard time understanding that when you get beat (50-16). But I really do. I think our guys really want to play well. I thought they really prepared well, really tried to come in with a good mindset, and really I thought gave good effort."
Best demonstrating that effort on offense was wide receiver Javess Blue, who became the 23rd player in school history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. The senior had six catches for 131 yards, including grabs of 39 and 30 yards to set up UK's lone touchdown.
"My mindset was trying to get this team a (win), but at the same time we all ... played a part in this game," Blue said.
Blue added a 23-yard catch on the final drive of the first half, making a heads-up play when he kneeled with two seconds on the clock to allow UK to call a timeout and attempt a long field goal. Austin MacGinnis would capitalize, setting a school record with a 54-yard kick and making him one of three kickers nationally with three field goals of 50 yards or longer.
"When I went out there, I didn't even know how long it was or that it was for the school record," MacGinnis said. "I knew Coach Stoops called field goal to end the first half and I am just blessed that it went in."
The kick gave UK a measure of momentum heading into the halftime locker room, momentum Tennessee would quickly reclaim by scoring on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
Even so, Josh Forrest and Bud Dupree continued to battle. Forrest, a junior linebacker, had 20 tackles, while Dupree had a career-high 15, including a sack and two tackles for loss.
"It shows that we don't quit," Forrest said. "That's the whole thing: We try not to quit and keep making plays when we had to, winning our one-on-ones."
But on this night, the Cats didn't win nearly enough of them, serving as a reminder of the work ahead for a program that has already exceeded its win total from the previous two seasons combined in 2014.
"We need to be more physical," Stoops said. "We need to recruit and develop. ... It's hard. Things don't happen overnight. We need to continue to pound the weight room, we need to continue to recruit and get our players better and bigger. One thing I'm noticing in this stretch and I think y'all can see it too: We need to be more physical. We need bigger."
Even more immediately, UK needs to be healthier.
The Cats have an open date and two weeks to rest before their season finale, a trip to Louisville. That figures to benefit Patrick Towles -- who briefly departed with an ankle injury in the first half before returning -- and numerous other players nursing bumps and bruises.
"Our guys are banged up," Stoops said. "They need a couple days to decompress here a little bit and get a little energy back in their step. Physically and mentally just recharge a little bit."
Once they recharge, the Cats will shift their focus entirely to a matchup with their archrivals. By now, they would have liked to have picked up that sixth win and locked up bowl eligibility, but that wasn't in the cards. Now they have one last shot to do it against the Cardinals.
"It will be a great atmosphere that game," Dupree said. "It would be a great time to take back over the state. With a win, who wouldn't want to beat Louisville to go to a bowl game? We just gotta make it happen."
By Connor Link, UK Athletics
After being diagnosed with pulmonary embolism and missing the entire 2013-14 season, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers let go of more than just the basketball during the first official field-goal attempt of her career.
As the ball sank through the net without ever touching the rim, all of the pressure coming from her yearlong comeback effort fell away with it.
Goodin-Rogers began Kentucky's 111-74 rout of Appalachian State with back-to-back 3-pointers. Then, after personally denying two Appalachian State jump shots on consecutive possessions (with a layup from teammate Bria Goss in between), Goodin-Rogers converted on both of her free-throw attempts the next time down the floor. Less than two minutes into her collegiate debut, Goodin-Rogers had scored eight of her team's 10 points.
"That was fun. I thought that was a fun way to start the game," said head coach Matthew Mitchell. "Those first two 3s, they looked like they had a lot of tension in them right there. She just let it go, and nothing but net."
Thanks to Goodin-Rogers' hot start, the Wildcats jumped to a 58-42 lead by halftime -- ultimately ending in a 37-point margin of victory. Goodin-Rogers would go on to finish the game with 11 points, six rebounds, four blocks, and one assist. In 17 minutes of play, she was the only Kentucky starter not to commit a single turnover.
However, when asked about Friday's special performance, Goodin-Rogers quickly deflected credit to her UK teammates.
"It was special," Goodin-Rogers said. "I'm just glad to be back with my teammates. Last year, everybody supported me through everything. I knew I was going to be okay."
Mitchell is the first to attest to the triumph of the 6-foot-1 Marion County native's comeback story, as well as Goodin-Rogers' overall quality of character.
"She is all about the team," Mitchell said. "What a great kid. (Last year's diagnosis) was a scary, scary situation. (It was) such a downer of a year for her freshman year--couldn't be less ideal to start your career. She's really blossomed."
With Goodin-Rogers anchoring the low block, Kentucky's backcourt was steered by the three-headed attack of Jennifer O'Neill, Linnae Harper, and Makayla Epps. O'Neill, a senior, scored a team-high 20 points, complemented by eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. Leading the spark off Kentucky's guard-heavy bench were Harper (17 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Epps (16 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals).
With the season's inaugural win, No. 11 Kentucky's window for celebration won't extend much past the weekend. The Wildcats are scheduled to face the No. 8 Baylor Lady Bears in a 7 p.m. nationally televised marquee matchup at Rupp Arena on Monday. Kentucky defeated Baylor 133-130 in a four-overtime thriller last season before falling to the Lady Bears in the NCAA Tournament.
Goodin-Rogers wouldn't mind starting it with a pair of 3s again.
UK had its normal walkthrough on Thursday, opting to move inside with cold weather in Lexington before the Wildcats go back outside on Friday. Head coach Mark Stoops spoke to the media afterward for the final time before a Saturday matchup with Tennessee, praising his team for the way it has practiced all week. Stoops also gave an injury update on a pair of players, saying Za'Darius Smith (ankle) is expected to play in spite of practicing little this week. Stoops also expects Blake McClain (shoulder) to play after the nickelback practiced all week, but with no contact.
Check out Stoops' complete comments below.
Check out Stoops' complete comments below.
Matthew Mitchell has spent countless hours with his team over the last five months.
An offseason of conditioning, individual workouts and practices is at its end, giving way to the start of the regular season.
"It's finally here and it's time to play," Mitchell said.
But for all that eagerness, there's also some anxiety. Mitchell might have seen all that preseason preparation leading up to Friday's 7 p.m. season opener against Appalachian State in Memorial Coliseum, but he still doesn't know exactly what to expect from the No. 11/10 Wildcats.
"The biggest thing for me right now is I'm not quite sure what we're going to see tomorrow and as a coach that's a little scary," Mitchell said. "And I'm talking about from our team. I'm not talking about our opponent."
UK Hoops has plenty of experience in the form of seniors Bria Goss, Jennifer O'Neill and Azia Bishop, but this is a new team. Gone are post stars DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker, with three players - Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, Alexis Jennings and Alyssa Rice - who have never played a college game set to step in.
Considering the makeup of his roster, Mitchell has set three simple goals for his team, and it's nothing to do with Southeastern Conference standings or advancing in the NCAA Tournament. He wants UK to be the fastest team in the country, the most defensively disruptive and the toughest. From there, he'll let the results play out.
"They're capable of it," Mitchell said. "They're already showing some great signs in all three areas, but that's what I'd like for them to become."
UK showed more such good signs in its lone exhibition, a 141-63 win over Pikeville. The Cats were dynamic in the open floor, regularly getting out in transition in scoring what would have been a school-record number of points had the game counted.
Though Mitchell praised the speed of players like O'Neill, Bishop and Janee Thompson, it wasn't any of them handling the ball on their own that made UK's pace what it was against Pikeville.
"We don't need to be a big dribbling team," Mitchell said. "To be fast, we need to be a good passing team. The ball needs to move and I think one lesson we've tried to learn as we really broke down taking some steps forward this year, is sometimes when one player dominates the ball with the dribble, it actually slows us down."
UK was also disruptive in the exhibition, forcing 37 turnovers. The Cats also showed signs of toughness against Pikeville, taking charges and effectively transitioning into a half-court offensive game when necessary. However, it's going to take some regular-season tests to truly judge this team.
The Cats won't have to wait long for a handful of those.
Friday's season opener begins a stretch of three games in six days to start the season, a matchup with No. 8/9 Baylor in the middle of it. Mitchell expects to use the results from those three games to identify strengths and weaknesses and tailor practices going forward.
"We've constructed all the practices to be fast, tough and disruptive, so what are you doing well?" Mitchell said. "Sometimes you do things a little bit better than you give your team credit for as a coach. You're a little too critical sometimes, maybe you haven't worked on something that maybe you haven't felt like was going to be really good and it's not. The information we can gain will really, really help us as a team."
In many ways, Mitchell still sees his team as a blank canvas. Friday, he begins the work of trying to paint a masterpiece.
"This team has so much room for growth it's incredible," Mitchell said. "I do know that about us right now: We're going to get much, much better than we are right now. You just have too many young players who are thinking too much right now. And there's no way around it. You have to teach it. You have to give them the information and so if we look like a million bucks this week, we're going to look like $5 million at some time. If we look less than that, we'll increase in value with this team."
Temperatures dipped into the 30s for the first time this season for a Kentucky practice on Wednesday, but the Wildcats remained focused on the task at hand.
UK's work in preparing for a trip to rival Tennessee continues.
"We had a good Wednesday practice," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "Guys were flying around and staying warm, for the most part, so that's a good thing, and were into it. We're harping on fundamentals, and for the most part we were able to do that today."
The Cats, particularly on defense, are opting to focus on fundamentals rather than wallow after a loss to Georgia last weekend.
"Everybody was disappointed and frustrated from the loss," Eliot said. "But you got no other options in this league. You got to get on to next week, so that was our approach."
As difficult as that seems, that's been no issue for UK. Bud Dupree remains confident the Cats won't let one loss pave the way for another.
"The one thing I've seen about our team this whole year, even though we had bad games, Monday, the next Monday practice doesn't really show it," Dupree said. "We bounce back real quick and move on to the next (opponent) and we just gotta make sure we go out and play four quarters Saturday."
More than anything, playing four quarters means winning the individual battles that have too often gone against UK in recent weeks. Eliot says that's mostly to blame for Kentucky's struggles both defending the run and in forcing turnovers of late.
UK figures to stand a better chance of winning one-on-ones if standouts Za'Darius Smith (ankle) and Blake McClain (shoulder) are available on Saturday. In a bit of good news, both the defensive end and nickelback practiced on Wednesday.