Kentucky-Missouri Postgame Quotes

Kentucky Women’s Basketball
#15/14 Kentucky 69,  #24/24 Missouri 59
Postgame Quotes
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Feb. 25, 2016


Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

 
Opening statement…
“We had a great victory tonight. I was really, really excited for the team because Missouri is very tough and very difficult for our team to guard. It’s not a great matchup for us. They do things that make it difficult on our young team to guard. I thought they played extremely hard but that wasn’t a surprise. They’ve played real hard all year. They are a quality basketball team. A really tough, young basketball team too. They have a very bright future.”
 
On Janee Thompson’s exceptional senior night performance…
“To have someone perform like that on senior night, that’s storybook type stuff. We needed every ounce of her energy and her leadership. After a third quarter like we had, very deflating and we weren’t very tough, she opened up the fourth quarter with a very tough play. She really, really put us on her back in the fourth quarter and earned a great victory on senior night. We can talk about her all night. She was really, really tough and came up big for her team on a real important night for us.”
 
On what he told his team going into the fourth quarter…
“That we had just gotten out-toughed. I thought we were pretty tough. I thought that we really hustled in the first half and built a 13-point lead. I don’t know how Makayla (Epps)’s layup didn’t go in to make it a 15-point lead. I mean it was a really good half for us. We fought real hard. After we got settled in, like I told everyone all week, this is going to be a really difficult game. I thought Missouri was real, real good at the beginning of the game. We needed that to settle in and once we settled in I thought we played really well. We had not played against number 22, (Jordan) Frericks for a large portion. We tried to go Evelyn (Akhator) on Sophie (Cunningham). We tried to go Batouly (Camara) on Frericks and Batouly just got physically dominated early on. I thought that set the tone. Then we were just missing shots. We missed so many shots. I thought we let offense effect defense. Right before the fourth quarter it was a 1-point game and we couldn’t play much worse. We needed to get tough. That very first play Janee just comes out and we have a play called. I thought Missouri was trying to mess with our mind a little bit; five players stood in the lane. Janee just found a little crease and refused the ball screen, went in for an and-one and I think that was number 22’s fourth foul. It was just a big play, a real tough play. I thought that set the tone for the rest of the quarter. We held them to eight and here we are, happy on senior night.”
 
On what Janee means to the program and himself after her 100th win…
“To the program, she has been a very productive, big time player. She’s always come up big in big games. She’s a talented, productive player. To me personally, she means a lot more because we did not always have a smooth path together. There was a lot of work we had to do together. There was a lot of learning from each other. She’s really, really special to me because if neither one of us had worked at it, we could have just existed and had an okay relationship. One of the proudest things that has happened at Kentucky is that she and I have a close relationship. What she said on the court at the end of the game to everybody, that I’ve been important in her life, you just have no idea how meaningful that is to me. That’s what I’ve wanted her to be. It was not always sunshine and rainbows with us. There were some tough days. This season she has really come into her own. She’s still growing. She still has an opportunity to get better. But she is very special to me.” 
 
On if the team has developed to where he envisioned it at this point in the season…
“Yes, very much so. If we could avoid a few quarters like the third quarter we will be all right. I think this is why this team is where we are. We are not beating teams because of our talent or we blowing people’s doors off because we are super talent. I was thinking about it before the game. We have really worked hard on shooting and footwork. Everyone has worked really hard at it; you can’t imagine how many reps these kids have had at shooting the ball. Honestly that has saved us. Shooting has made us a dangerous team now and in the post season. For example, Evelyn Akhator making that base line jumper in the fourth quarter. I cannot count how many times she has practiced that shot in practice. I have to tell her to leave the gym and that she can’t stay any longer. She would just stay out there for hours and it has really been great to see her growth. We have really put and emphasis on the better offensive team we have become and I think no matter what happens from here we have made progress. We can definitely look back on this season where we have put a lot of time and effort in and we have gotten better.”
 
On how the challenge of changing one’s personality as a coach mid-season…
“Well, it’s very challenging but it’s very necessary. We are always asking players to get out of their comfort zone and to grow and get better, I just analyze the situation. We have played a lot of Kentucky basketball and we have made a lot of progress. We believe we can be a Final Four team.  We also believe we can win a national championship. I really believe that, so we are just going to work hard and try to make whatever changes we have to make and build on whatever is good. We can’t be afraid to grow as a program. I have a strong belief that everything in the end is going to pay off.
 

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#13, Evelyn Akhator, F


On how much she wanted to win for Janee Thompson …
“We really wanted to win, really bad. Getting this big win for her is a really a great thing. I try to do the best and so does the team, just for her to be happy.”
 

#3, Janee Thompson, PG


On her great night …
“I’m really just happy we won because we didn’t play as well as we needed to play, especially defensively in that third quarter. We had a lot of breakdowns and a lot of miscues, and we let them take the lead. We have a lot to learn and we plan to go back and look at film so we can correct the mistakes.”
 
On her senior experience …
“It meant a lot. I had a lot of people here from my hometown and a lot of family that I haven’t seen in a long time. It meant a lot that they were here to support me on a day like this. People make a big deal out of this, but I was just more happy to see my family and to know they were in the stands.”
 
On how her ankle held up …
“It was alright. I was a little gimpy in warm-ups, but your adrenaline gets to going and then you add on senior night adrenaline so I was fine during the game. I’ll ice it and get some treatment, and I’ll be ready for the next one.”
 
On if this team is where it needs to be to make a run in the postseason …
“Yeah, I was just talking about that. I think we are definitely starting to figure it out. Especially our younger players and our newcomers are starting to figure it out. I think we have a completely different mentality than we did especially when we were losing a lot of games; we have a different sense of urgency. I don’t even feel like we have any freshmen on our team anymore because they are definitely not making freshman mistakes anymore.  That’s good to see and I think we are headed in the right direction.”
 

#25, Makayla Epps, G


On what it was like to watch Janee take over …
“It was great. She probably took 20 shots and I promise you I probably told her to take every 20. She would have taken 30 if she had shot the extra 10 I told her to shoot. I have a lot of confidence in my team. I have respect for her game. I love being on the court with her; she’s been here ever since I got here at day one so she is real close to my heart. I am glad to see her have a 24-point game in a big game like that.”
 
On Janee putting the team on her back during this game …
“That’s the veteran in her, small and carrying a big load on her back. I am just glad to see her do stuff like that, especially on a night like that where she is the only senior and she got her 100th win tonight.”

Missouri Head Coach Robin Pingeton 


On the third quarter… 
“I thought that we really challenged them at halftime and felt like we were a little bit on our heels in that first half and we really challenged them to come out and play a lot more aggressive. It helps when you’re knocking down shots. We shot it at a pretty high percentage in that third quarter.  We thought defensively we did a nice job, better than we have been doing. It was a nice run in the third quarter but we couldn’t sustain it for the fourth.”

On the fourth quarter…
“You have to give Kentucky a lot of credit. I thought they really picked up their defensive intensity. We didn’t shoot it at the same percentage as we did in the third quarter. We had some looks and just didn’t finish. We almost looked fatigued a little bit. We got into foul trouble with both Cierra Porter and Jordan Frericks, which didn’t help us. And we really didn’t knock down the shots that we did in the third quarter.” 

On how Kentucky is this year versus previous seasons…
“Obviously they don’t have maybe quite as much depth as they’ve had in the past but Matthew (Mitchell)’s built a tremendous program. I think Kentucky’s certainly one of the top three teams in our league hands down. I think as the season progresses they just keep getting better and better. I think (Makayla) Epps and (Janee) Thompson are two of the best in the league. And then they’ve got some very explosive and athletic post players that do a tremendous job on the boards and play so explosive around the rim. I think their style might be a little different; they don’t have the depth to create with their full-court pressure like they have in the past. But they definitely still have the ability to turn it up in the half-court and really guard hard. And they do a great job of guarding hard without fouling.”
 
On the performance of Sophie Cunningham…
“I thought both Sophie and Jordan competed at a really high level for us. Sophie, being a freshman, had a great non-conference and then it took her some time to adjust to the SEC play. But she’s been pretty dang consistent for us all year long. She’s a fierce competitor. She can do a little bit of everything. You saw tonight that she could play the one through five spot. We had her at point guard and at stretch four. She can guard on the perimeter and in the post. She rebounds really well.  She can shoot the three and get to the rim. She’s just a special player and she plays with such a motor and she’s so passionate about the game. I think the thing that really stands out to me about Sophie is just her unselfishness. There are nights where she’s not been able to get the looks that she did tonight. It’s truly not about the points or her stat line. Its about the front of the jersey for Sophie Cunningham.”