Kentucky-Oklahoma Postgame Quotes

Kentucky Women’s Basketball
No. 17 vs. No. 12 Oklahoma
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Dec. 1, 2016


Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell


Opening statement…
“It was a good win for us tonight. Oklahoma is a great program and they have a good team. It was very difficult to get that victory. I’m really proud of our players they really, really played with great energy and toughness tonight. This was an awesome victory for us and I’m very proud.” 

On how the team weathered the storm and was able to come back at halftime … 
“Well I’m happy for our players because they really had to dig deep. We have had to work so hard just to get our normal rotation down. We had to spend so much time on how to play and what will work, and it has not left a lot of time on that five guard line-up. I’m just so proud of them, they fought and really got in that 2-3 zone and Makayla Epps just went to the middle and just fought #0. They really showed a lot of tenacity and dug deep. It’s awesome to see the team to that. This was a really big game for us and we needed to win this game. It’s a tough, tough month ahead and to be able to gut out a victory is great. I’m happy for the players, we practiced twice on Tuesday and Wednesday. We just have so much work to do and I’m just really proud of what they put into the game. They put a lot in to get this kind of result.”

On how important was Taylor Murray for the team tonight …
“Well she has really taken on the role of defensive leader and getting our defense started. I’m just so proud of her because there for a few weeks I think she doubted herself if she had the stamina and the ability to be a leader. Now she is embracing it. You can point to everybody on the team tonight. Everyone had some type of important role in the game and Taylor was outstanding. I’m really proud of her. She is such a good teammate and a great person. She wants to do well and she is only seven games into her sophomore year and I’m really proud about what she did tonight and I’m excited for her future.”

On the team embracing defense more …
“Well we try that. Like I said we practiced twice on Tuesday and Wednesday. We are just trying to get some defensive tenacity about us. But finally tonight in the second half we were able to be disruptive and find some way to get that turnover margin tilted in our favor. It took us a while, but we still have a long way to go defensively. We have to guard the ball better. Oklahoma got a little too deep into the lane tonight at times. We will keep working on it. It was just great to win while we are still trying to come together. We’ll sharpen it up because they were definitely together tonight. 

On seeing team playing with purpose this season …
“We worked them out really hard Tuesday and Wednesday. I thought the energy was really low tonight and I got after them a little bit about embracing the struggle that we are in. We are an imperfect team and we have to come together and play with purpose. We have to play harder than our opponents and we have to do all the little things and we have to show up with enthusiasm to practice. I just thought that they responded beautifully after practice. It seemed like they got the message. They played tonight with enthusiasm. We have to play with purpose. We are not going to get it done on talent alone. Everybody has gifts but none of it is going to just blow you away. We have to do it together. We have to play with a purpose.” 

On Taylor Murray and Maci Morris’ growth …
“We were walking down the tunnel tonight just talking about what a tough game this is going to be and how everyone has to bring their A-game tonight. So that’s what we are going to have to do. For us to be a good team Maci, Makayla, Taylor and everybody else are going to have to play well. They have to elevate their game. Taylor and Maci both are great young women and just great people. We are grateful that they are here at Kentucky. Maci looked great before the game. I went out and watched her shoot and she looked great and she had a good warm-up. She had a great look in her eye and she really battled tonight.”

On his thoughts about Makayla (Epps) when she gets going early … 
“We worked really hard. What I was pleased with is how she got going and what she’s been doing a lot is floating in the lane and trying to avoid contact and landing on one foot. So, for the past two days each morning we just got in the gym and we just worked on reading the sagging defense, attacking, getting off two feet and she came right out of the gates getting two feet in the paint jumping off two feet. Her first bucket was a jumper from about 10 feet. People don’t want her to get to the rim. So, they’re just playing off her and trying to bait her into that 17-footer where she can actually get in there, she’s so strong that she can get in there at 10 feet. I was pleased about her coachability. She really listened the last couple days and she’s a phenomenal player. When she does it right, she’s hard to guard. She guards herself when she’s floating and falling away and those kinds of things. So, you can get away with some of that. She had a little step back tonight. She’s a gifted player but, she’s got to know what her talent can really bring her if she works really hard and does it the right way. She’s very difficult to guard so it’s awesome. She’s going to have to rise to the occasion in games like that from time-to-time and it was a lot of fun to watch her tonight. She played great.”

On if Makayla (Epps) is the best big-game player he’s ever coached … 
“She’s had a lot of big games. A’dia Mathies had a lot of monster games here. Victoria (Dunlap) had some big games. She’s probably a little bit more kind of consistent. But, I mean Makayla has had some explosive games and hopefully she has some more in her the rest of the season.”

On what he told Makayla when he put her at the bottom of the 2-3 zone against their 6’9” player … 
“She told me put me in the middle we can get this done. I mean it was really good for I think the team because that had to be uncomfortable for everybody. It certainly was with me. But, you know it’s good that we faced that because we need to give a look to that. We were really dynamic offensively.  Mackenzie Cann made some great plays. Maci made some great plays. But, I was really proud. Makayla said. ‘Listen I can guard her.’ Then when we needed to go to our man defense ‘she said let’s go man I’ll just get in front of her. You know we don’t want to do that all season but, she is uniquely capable because she is the strongest player I’ve ever coached now. She is physically very, very strong and so, she can kind of get in there and battle a big for a little bit so real proud of that. That was a pivotal part in the game. That could have gotten away from us and we actually got enough cushion where we could hang-on there at the end because you had to know they were going find a way to figure out how to get the ball inside. So, thank goodness we were able to kind of survive that and that’s a credit to the players.”

Kentucky Players


#25 Makayla Epps, Sr., Guard


On feeling it early in the game…
“I can’t predict the future, but my main goal is to get started early. If I get started early, that builds my confidence and my momentum. Coach always tells me when I'm energetic and hype that it’s contagious.” 

On if her mentality changed with Evelyn Akhator in foul trouble…
"There were five guards playing in a zone with me in the middle… The five guards went out there and got it done. I told Evelyn in the fourth quarter this was her quarter, and she went out there and got it done. She's the only player I’ve seen with three fouls and still going out there and taking charges.”

On whether being a finalist for the Naismith and Wade awards are a burden or pushes her…
“Definitely not a burden or distraction, because I never know until Evan puts it on Twitter. People show me love for it, but it’s just a bunch of accolades. I am going to go get it, but just to be on it is great.”

On the importance of Maci Morris and Taylor Murray playing well the last couple of games…
“It is very important. I don't call them freshmen, I call them veterans. They played a lot of minutes last year in a lot of battles. A lot of people play Maci as just a shooter, but then they play up on her and she blows by them. Taylor - I have never seen a kid that fast. She drove to the basket one time, and I just wasn't ready. Everyone practices hard and works hard for each other, so it’s a great sight to see when everyone is scoring.” 

On what she thinks about Sherri Coale saying this year’s UK team is more purposeful…
“I am glad someone thinks that, because I don't know what a lot of people see or think when they talk about this. I know after everything from last season, people counted us out. But what I try to reiterate to them a lot in the locker room is, ‘Why not? Why not go knock out the No. 12 team in the country? Why not go shock the world?’”

On how big the game against Louisville will be on Sunday…
“Oh, buddy. I tell them jokingly all the time, ‘I don't care if we win a game all year,’ but that game Sunday, I need it. It’s Kentucky versus Louisville, so it will be fun win, lose or draw.”

On Taylor Murray being everywhere on the court…
“Taylor is everywhere. Even when she is tired, she just finds another gear. That’s how most of us are: we get tired, but if we stand up, catch our breath, we can get in there and get a stop or deflection or a big block like Makenzie (Cann) got.”

#4 Maci Morris, So., Guard


On leading the game in rebounds with the bigs in foul trouble…
“Usually I am what they call the get-back. With the bigs out, I knew I had to get the ball so they can get it to (Makayla) Epps and Tay (Murray) so they can run the floor.”

On how much Coach got on her at halftime before the third quarter…
“He didn't really get on me. They just keep telling me that I have been in a shooting slump, to shoot the ball and play the game. The coaches having faith in me and my teammates having faith in me just pushes me to do well. The third quarter I was just feeling it.”

#22 Makenzie Cann, Jr., Guard 


On how worried she was with Evelyn (Akhator) in foul trouble and having to go five guards…
“It’s not the ideal situation, but I was really proud that we had five guards out there and we didn't really give up any ground. So, I really think that says a lot.”

Oklahoma Head Coach Sherri Coale


On the game plan when Kentucky lost its 4 and 5 players in second quarter….
“They (Kentucky) went to a zone and that disrupted our rhythm a little bit. I think we probably got a little too conscientious of that and we were still fortunate to get the lead going into halftime yet we felt like we missed an opportunity to take advantage. The reverse was difficult though, their bigs were out but they had shooters in. Our 5 man had to run all over to guard someone which was very difficult.”

On cooling off on 3’s in the second half … 
“I think it was matter of us not being in the moment anymore. Sometimes you miss an easy layup or two and your brain gets all wound up thinking you have to make the next 3 because it is going to be worth seven now because I missed another one. Then you press and you try too hard and that is something have to learn from, but I don’t think the shots are much different.”

On not forcing turnovers tonight … 
“I don’t think that we were as aggressive defensively and I think that is the start that McKayla Epps had. We kind of started what we were going to do about her and obviously when they have the shooters they’re not trying to do a lot of things that are risky so we couldn’t really do anything with that. I think we could have been more aggressive but really good teams aren’t going to cough it up a bunch.”

On difference between this team vs. team faced last year in NCAA tourney …
“I think these guys are a lot more purposeful.”