Kentucky-Tennessee State Postgame Quotes

Kentucky Women’s Basketball
Kentucky vs. Tennessee State
Postgame Quotes
Memorial Coliseum – Lexington, Ky.
Dec. 28, 2015


Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell


Opening statement …
“We’re happy to win tonight. I thought Tennessee State was a team that we were certainly concerned about with their ability to drive the ball to the basket and get to the basket to really do some damage. Then also on the boards, they’re a really tough offensive rebounding team. One of the toughest we’ve seen so far. We really wanted to limit their scoring tonight. I thought we did a great job with that. A lot of hustle plays out there tonight. We weren’t perfect by any means. We can continue to work and get better but we really fought and hustled. We didn’t always do a great job on the boards but we were able to get a plus ten number there. That’s something that we’re going to continue working on is our rebounding. Good overall effort and hustle coming back from the break and we’re really, really happy to win.”

On holding Tennessee State to under 40 points …
“We wanted to limit their scoring and have our team focused and take pride in limiting them to the fewest possible points that we could. We were battling there at the end. We were really battling at the end to get stops because we wanted to play as good of a game as we could tonight. Really proud with holding them to 39 points.”

On if this is the type of game he wants to see going forward …
“I think that’s going to have to be the kind of team we need to be. We need to be a team that you don’t know who you can key on and anybody can hurt you. There are probably some teams out there in the country that have some singular talents that if we are playing one-on-one we might be in trouble. But we’re just trying to be as good of a team that we can be. I think that we do need balance and we need everybody contributing and hustling. It’s a great game to go into conference play on because while we won the Duke game, I was very concerned about the boards. You just can’t be in a big deficit on the boards in the Southeastern Conference and contend for a championship. And that’s what we want to try to do. So we really have to get after it and work on getting that shored up before we play next Sunday.”

On any surprises from outstanding play by freshman players…
“They had some really good moments in the game. I don’t think surprised is the right word because I had confidence in them but just really happy that they’ve been able to progress so quickly. I think it has also been a product of maybe in years past when we’ve had some depth the freshman didn’t feel the pressure or if pressure’s not the right word, the responsibility that this freshman feel. I’ve just been very plain with them. We don’t have a good scenario or a good option for Batouly (Camara) to be a poor player and Maci (Morris) and Taylor (Murray). They’re three main keys to our success so I think they come to practice knowing that every day. They’re three super outstanding people with really high character. They care about others and they care about their game. They work real hard. You just have to run them off the court and out of the gym. Real happy for them and I know our team is excited about them because we need them. I thought that Maci and Taylor there in the first half really keyed us with some good defense and made really great decisions offensively. I thought Batouly really had some progress on the boards tonight. She went and got some rebounds with two hands that I’ve been talking to her about. She’s close to blossoming too and really being a major factor for us. So we need all three of them and we’re real excited about their futures.”

On possibility of this team being the best overall team yet …
“Offensively, there’s no question. We’re operating through the non-conference at the highest level that we have. It’s there and you can see it. These players that we have work so hard on their shooting. They’ve worked starting back in June. We’re now seven months into everybody focusing on their footwork. Everybody’s committed to getting in the gym and working. They’re shooting the ball really, really great from all areas on the court. Janee (Thompson) starts 0-7 or 0-8 and then just hangs in there and the shot comes back. You don’t even worry about it because she’s put the time in. It’s really important for us to continue to spend time on that. We’ve spent time on it in practice every day, more than we’ve ever done. I think it’s paying some dividends because what’s happening in games like this in the past is teams would stay in the lane and hope that we jacked up a bunch of 3s and missed. That would be their formula for beating us and we’re just really trying not to be that kind of a team. We’re really trying to be a team that can be patient and take good shots and make enough to win games.”

On if he had given them a longer break this time than previously …
“I don’t know if it was any longer but it was a real good five-day break. It was all day Monday through Saturday at 5 p.m. You think about it, the next two months are going to be a grind. It’s going to be playing against some of the absolute best competition in the country, some of the best players, some of the best coaches. SEC basketball is outstanding. I think that family is important here for everybody and everybody wants to get back and see their families so I thought the break was good. They came back in great spirits. They really worked the night after Christmas, worked hard yesterday, worked hard this morning. Three really solid practices and I thought it showed up tonight.”

On the slow first half …
“I think Tennessee State’s Coach Inman is someone I really look up to and am always so respectful of how hard his teams play. I thought that Tennessee State kind of absorbed that first punch that we threw in the first quarter and then I thought they came back with a lot of tenacity on defense and disrupted us. We started turning the ball over. That was just not good for us and it really slowed our momentum. Then we let it affect our defense. They had a nice four-minute segment there where Tennessee State was controlling the game. I thought it all started with our lack of ball security and then we can’t be a team that lets poor offense affect defense. We have to be really solid on defense. I think we’re starting to come around to the fact of how hard we’re going to have to defend. Our post players have to get a bit tougher on the defensive end. If that can happen I think we’re going to round into a pretty solid defensive team. We just have to bring it every day to practice and work real hard. When you go into conference play it’s all about your defense and board play and being really, really efficient on offense. Not turning the ball over a ton. Those are the three things you can really hang your hat on. That’s the kind of team we’re trying to be.”

On if they’ve discussed potentially being 12-0 for the first time ever …
“We won’t discuss the significance of 12-0. We really, really obviously want to win next Sunday because we want to get conference play off to a great start and Auburn is a real tough team. Last time we were down there it was an absolute knockdown, drag out that we had to play real hard to win. They always play real hard so it’ll be tough. It would be nice to get to 12-0 because that means that we started conference play 1-0. So we will see what happens but no, we won’t talk a lot about that being particularly significant because even if we get to 12-0 there’s still so much left to do. It wouldn’t be anything to celebrate. It would be more of something to look back on if we could get it done. So we’ll see what happens and we would love to start conference play off with a victory.”

On if the team is going to two-a day practices …
“We will but they won’t be practices. It will be split sessions with some shooting and some individual skill work. We’ve got to be smart and efficient with our work. We don’t have our practice squad back in here until the 14th, I don’t think classes start until the 13th or 14th. So we’ve got to be really smart and use our time wisely. We can’t waste our time out on the court. We have to play really hard against each other. We will either practice in the mornings and come back and shoot in the evenings or vice versa. But that’s kind of the way we will go about it.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#4 Maci Morris, G


On stepping up when Makayla Epps and Janee Thompson were struggling from the floor to start the game offensively … 
“We just play our game and do whatever we can do to contribute. Helping the team is what we do.”

On working hard to contribute so she stays on the court more … 
“We know what we have to do and we know we have to contribute to the team when we’re low in numbers. But, I think we’re great in numbers actually because we get to play more and it keeps everyone in a rhythm throughout the game.”

On her and Taylor Murray talking about defense …
“Especially in the beginning (we would talk about defense and who we were guarding off the court) yeah because Taylor (Murray) is such a great defender and I was struggling in the beginning. She would always give me pointers and help me out with how to guard people using my strengths instead of maybe what her (Murray) strengths are.”

#24 Taylor Murray, PG


On the win going into conference play … 
“We ran really hard as a team. We feed off of each other. We always penetrate, we have shooters and we can all drive. We just help each other when we’re out there on the floor.”

On working hard to contribute so she stays on the court more … 
“We just come out ready to play. Whether it’s defense or offense we help out the team in any way we can.” 

On the team being undefeated … 
“We just come out ready to play and we give it our all. We have a game plan whether it is defense or executing the offense, and being patient.”

#13 Evelyn Akhator, F


On if she wants to get a double-double every game …
“I don’t really think about getting the double-double, I just let the game come to me, that’s all.”

On the team sharing the ball well right now … 
“It is going to be really great if all the players average a double-double every game, so that is our goal is for all the players to average a double double every game.”

Tennessee State Head Coach Larry Joe Inman


Opening Statement…
“I felt like Kentucky played great tonight. They whooped us about every way you can be whipped. We only shot 9% from the 3-point line, 27% from inside the arc. They shot 47% from 2-point field goals and 62.5% from 3, but on the boards I thought we did much better. I felt like we rebounded decent with them, but not where we need to be. We had too many turnovers, you give up 24 turnovers you’re talking about a lot of points from turnovers and they had us pretty good from there as well. When you look at the combination and stats don’t lie, you got to give them credit. They have a pretty good club and did a lot of good things. They’re very good inside and outside as well. You can’t leave anyone open for any amount of time because they are going to knock it down. I thought he (Coach Mitchell) did a very good job with his inside game balancing both inside and outside kids. I thought that was the difference. It was really pick your poison. I just thought they had a great game and I thought we didn’t really meet the challenge at times. I think our kids played hard. I didn’t think we hit shots when we needed to hit shots. We had a lot of good looks especially the first half, in the second half we went through a stretch where we had a lot of good looks but we didn’t knock them down so that is their defense. They did a good job and we didn’t capitalize when we had good looks so consequently we just did not have a very good game and I thought they did, inside and outside, offense and defense. I just thought they had the complete package and I thought they did a very good job.”

On the team being a little nervous…
“We were, you come to Kentucky have a little bit of a tendency to do that, it’s a little bit of a tendency in itself. That is how you get better, if you’re going to aspire to play at the national level you have to play this level of competition and you have to play competitively. Last year we played competitively, this year we did not and if you’re going to run with the big dogs you got to get off the porch. Tonight we never got off the porch.”

On the frustration as the game on…
“The girls got discouraged and we kept talking to them about finishing strong and hard. All of those things but as you go on, it gets frustrating mentally even though you’re playing hard if you’re not able to do what you’re physically normally able to do. I thought it took a toll on us mentally at times.”

On the team’s effort…
“I thought our kids played hard all of the way through. This just wasn’t our night, but I thought they played hard. Did a great job of hustling, playing defense, running up and down the floor.”

On what the team can learn from after playing Kentucky 3 times in a year…
“To me, it is just a great opportunity to play this level of competition. What I have learned from them is that I think they’re better than they were last year. I think they’re more complete inside and outside. He has better depth at all of the positions and they perform well for him. They’re hard to guard because they have so many weapons. I thought that was the difference for us. We’ll be happy to play them again. Well play anybody as long as it will make us better. As long as you can contain the mental focus and we have played an SEC schedule in our early season schedule but I always feel like it’s going to make you better in the long run. You may lose the game as long as you don’t lose your confidence. The next thing I worry about when playing teams like this is my kids losing their confidence and their capabilities. We talk about that all of the time so I am hoping we don’t lose our mental focus on what we have to do to compete in our conference. You have to play up-level in order to be successful. Our aspiration is the same thing as the University of Kentucky, we want to be in the NCAA tournament trying to make a little noise. If we can do that like last year, we had a great year but unfortunately we drew Kentucky in the first round. At least you get there and your kids have an opportunity and that was a great feeling for our kids. One we hadn’t felt in 20 years. So the younger kids they need to work on their mechanics and that will happen over time. In a couple years they will get better where some of our older kids are now. Our older kids could compete with them tonight. That was not a factor, we could compete with them but our younger kids could not.”