Kentucky-UNC Asheville Postgame Quotes

First Round • Kentucky vs. UNC Asheville
Memorial Coliseum • Lexington, Ky.
Saturday, March 19


Matthew Mitchell, Kentucky Head Coach:

“We are really proud of our team today. A great victory. I’d like to congratulate and complement UNC Asheville. I thought preparing for the game and watching them, they clearly had a team with a lot of heart and a lot of fight. They played very, very hard. They had an amazing season. I don’t think that will be the last time you see them in a NCAA tournament. We have a lot of respect for them. I think our good play was fueled by a healthy respect for Asheville. They had a great season, and it was a really good year for them. 

Our players took four days off after the SEC Tournament. Since we got back together, they really worked hard to prepare for today. Today was not perfect. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to have great attitudes. I thought we had great attitudes today. I thought the players hustled. I thought we bounced back from some mistakes that we made and tried to improve in the game. We are really proud of this victory and proud to move forward in the tournament and looking forward to preparing for a tough game on Monday.”

On if Kentucky was able to do what they wanted to do in this game...
“I wanted the players to hustle and have great attitude today. I think they did that. We made a lot of mistakes today defensively, but I thought our overall aggressiveness, and for the balance of the game we were the aggressors, I think that was unsettling for Asheville. They missed some shots they probably normally made. We’ll go back and be real honest with our players about what was a good play and what was a bad play. You often don’t know how it is going to go during this time. It looks like it was good for us. We were able to still keep some offensive rhythm. I thought our players had been improving offensively. I think they did a good job and worked well together today. What we wanted today is to win. We wanted to win, and we wanted to advance in the tournament. We did that. I’m happy with how the day went.”

On Taylor Murray’s game and if he was worried about how his freshmen were going to do today...
“I thought they were well prepared for the day. Taylor just has been making constant improvement as all of our freshmen. I thought all three of our freshmen had some really good moments in the game. All of them made some mistakes in the game. But they are getting better. I have seen Taylor progress in the last two weeks. She’s getting better. She had a couple of plays today that might not have been real, real noticeable to everybody. As a coach, you are watching her, and you’re watching the play develop. And you’re thinking in your mind I hope she does this, I hope she sees this and I hope she’ll slow down. She did. There have been times this year where you’ve been like, ‘Oh gosh. I hope she’ll slow down.’ She just played so fast and out of control. I thought she showed a lot of improvement in practice, and I thought it showed up today in the game. It was good for the other two freshmen as well.”

On the play of Makayla Epps on inserting herself in the offense early...
“She did a good job. What we’re trying to do every practice is we review every practice. We show them what we need to improve; our teaching clips. And then we show them what they’re doing well. Right before they started getting ready today our last bit of preparation was to show how aggressive we had been in practice attacking in transition. The very first clip was Makayla. She had a good 10 days of practice. She really was aggressive and prepared well. I thought she was very aggressive and had a good day. We’ll need her to continue to improve and work hard. It was great to see her shoot the three well today; 3-of-6 is really good for her. If we can keep shooting the ball well, we’ll have a chance to win every game we play.”

On the play of the other freshmen Maci Morris and Batouly Camara...
“Sometimes we talk about how our offense affects defense. Maci did not let poor defense affect offense today. I had a sub at the table for her to try to get her out of the game because she kept running into a screen and she made two threes in between time. Thank goodness her parents are coaches; her dad’s a coach. If it had been a normal parent, they’d have been saying, ‘Why is he taking our daughter out after she made two threes?’ She struggled a little on defense. You know what I liked about Maci was we brought it to her attention a couple of times and sometimes a kid just gets kind of caught and she can’t dig herself out of it. I thought she bounced back in the latter part of the third and the early fourth and started making some better plays defensively. We’ll work with her. She’s a real determined player and keeps a good attitude and always accepts coaching. It was good to see her shoot the ball well today. She gave some good effort to correct some mistakes she made on the defensive end.

“I just thought Batouly show more improvement. One thing that we really tried to emphasize in this game was to finish plays; finish defensive possessions with two hands. I just thought she got some rebounds; went and got the ball and finished some plays today. One time we’d been working on when a team has a side of our offense how to play out of a broken play. When she faked that handoff and turned the corner and missed the layup, she got to the foul line. Those are the little things that you see coming on where you see some improvement. She also was making some defensive mistakes that she corrected. I thought she played a really good fourth quarter on defense and made some really good plays. 

“We’d be sunk without those three freshmen. They’ve had a fantastic year. They continue to get better. We’re going to work hard to try and improve tomorrow and see if we can win Monday night, which will then get us two or three more practices. We’ll see if it will continue to give us another chance to improve. I’m very excited. They’re great kids and they’re working hard to get better.”

On Oklahoma and their challenges...
“We’re real familiar with Oklahoma. Sherri Coale is at the very top of people that I admire in this profession. Her program is one that we have tried to emulate from an attitude standpoint and how they treat each other. They really seem to be connected. I’ve learned a lot over the years from just studying them from a far. In the last few years, I’ve gotten to know Sherri some. She’s been always real kind to me and willing to help. I just have tremendous respect for her and her program overall. 

“Her team we are familiar with. We played them last year in the Virgin Islands. A lot of those kids are still on the team. I got to watch them today. Really great low post players. Great guards. They can spread you out. It will be a difficult defensive task for our young team because they are very, very well coached. They execute great. 42 (Kaylon Williams) and 0 (Vionise Pierre-Louis), the post players are a handful down on the low block. Just their overall size and length is a great concern. It will be a very difficult game for us, but we’re excited to be playing it. We’ll work hard to try and improve tomorrow and work hard to prepare for victory on Monday night. It will be a great game.”

Makayla Epps, Kentucky Guard

On having a fast start…
“Coach Mitchell told us in the locker room that if we start off fast and the ball is bouncing in our favor then that’s good. If it’s not and it’s kind of lopsided going back and forth with UNC Asheville, then that’s okay, too. He always tells us ‘no lead is too big and no deficit is too big to come back from,’ so we just wanted to come out and make a statement for everyone who was watching us tonight that Kentucky’s here and we want to make a good run at the tournament. So putting it away early really helped us a lot.”

On Kentucky’s defense and Asheville’s difficulty to score against it…
“Coach Mitchell told us at one point when they had 13 points that we’re still not playing great defense. They had a time where they had five offensive boards and we had seven. So we really focused on boxing out and rebounding. They play hard and like Coach Mitchell said, you have to respect them. And we did respect them. Just being out there on the court with them, you could tell that they really wanted to win and give it everything they’ve got. But I told the team at the last media timeout to try to keep them under 35 and we did that until the last media timeout.”

Janee Thompson, Kentucky Point Guard

On focusing on Monday’s game…
“We can take a second to be happy about winning but we have to put it behind us and move forward and prepare for Oklahoma. They’re a really good team. They’ve got a good coach and a good program.  So we’re just excited that we’re able to move forward in the tournament and keep playing.”


Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick, UNC Asheville Head Coach:

“Ya’ll saw what happened out there. Kentucky shot incredibly well, they certainly came and played the defense that we were aware they were capable of playing. I’d have to look back and my feel was at the beginning was that we weren’t on our heels necessarily in terms of our mentality. I thought we were trying to execute the best we could with what they were doing but what they were doing was exceptional. Their intensity and their defensive pressure took us out of some things and when we did get open shots, I thought we did get some open shots, we did miss them. You have to hit those open 3s. Some of them were contested obviously and Kentucky did a good job but we’re going to have to shoot the ball better than 20 percent.

“Overall, I just told my kids in the locker room, we want to do better than that. That was an opportunity for us to learn but I’m so proud of them for getting here. Obviously, that’s not all we want to do. We don’t want to come this far in the program just to come this far. At the same time, what these seniors have done, especially Paige Love, what they have done in the past four years to take this program from winning zero Division 1 games in 2012-13 to being the regular season and  Big South tournament conference champions says a lot about the work ethic they’ve put in but also we’ve got a lot work we have left to do. I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group. I’m proud of them. It’s been a great season, a season of ups and downs but a lot more ups. Today was a little down for us but at the same time it was a great experience and hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to get back here next year and do a little bit better when we get to this game.”

On missing shots started causing them to drive more into the paint...
“Yeah, I think if you’re pressured your reaction as a basketball player is to drive. We tell our players to get to two feet and get strong with the ball and I think that’s where we had some errors. We lost the ball in the paint, particularly (Chatori) Major who’s been an awesome player for us this year. They really had good pressure on her. They did a good job of defending her. When she got into the paint, she usually is pretty good at her step through and getting to two feet or hitting what we call a drag pass behind but we weren’t moving with the ball very well. Our game plan wasn’t necessarily ‘hey, let’s attack Kentucky in the paint,’ I’m not sure that’s a weakness of theirs. At the same time we weren’t hesitant to go in there as long as we were getting to two feet and taking good shots or attacking and hitting a drag behind us. To be honest, you’re going to have to hit some 3s to beat Kentucky and quite frankly we just didn’t do that. We had some decent shots that didn’t go in.”

Paige Love, UNC Asheville Guard

On her excitement to play in the NCAA Tournament...
“I was very excited. It was a great opportunity that I’ve always wanted to do since I came in my freshman year. To go out with my senior year coming here is very rewarding. Everything Coach Mock just talked about, really this was the icing on the cake, cherry on top. The game didn’t go as planned, obviously, but I know this team and I know they will continue to grow and I look at all the freshmen and told them to get back here. This is what they want. You want this every year. I wish I would have had it every year but getting her my senior year is very rewarding.”

On how she feels playing in her last game for UNC Asheville...
“I left my legacy here and that’s what I wanted. After Coach Mock talked about the freshman year and no Division I wins and the next year got better and the next year got better, this, this is what I want. This was my last game but honestly, the last game in Kimmel Arena when we beat Liberty in double overtime to win the conference tournament championship, that felt like my last game because that’s what I wanted. This opportunity was great and we would have had to play phenomenal and not shoot 20 percent to beat Kentucky. Hats off to them, they played great but this experience is awesome and I feel like I’ve left my legacy and I’ve tried to trickle that down to the underclassmen. This is what we want. We want to always focus on the process and we always want to be a good teammate like Coach Mock has said. Asheville is on the map now. That’s what we want.”