No. 9 Kentucky Welcomes No. 18 Tennessee on Big Monday
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Looking to get back in the win column following a setback on the road last Thursday at Ole Miss, the No. 9 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team welcomes No. 18 Tennessee to Memorial Coliseum on Monday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
“Well, Tennessee is bringing in a really talented team and it will be a huge challenge for us and we will have to prepare well today and work really hard to go against their size,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They are a lot bigger than us and an incredibly tough rebounding team. We will have to keep them off the boards and find a way to get that done. We will just have to go out and compete and play really, really hard and work hard for victory … It would be great to have a big crowd in Memorial and help give us an advantage and lift tomorrow night.”
Single-game reserved tickets are $9 for all ages, while adult general admission single-game tickets are $8. For those aged 6-18 or 65-and-over, general admission costs are $5 per ticket. Children age five-and-under are admitted free in the general admission seating area, and UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification.
Monday’s game is part of ESPN’s Big Monday and will be televised nationally on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins and Doris Burke on the call. The game can also be seen through WatchESPN on computers, smartphones or tablets. For the 11th consecutive season Neil Price will have the call on the UK Sports Network. Fans in Lexington can hear Price’s call on 630AM WLAP. Live stats and free audio will be available online at UKathletics.com.
The game will serve as Kentucky’s “We Back Pat” game this season. The Southeastern Conference, in cooperation with its 14 member institutions, is once again observing “We Back Pat” Week. The week-long initiative is focused on bringing awareness and recognition to The Pat Summitt Foundation, a fund of East Tennessee Foundation, and its fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
In the middle of a stretch with four of five games at home, Kentucky is looking to end the stretch on a high note with two home games this week against highly ranked Tennessee before welcoming Vanderbilt on Thursday. The stretch started with a loss vs. No. 2/2 South Carolina before responding with a victory over Auburn in Memorial last Sunday. UK had a setback during its lone road game during the stretch, falling at Ole Miss on Thursday, 73-65.
Kentucky (14-3, 3-3 SEC) struggled to find its rhythm at Ole Miss, recording 21 turnovers and allowing the Rebels to score 73 points, which tied the highest point total allowed this season by the UK defense. Three Wildcats scored in double figures with Makayla Epps leading the way with 22 points and six assists, while Akhator had 13 points and Maci Morris added 10. UK won the rebounding battle, 36-33, but Ole Miss hit 10 3-pointers in the game and had 22 points off UK turnovers and 18 second-chance points to claim the win.
Epps leads Kentucky in scoring this season, averaging 16.3 points per game. The junior guard has scored 20 or more points six times this season and is averaging 5.3 assists per game. Senior guard Janee Thompson, who is listed as questionable for Monday’s game after sustaining an ankle injury against Ole Miss, is second on the team with 12.2 points per game. Akhator is the only other Wildcat averaging double figures with 12.1 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game.
The Lady Vols are currently ranked No. 18 in the latest AP Poll and No. 22 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll. Tennessee enters the contest with a 12-6 record, including 3-2 in SEC play. UT had a nonconference matchup against No. 3/3 Notre Dame on Jan. 18, dropping a 79-66 decision to the Fighting Irish. In its last game, UT defeated Vanderbilt at home, 58-49.
Diamond DeShields, the 2014 National Freshman of the Year before transferring from North Carolina to Tennessee, leads the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game and also leads the team in assists with 45 and steals with 38. Also scoring in double figures for the Lady Vols are Bashaara Graves, who is averaging 10.6 points per game along with a team-best 8.5 rebounds per game, and Mercedes Russell, who is posting 10.7 points per game and pulling down 8.3 rebounds per game.
As a team, Tennessee is shooting at a .412 clip and holding opponents to 38.3% from the field. The Lady Vols rank in the top-30 in steals per game, with an average of 10.3 per game. Tennessee is scoring 66.2 points per game this season and limiting opponents to 58.3 points per game.
Monday’s meeting against Tennessee marks the 64th meeting in school history between the two programs in women’s basketball. The Lady Vols lead the all-time series, 10-53, including a 22-7 mark in games played in Lexington. Tennessee has won each of the last four meetings between the two teams, including two of those four games in Lexington.
Mitchell is 4-12 all-time against Tennessee with three of those four wins coming in Lexington. Kentucky’s last win in the series came in 2014 in Knoxville when the Wildcats outlasted UT, 75-71. The Wildcats last win at home in the series came March 3, 2013 when UK secured a 78-65 victory over UT.
Kentucky and Tennessee met twice last season, once in Knoxville, when UT won 72-58, before playing UK in the SEC Tournament semifinals last year and earning a 75-64 victory.
The first meeting between the two teams in Knoxville was tied at halftime, 31-31, before the Lady Vols outscored Kentucky 41-27 in the second half to earn the win. UT won the battle in the paint, outscoring Kentucky, 36-22, including 20 second-chance points and 10 fast-break points. Epps led Kentucky with 13 points.
In the second meeting in the SEC Tournament semifinals, UT shot 42.9% from the field, including 47.4% from 3-point land, while Kentucky shot 34.2% from the field and hit 5-of-17 3s. The Wildcats turned the table in the paint, leading 28-20, including 25 points off turnovers.
For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, visit UKathletics.com or follow @UKHoopCats on Twitter and Instagram, or Kentucky Women’s Basketball on Facebook.
Spectator parking is located in the following areas:
- All E-lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum are off control beginning 3 hours prior to tip. This includes the College of Education E-lots, located off Scott Street.
- The South Limestone Garage (PS#5, adjacent to Kennedy's Bookstore) and the Rose Street Garage (PS#2) are available 2 hours prior to tip-off.
- Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage is available after 5 p.m. ET on weekdays and all day on weekends.
- When parking in the Transit Center, pull a yellow token from the dispenser and keep in your vehicle. See the event staff attendant at the entrance near Lexington Avenue/High Street to receive a free parking voucher before the game. When exiting the garage after the game, place your yellow token in the machine, then scan the barcode on your free parking voucher to exit.
- Disabled parking is available in the E-Lot (Employee Lot) north of the Joe Craft Center, adjacent to the metered spaces running along the front of the Craft Center with a valid, state issued disabled hang tag. These spaces are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis until full.
Please note: parking is prohibited in any R-lots (Residential). Vehicles parked in Residential lots without a proper permit, along yellow curbs, grass spaces, or other non-specified and unapproved areas may be subject to ticket and/or tow.
- Free shuttle services are available beginning 2 hours prior to tip off from the South Limestone Garage located off Limestone and Upper Street and the Transit Center Parking Garage located off High Street and Vine Street.
- The Parking Structure #5 shuttle (blue route) picks up/drops off on Administration Drive, at the end of the pedestrian sky bridge accessed from the 3rd floor of the parking garage. The pickup/drop off point near Memorial Coliseum is at the Euclid entrance.
- Transit Center Parking Garage (green route) picks up/drops off near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King. The pickup/drop off point near Memorial Coliseum is near the Ticket Office at the Lexington Avenue entrance.
- Shuttles will start back up at halftime and continue until 1 hour post-game to return guests to their parking areas.
Game day Information:
- Doors to Memorial Coliseum will open one (1) hour prior to tip-off.
- UK Athletics encourages women's basketball fans to arrive early to ease traffic and parking congestion around the Coliseum.
- Surface lots (i.e. Joe Craft Center North, Rose Street lot and the Alumni Center lot) reach capacity approximately 1.5 hours prior to tip-off, at which point vehicles should proceed directly to the South Limestone Garage (PS#5), Rose Street Garage (PS#2), the E-lots near the College of Education or the Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage near High Street and Lexington Avenue.
For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visit ukathleticsgameday.com/hoops.
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Pre-Tennessee News Conference
Opening statement …
“Well, Tennessee is bringing in a really talented team and it will be a huge challenge for us and we will have to prepare well today and work really hard to go against their size. They are a lot bigger than us and an incredibly tough rebounding team. We will have to keep them off the boards and find a way to get that done. We will just have to go out and compete and play really, really hard and work hard for victory.”
On Janee Thompson’s status for Monday’s game following an injury at Ole Miss …
“We will know more after today’s practice. We practice here in a few minutes and we will see what she can do. It was great news that nothing was broken and everything looks good on the x-rays. So for now, it is just a painful sprain (to the left ankle) and we would list her as questionable. She is not ruled out of the game, but she is not in it yet either. We will see what happens.”
On how important it would be for her to play in the game …
“Yeah, she would be very important for us. She has the most experience than anybody on the team, so that is very important. But we have to get our entire team, Janee and everybody, just focused in on the details of how to do things the right way. We have struggled with that and certainly struggled with that Thursday night. All of us, no matter who plays in the game, have to go out and really focus on being a lot more detailed oriented and sharper.”
On what he saw from watching the Ole Miss film …
“First of all, it was just visible that they were much more excited to play, Ole Miss was, than we were. And that is something that I have to get right as a coach. We did not come out with a real competitive spirit and we had zero focus on the defensive end. Ole Miss ran, let’s face it, they were motivated to play and really sharp and crisp with their execution. I thought that their early success just continued to buoy their spirit. We were just kind of playing and only a couple buckets down and looked like we had no energy and that was a real problem. Then just our defensive positioning, they basically went five guards and really spread the floor and our defensive positioning was just really, really poor. We have a lot to work on and we are a really inexperienced SEC team and these games are really hard on the road. And if we are not going to show up with great energy, we are not anywhere close to being talented enough to not pay attention to details and play with lethargy. That is not a good formula with this team. This team has to really pay attention to where they are on defense and pay attention to having a great spirit and attitude.”
On getting the team to play with high energy but not wear them down …
“We just have to make sure that we are smart in practice and we don’t waste any time. Our players are physically in very good shape. Ole Miss might have played more people, but you look at the minutes and nobody is out there playing 10-12 people. I think that is a fallacy that we are thin or short benched compared to everybody else. I don’t think there is anybody out there that has 10 people and are two teams deep. I am not real concerned about our physical fragility or anything there. I am more concerned that we have to get out there and start taking charges and start bringing some enthusiasm to the game. That is the second time on the road where we have gone and it has been effort situations that cost you the game.”
On how important it is to protect your home court because the road has been tough on everyone in the SEC …
“It has been and we have to make sure that we see the big picture here. We need to be a better team a month from now and that means we are learning on the job. So we have to pile up as many wins as we can if we want to get where we want to go. But, the home court is very important and I think right now for us, the most important thing for me as a coach, I have to figure out how to make sure this team can play having some fun and enjoying every day coming in. I have really been harping a lot on our defense lately and I think it has kind of grounded practice to a halt. I have to do a better job with this particular team on getting my finger on how do we keep them excited about getting better and improving because we know they are good people. We have to do a good coaching job here to. We really need to work hard on how to get them to play with excitement and fun.”
On if Janee doesn’t play being down to three guards and who fills in there …
“Oh, no, no, no, Batouly Camara. She has been promoted to guard. So we have everything that we need. We have one sub for the guards, Batouly will just move to the perimeter, and we have one sub for the post. We are good to go. That is the plan. We are ready to go. We are going to go out and have a great practice today and figure out how we are going to score enough points to win the game tomorrow night. And Janee is not out. Janee is a really tough cookie and I would be counting on her being in if I had to bet right now, I would say she would play, just knowing her. She is really, really tough. I am not any more worried about who is available and who is here and who is there, I just have my mind on us playing with some intensity and enthusiasm for each other. You know, we took some charges down there the other night and we are walking around. Those people have to go to the bench, that won’t take a charge on this team. They have to go to the bench. We are going to get people on the floor that take charges. So that is the kind of thing that you are going to see. Ole Miss’ players were just amped up for the game and excited for the game and we are walking around out there like it’s not that important. We just have to understand, a great lesson that we learned there, we have to learn that lesson. We can’t have any more games like that this year. Talent wise we may get beat, but that needs to be the only way that we get beat. That we played our guts out and the team was just, doggone, they were just better than we were. We cannot lose anymore because we are thinking about ourselves or whatever it may be.”
On if it’s easier to get the team excited for a team like Tennessee …
“Well, here is one thing that I know, I can’t read their minds and I don’t even try to. I certainly am telling our team that it has to be more about us and quite frankly we cannot even worry about who we are playing right now. We just have so many things that we have to try to get in place that the opponent is secondary right now for this particular team because we don’t know where to be in certain situations. You wish you did after this many practices, but we don’t, so we have to keep working at it and working at it. So this is a very, very inexperienced team and they are getting experience with every game. Tomorrow night’s game is going to be really beneficial because Tennessee is going to play some similarities to Ole Miss, but really a lot different as well. They are a lot bigger and they do some different things. We are seeing different stuff all the time. Auburn played a trapping zone, Ole Miss played an aggressive man-to-man. This is great for us if we will learn the lessons and really keep the focus more on us than what the opponent is doing.”