Kentucky-Ole Miss Postgame Quotes

Jan. 4, 2015

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Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement …
“I can’t say enough about how hard Ole Miss played and how prepared they were and how aggressive they were. I thought that they really took it to us in the first half and defensively had us back on our heels when we were on offense. You can file this one under better to finish strong and not how you start, how you finish, I guess. We are still struggling to get off to good starts. No matter how you slice it, we were able to get a victory and really proud of our players. We are not playing a lot of players right now and it is a different situation than we are normally in. We just had to go with a core of about four players that had to get it done today with whoever else could chip in. Really, really happy and really excited that we found a way on what was a really tough day for us and you have to credit Ole Miss for that.”

On drawing up the play for Jennifer O’Neill to take a 3 when UK was down six points …
“Well, I think a little bit earlier I had really – we just weren’t playing as hard as Ole Miss was playing. You are not going to win games in this league, especially with us right now we have to play so hard. I really challenged them, someone like Linnae Harper had to get on the offensive glass. Makayla Epps was whining and moaning and crying about how the ball wouldn’t go in and she was being really weak. I just had to challenge them the timeout before. That timeout, I just sensed that we needed to really try to execute well. It was a tough day and Ole Miss was doing a great job of taking us out of what we were doing. We were able to get a set play over there and Jen a 3 and I think it gave us a little bit of a lift. I think we were down six and went up two with an 8-0 run that kind of routed the ship and got us going in the right direction. It is a funny group and a funny team. They are good kids. There are just moments in the game where it seems like they don’t sense how difficult it is and how hard they have to play. Then, thank goodness they can turn it around quickly too. They have shown that. They gutted it out. That was a tough, tough victory for us today. Ole Miss was a difficult matchup for us because their post players are so athletic and we are still trying to find ourselves in the post right now.”

On Linnae Harper’s rebounds …
“That is what I was trying to tell her, our good players, our top-level producers have to play right now. We are clearly struggling with consistency in our post game. It is what it is, we are missing Bria (Goss) big time. If you think about the minutes these kids are playing, 36, 36, 35, 33. You get Bria’s 30 minutes in there and now everybody is playing five minutes less and now we can maybe get some juice going in transition and do a little bit better. Right now, where we are without Bria, you have to do what you do and do it well. You know, Linnae is standing out on the perimeter and so I just told her she had to get on the glass because she is incredibly gifted offensive rebounder. She went from standing out to eight offensive boards in a blink of an eye. She can really, really get on the glass. Makayla can’t moan and cry and go soft and float the ball around like she is shooting trick shots in there. You have to go in there tough and rough and aggressive. Ole Miss came in here to win today and was tough and fighting. I just tried to get them focused. Makayla is a big-time player, she has to step up and play big time. Linnae is a big-time offensive rebounder, she has to get up and get on the offensive boards. And that is all the way down the line with Janee Thompson, Jennifer O’Neil, you have to do what you can do right now so we can win some games until we can smooth this thing out a little bit and become a complete team.”

On if Linnae Harper’s rebounding is a mindset or a gifted athlete or both …
“The giftedness is really special because she is not a tall player. I can remember recruiting her, I was recruiting Janee really hard trying to get her when she was a junior and then this kid that was a sophomore was 5-foot-3 or whatever she is and I was sitting under the goal one day at a AAU game and she just got up off the floor and took it off the rim. I was like, what just happened right there. She just has a very, very incredible quick vertical leap where she can get up quicker than the taller players. So the giftedness is there and I have to work hard to keep her motivated and make sure she understands that she can’t go get those boards if she is standing and watching. The mentality is very important to get in there and get position, but she just had unbelievable jumping ability and incredible timing. You can’t teach it. Victoria Dunlap had it, Linnae has it. It is a gift, is what it is. We are not as good a team when she doesn’t understand how important that is. She has to get in there and get some boards for us.”

On Linanne Harper’s steals at the end of the game …
“She made huge plays. Before we talk about Linnae, Jennifer O’Neill came to play today and came to play on defense and did not get a lot of breaks and we were short on the bench. The last 10 minutes of the game she just disrupted Ole Miss and couldn’t get into what they needed to get into because she played her tail off and Janee Thompson played her tail off defensively. Linnae did too. Linnae’s steals, the game could have gone either way, somebody has to make a play, who is going to make a play? These games go like that all the time and she made two huge defensive plays. I just cannot tell you how proud I am of her. That was crucial to us being victorious today. You cannot go back and replay that game, it is over, we won it. If you lose it, you cannot go back and get it again. It is very important right now to get these victories. When a kid makes a big play like that or a could big plays down the stretch I am grateful because we needed it. Ole Miss was tough, tough, tough today.”

On possibly going to a shorter lineup since the team has a small bench …
“Right, we are trying to put in a disruptive zone that maybe you don’t pick up full court but you still stay true to your identity and we got some good stuff out of it. Probably today is the fourth day we have worked on it. We were able to get some stops and we had some mistakes there and we don’t know exactly what we are doing so it will take some time to teach it. But I think it lends itself to the gifts that this particular team has. I am trying to help them a little bit there where it is just not baseline to baseline for 40 minutes without Bria. When Bria gets back I think that we can maybe have a few more possessions of press. We had some effective possessions of press today and on Friday at Alabama. I think a disruptive zone, trying to be active and disrupt people might help them a little bit where they are not just zig-zagging the ball and get a couple of possessions that are not full court.”

On Makayla Epps’ shooting today …
“Well, her shot selection, I am trying to convince her of her giftedness and that is speed and strength. In the first half, she was driving at Tia Faleru and Faleru is a great shot blocker but Makayla can get into people with her body and absorb that and can challenge her. Well, she stopped and shot a 17-footer and didn’t make Faleru play and to me that is not aggressive enough. When she is aggressive and going downhill and getting to the bucket she is good. The other issue we had was she was getting into the paint where I wanted her to but was then shooting all of these floaters and looked like it was Sunday afternoon and we were going to church and she was praying. They were prayers being thrown up in the sky and hoping they were answered instead of getting two feet into the paint and going up on balance and landing on two feet. There are times where you can shoot a floater or a runner, but it was just hoping the ball would go in instead of really staying focused and getting the ball in. Then she started talking to herself and talking bad to herself and you just can’t be negative in a game like this where every possession is important. She brought it around and made her free throws and I am so proud of that. We needed every one of them. I just need to work with her and coach her better and show her when is a good time to use that runner and when is a good time to get two feet in the paint and get up and use some power. She will be fine. She is a big-time player and she doesn’t have time to hang her head, she has to make plays for us because she is one of our major contributors and major players and she has to play.”

On Bria Goss’ timetable to return …
“She is out of the cast and in a plastic brace and we are going to test it at four weeks I think is the plan. She is practicing every day and the ball is coming to her. She does some warmup stuff and when she starts to feel better (she will get more involved.) So we don’t throw pass after pass. She is feeling a little bit better but she can’t catch the ball right now. She is practicing hard and is in some contact stuff we just try to make sure she doesn’t fall and she just bails out on some stuff if she feels like she is not safe. I will have to check on that. We are in week three and I think they want to maybe test it out at week four. They did get an x-ray and it didn’t get worse, which is good news. She is on the mend and it is a four-to-six week injury and we are just praying that it is four weeks and it may be six. We have to work really hard and win some ballgames until she gets back.”

On possibly playing Bria just for defense …
“That has been thought of. We thought of that at Duke and she practiced and tried to do some things. For right now, we wouldn’t want her to injure it further. When she comes back, could you? I don’t know. That is something that we think about.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#3 Janee Thompson, G, Jr.

On her attacking mentality …
“I was really just trying to be aggressive. I knew that Ole Miss at times struggled with dribble penetration and I was just trying to get in the paint, create because they were really guarding my teammates really hard. I drove in there and I was able to get some layups.”

On what was said in the timeout before UK made its run …
“Coach Mitchell was just encouraging us to stay with it and continue to play defense. He thought our defense was going pretty well. We were keeping them out of the paint, we were leveling off the ball, pressuring them and I think he was just encouraging us and trying to get us to be aggressive on offense. That resulted in some baskets.”

On this game having an NCAA Tournament-type feel to it …
“I think this was just a hard-fought game. Ole Miss just wanted to win as badly as we did and I think they were making plays and they were excited. We just had to respond to that, and I think that’s something that we did every time that we were called on to respond. Whether we were down six like you mentioned, we responded to the challenge and we were able to get the win.”

#15 Linnae Harper, G, So.

On the early offensive struggles …
“Really, we just kept encouraging each other and didn’t get down. We were trying to find more ways to be more effective offensively and make shots.”

On her rebounding and why she’s so good at it …
“It’s a passion. I’ve always loved rebounding, even when I was younger. As I get older and playing on the college level, it gets harder. It’s really about focus and having the mentality of ‘I have to go get it’. In this game, I had a lot of opportunities, and I just did the best that I could do.”

On if her rebounding mindset changes when there are four guards out on the floor …
“It changes a little bit because I knew there were only four of us. So, I just get to the glass offensively and defensively and I think that helped us a lot.”

On SEC play being a step-up in competition …
“It’s no surprise. There is no question that we have the toughest conference. The SEC is the toughest conference out there, so every game that we play is going to be tough. We have to work for it and that just goes back to us practicing every day and being focused in and changing our mentality to be the most disruptive team and toughest team that we can be.”

Ole Miss Head Coach Matt Insell

Opening Statement …
“Both teams battled really hard. All credit to Kentucky, they made the plays down the stretch to get the win. We had a couple of missed execution situations there that we can fix, as a coaching staff and as a team, we talked about that at the end of the game. But I couldn’t be more proud of the effort that our team put in. We’re a young basketball team with a couple really good senior leaders in Tia Faleru, Danielle McCray and Amber Singletary. They’re doing a great job with our team in terms of leading. Our young players are getting better every single day. I’m just real proud of our effort. As we say as a program, we have to have a short-term memory in this league. This one hurts, it’s going to hurt us for the next 24 hours, we’ll watch some tape on it, then we’ll be finished with it and move on to Florida on Thursday.”

On having Danielle McCray and Shandricka Sessom foul out …
“Yeah, it’s crucial, those two players, Shandricka Sessom was a tough matchup, and Danielle McCray was, we felt like coming in, that those two players were tough matchups for Kentucky. They stayed in foul trouble, I don’t know if they were fouling or what was going on, I’ll have to look at the tape and see what was happening there. I know a couple of them were challenged, I’ll look at the tape and find out. Those two players, the mismatched situations, we felt like we had that offensively, and also defensively, rebounding, they are two of our best rebounders. You got Shandricka Sessom, take one step and grab the rim with both hands, when the shot comes off, she just goes and gets it. Danielle McCray is the same type of athlete, she just goes and gets it. Late in the game there, Tia [Faleru] is in there having a battle, and they’re battling without two of their best rebounders with them, and that’s tough on us. But we’ll figure that out, that did hurt us, it hurt us a lot. It was a big difference in the game.”

On UK’s timeout late that set up a 3-pointer and started a Kentucky run …
“It was a big 3 by Jen [O’Neill]. We kind of knew it was coming. We guarded real well. Jen is a, we’ve talked about as a team, kind of a hand-down, man-down player. If you’re hands are down, it don’t matter if you’re guarding her, she’s going to make it. We were there, we had our hand up, that’s a big shot for her. That got them going. But Jen O’Neill scores, that’s their energy. It has been Kentucky’s energy since I was here, she’s an energy player. I remember back when she was a freshman at Florida and she made what, nine in a row, something like that. That’s just who she is. She’s an energy player with scoring ability. We let her get going and then she gets a four-point play, which was huge, but I was so proud of our team right there. She gets a four-point play, we had plenty of opportunities to quit. We’ve been in games like this all year where we had plenty of opportunities to quit. We go down four, the crowd gets in it, and we come down and score four straight baskets, two straight baskets to get it back tied going into the under-four media [timeout]. That’s huge. The fight our team had. We had a freshman point guard playing against one of the best and toughest defensive teams in the country, one of them. Kentucky applies a lot of pressure. We had a freshman point guard [A’Queen Hayes] play 39 minutes with four turnovers. I had people always ask me who’s going to be our point guard, I think we got a pretty darn good one that can handle it for 39 minutes and have four turnovers, against that pressure. I was real proud of how our young players played. I’m real proud of how Tia Faleru played. I don’t know, maybe some people start agreeing with me that she’s one of the better players in this league. I don’t know how many more double-doubles she has to get before people start realizing she’s one of the better players in this league.”