Kentucky-Duke Postgame Quotes

Jan. 5, 2011

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Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

On having Duke tied up until the end:
“Yeah that was the story of the game. We just can’t come in to a quality team’s gym, as talented and as tough as Duke is, and play one half. That’s just so disappointing. From a coaching standpoint we tried to get prepared for the game and we clearly weren’t in the first half.  Some were but our entire success depends on everybody doing their part, and we just didn’t get that for a complete 40 minutes. So I’m still convinced that we have the opportunity to be a very good team, but you’re not going to beat Duke playing one half of basketball.”

On what they were able to do in the second half:
“The rebounding stats were just embarrassing at halftime. I’ve never been a part of a game like that. I’ve never seen that kind of rebounding margin, ever at halftime against a team that’s supposed to be top 10 in the country. And that’s what this sheet of paper says we are. I was really upset with that at halftime. The first thing we talked about before we came out for the game was that we needed to rebound. So we, you know, we didn’t do that. So that’s just so disappointing at halftime because you know as a coach, you’re sitting there, you know your team can do better. And why they choose not to is a mystery. You just saw us come out and assert ourselves and play with some toughness and some fight and it wasn’t anything that I did. The players finally made a choice in the second half, and why they didn’t in the first half I don’t know. I can’t explain that to you but hopefully we can see that even against a team that’s much bigger and has a lot more size and is very, very physical and very well-coached, that we can, if we put our minds to it, we can play with them.”

On Duke senior Jasmine Thomas:
“She is an outstanding player, and my hat is off to her. She is more than impressive even, wow, 24 points. She just absolutely dominated us. That’s incredible and we let her get up 24 shots is a bad job on our part. But just a poised player watching her on video when trying to get prepared for the game, totally impressed with her. Having said that, I was very proud of my freshman point guard tonight that finally came in with a little tenacity and played hard and I was proud of her. I thought she competed tonight; Maegan Conwright.”

On being able to control Jasmine until the last minutes of each half:
“Well that’s just a player that is a high-level player, and a go-to player for Duke, being able to maintain her focus throughout the half so you never know when your opportunity is going to come. And then that’s us losing focus and so maybe that’s why they are a little but higher in the polls right now than we are. What a great lesson for us to learn. You look at her shooting percentage, not good tonight, but she just kept plugging and kept going and so just thought that she played with a lot of poise, the poise that a senior is supposed to play with and made just big, big kind of back-breaking buckets. I thought that run there at the end of the first half was just, just a killer. We sort of had it where we might could get in and regroup. Keyla [Snowden] and Vic [Victoria Dunlap] had gotten in foul trouble and basically just taken themselves out of the game in the first half. And the kids, reserves, really did a good job holding it together. We just kind of messed it up there at the end but those were significant parts of the game.”

Kentucky junior Keyla Snowden:

On her performance:
“I think that we learned that we need to put a complete game together. We can’t take breaks, like coach said, in the first half.  We have to come to play every minute that we are out there.”

On facing Duke’s pressure:
“Well I don’t think that their pressure is anything that we haven’t seen before because every day in practice we’re pushed to play against pressure. I just think that we need to bounce back mentally and refocus for our next game. And then, I think that, our point guard Maegan [Conwright], she did a really good job of handling the pressure and the press.”

On playing against Duke senior Jasmine Thomas:
“We just tried to stay in it mentally. She was hitting a lot of big shots at the end and we just tried to stay focused and try to run it back at them.”

Kentucky senior Victoria Dunlap

On building from this loss to a No. 3 team:
“No I think there’s a lot of positive things that can come from this. Just the fact that we hustled at the end and fought at the end, we didn’t give up at all. It just shows that we are able to play with anybody in the country. So I think we just kind of build on it from there and just take whatever we can.”

On going up against Duke’s post players:
“Well obviously they have a height advantage on us, but that shouldn’t keep us from battling inside. And I think that might have kind of gotten into our heads a little bit in the first half and the second half where just their size, not really stepping up to the plate where we try to box them out and push them back. We just kind of let them run over our back.”

On whether it came down to physical or mental fatigue:
“I think it was more mental. Especially, I think, this was the first time that we’ve ever been in a game like this towards the end where we had to buckle down and make sure we were making the right decisions. And just with that, that’s where you just had to step up to make the right play.”

Duke Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie

Opening Statement:
“[We’re] excited about our progress back into rebounding. Obviously, to get back into the habit of being so dominant on the boards was critical to us. To hold a team that averages 80 points a game to 48 is fantastic. This is kind of like a regional a little bit ... a first game, a second game, a game on Thursday. Hopefully we can add some offense a little bit and start to get all cylinders operating. I thought Jasmine [Thomas] was incredible relative to her attack mode and what we needed offensively. I thought Chelsea [Gray] played with a great deal of confidence. We have got to be able to do all things to be a very special team: rebound, play D, score and attack. I think that was an exciting game that way. Interestingly, we only had two turnovers in the second half. We had some really funky, strange, oddball turnovers in the first half that cost us momentum, but that’s just life. That’s life with experience and people.”

On senior Jasmine Thomas’ block near the end of the game:
“I have a great deal of confidence in Jas in all areas and obviously we were pretty keyed on [Keyla Snowden]. I was very happy that Jas was there. Jas has an interesting shot-blocking ability for a guard because many times as a coach you’re careful with your guards’ shot-blocking. But over the course of her career, she has just gotten better and better and I just love the fact that she was matched up with her. That was pretty important to us.”

On her message to the team on offense:
“Just be more balanced, particularly with 27 offensive rebounds and pretty much no put-backs. Think about that for a second. I told them to stop putting the ball on the floor, stay balanced and go back up. I think you’re correct that there was some definite rushing. It‘s a tough balance. The schedule we’re playing, nobody else is playing this schedule. We’re playing the hardest schedule you can possible play. We’re playing a bunch of very talented freshmen, who are expected to be immediate and on it. We’re going to go through different learning curves, different things happening. If we were playing a lower opponent and you’re looking at me saying, ‘Why aren’t you scoring 80?’ But we have to be understanding of the process here. This team is working very, very hard to distinguish themselves as a team that’s playing everybody. Nobody else is playing everybody, so we’re excited. This is like a regional for us right now. We’re in the middle of the NCAA Tournament, just having won the first game and the second game is coming up on Thursday. I love their mindset, but we’re different. We’re definitely different and I think all of these things will take care of itself. Again, I feel very confident about that. I’m not worried about that. I would be worried if we didn’t have the fortitude to do the hard stuff. Then I would really be worried, and we have got the intestinal fortitude to do hard things.”

On freshman Tricia Liston’s performance:
“I love her game, tonight. I love her game tonight. That is the best Tricia Liston I’ve seen in a game relative to her rebounding and her attack mode. I know it was 12 minutes, but you’ve got to grow that. As a coach, you’ve got to grow that. Her confidence, the big three, the way she was physical, the way she defended ... I think we saw a lot of progress by young players, maybe not in the stats of big score, but we saw a lot of maturity and I think Tricia Liston had that. I feel very confident with her. That leaves you with the taste that you can’t wait to play her next game, excited about someone doing that. Of course same with Chelsea and what she was doing out there. I think we’re making some good progress.

On how the schedule thus far has prepared the team for ACC play:
“I think we’ve seen a lot of very good teams. I think Maryland is an excellent team; they’re as good as any team we’ve played. I don’t’ make distinctions. Our mentality is very different. They’re as good as any team we’ve played. So you just kind of have at it. I think it’s exciting and I think it’s what we love to do. We’ve learned a lot. We’re just excited. Like I said, this is sort of a two-part week for us, a very busy week, but a very exciting week.”

Duke Senior Jasmine Thomas:

On her mentality towards the end of the game:
“Just to keep attacking. I know my pull-up has been good for me, but I was trying to get as far into the paint as I could and, if I had to settle for the pull-up, to take it.  But defense was really what I was thinking about. There was a stretch where we weren’t defending [the way] we wanted to, myself included. [We were] getting beat off penetration. Down the stretch, every possession is so important, just getting stops.” 

On how much the emphasis shot blocking in practice:
“Not a lot. I just try to be aggressive and really contest shots, so if they put it out there my hands are up and I just try to get a hand on it if I can.”

On keeping a clear head after shooting troubles to start the second half:
“I think because we’ve been there before. We rely so much on our defense and just knowing that our shots will eventually fall and we will get the shots we want. Just put ourselves into position to get good shots that we just came back and tried to focus on stops and whenever we got on offense just taking it one possession at a time.”

On defensive pressure:
“We always apply pressure and we’re always in face, but we aren’t always denying. That’s something we’re working on, being in passing lanes so that the ball pressure doesn’t go to waste. It makes it harder for teams to find players. It’s something we’ve been doing in practice and its finally starting to show in games.”

On Allison Vernerey:
“She moves well for her size. You get a lot of 6’5” or taller players in the post that really just want to sit on that block, but Alli, she moves on offense and she moves on defense which makes her valuable.”

Duke Freshman Chelsea Gray:

On her last “shot”:
“I just really don’t know where it came from. She tipped it and I was just like ‘Oh. Okay. Get back on defense.’  And Karima Christmas was just like, ‘that’s fine now get back on defense.’  I was kicking it to Alli, but the Kentucky player got a hand on it and it went up and through the rim.”

On the start of ACC play:
“I feel that there is going to be a lot of energy on the court, from the crowd and the players. I’m a freshman, I haven’t played in it but from watching it on TV and talking to my teammates about it, I’m excited to play in it.  I feel like it’ll move up a notch because we have rivals and people down the street and all that.”