Kentucky-Florida Postgame Quotes

Jan. 15, 2015

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Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement…
“What a great victory for us tonight after some tough days dealing with the aftermath of Janee’s (Thompson) injury. I just felt like tonight was going to be really difficult and we didn't play well at all times. Florida had a lot to do with that. They (Florida) played real, real tough defensively. They had a great game plan. Our lead guard and decision maker is taken from us and they made us make decisions that didn't turn out so great all the time. We finally settled in, played some good defense, battled and found a way to win. It was a great victory. Anytime you win in this league it is a great win. I’m proud of our team. There is a lot of improvement that we need to make here and get some reps before Sunday. Sunday will be tough but I’m happy tonight.”

On walking out with Janee Thompson before the game...
“That was my idea. She didn't want to come out. I said it will be fun, let’s walk out together. The crowd wanted to see her. She had just arrived at the arena. She didn't know how long she would stay and she didn't want to get here super early, so as we were running out she came out of the elevator. It was far enough before the game that the crowd could give her a good ovation. It was fun. It was a great response from our awesome fans.”

On if he was happy with Makayla Epps’ play…
“I was and we would not have won the game without her. She just needs reps. I really believe that she can be one of the best guards in the league and in the country, but she needs reps. She wants to do a good job and when you try too hard it can slow you down. We need to get her to a spot where she is comfortable. She will be tough. I was really proud of her. I don't think she hung her head a lot. She was not down or defeated too much tonight even when she made mistakes. That one play when she got on the floor, got up and back tipped it. That is what we need from her and she will get more and more comfortable left. She will start to see where she needs to go and attack. She needs reps. It’s just a tough position that she is put in. Thank goodness that she got some on the job training tonight and we won. She will be very good. We will improve as a basketball team as she improves at that position.”

On Linnae’s (Harper) defense…
“I really thought she kept us in it in the first half with some steals when we were laboring to score. Florida was just making it tough on us. I think she had three that went for buckets maybe four. Those were valuable points and for us to wrestle the lead from them at half time was a great development. Our young post did not come to play like we want them to play. They just weren’t ready to go. That is very frustrating, but Harper’s defense really steadied us in the first half. She has developed so much this year. Last year, she did not get on the floor because she couldn't defend and now she was out there the whole game. She is on a torrid steal pace. She is getting steal after steal and I’m proud of her. She had a big game tonight and we needed it.”

On what he expected coming out of the locker room before the game…
“I think I have a pretty good pulse on the team and we are pretty well connected. I was worried that they were a little flat. They were trying but it has just been a hard few days. They were attentive, but I didn't think there was a lot of pop in the room before the game. I think that all the emotions took a toll on them. That's why I’m so proud that we found a way to win, but it’s been a hard few days. Janee’s doing great and it was great to see her tonight. The team misses her and she misses the team. It has been tough but we found enough energy to win. I was a little concerned before the game to be honest.”

On the contributions of Bria Goss and Jaycee Coe
“Jaycee Coe will really hang in here and work. She’ll probably have some good book material on what her journey has been like. It’s been a very tough six or seven months since she arrived on campus. There’s been a lot of hard work she’s had to put in, growing as a person, and she’s been down and defeated and discouraged to a point where she didn’t work hard and didn’t have the right kind of mindset. She kind of bottomed out and has just found her strength and is on the upswing. It’s like I told her after the game. My message to her has always been this, ‘You have different gifts than other people. You can’t compare yourself to some of the people on the team.’ What’s important for all of our players, is you have to get in you very best physical, mental, and emotional condition. You have to be a very strong person to play here. What she’s done over the last four weeks is come a long way, but it’s not magic. It’s because she’s worked and I just hugged her there at the end of the game. We won by six points and she had seven. I’m not sure how many she gave up so I’m not aware where she was on that, but she made two driving buckets tonight and everybody told her she was just a stand still shooter and couldn’t play. We don’t have people like that. We have basketball players. We coach basketball players and we teach you to be a complete player. I’m very proud of her effort and she’s got to stay humble. This can’t be a high point for her. She’s still climbing out of that hole she dug herself in. She’s got to keep working and when we can find someone for her to guard, if she’s progressing, then she can help us. I promise you she’s not shooting the way she can shoot. When that 3 finally went in for her I was so happy because she’s working at it. She’s doing a good job. Then Bria Goss is a big help. I thought it was a good effort from her after six games on the bench. The offensive board on the free throw line really preserved the victory I thought. She has always come up with plays like that. It was great to see her back, but she got in some foul trouble there early. I was kind of worried that might happen, but timing was off a little bit. I thought Jelléah had the kind of energy we needed and she said, ‘Coach it’s really kind of moving a little too fast for me. My timing is off.’ She gave us a good spark with her energy. We just need to hang in there right now. Everybody is important and has something to contribute. We just need to keep battling and it’s just another part of this teams’ journey that we have to continue to improve and fight for improvement every day.” 

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#15, Linnae Harper, G

On Janee Thompson coming to the game...
"To be honest it was really emotional. She is really special to us and just to see that even though all of this happened she still had a smile on her face. She was still there talking to us and cheering us on, so throughout warmups and in the huddles we kept saying ‘Play for Janee’ because I know that she would want this for us and I know that if she were on the court with us, she would play just as hard." 

On playing in high school and college with Janee ...
"We've known each other since the fifth grade and we've been through so much. It really hurt me the most because I know she was working so hard, producing well and just being the type of player that we need. Just seeing her go through this just really hurts me and now it’s just all about playing for her because I know that she would want the best for us. I think about her every day and I think she’s my motivation to work harder in practice, do little things, be at the gym more. I think that's going to be contagious to the rest of the team."

On struggling shooting in the first half...
"They just came out playing really hard and I think the rebounding was the biggest key for the first half and it was on and off for us. I think in the second half, we started to pick it up and bring a more defensive energy to disrupt them."

#25, Makayla Epps, G

On filling in for Janee Thompson at point guard…
“As I said before, Janee might be the smallest player on our team, but she has the biggest shoes to fill.  It is weird not having her out there, and it hurts us to see her in the condition that she is in. However, everything the team does is going to be for Janee now. I know that being put at the point guard position will be tough, but I want to pick up where Janee left off. She was playing great. No one ever talked bad about her, and she always gave full effort. I am grateful for the opportunity, but not grateful for the way I got this opportunity to start. I am going to work hard and I am just trying to play like Janee.”

On Janee Thompson coming to the game…
“We assumed she was coming. I did realize that I have some very sensitive teammates, because she [Linnae] was almost crying in warm ups.”

On the two quick baskets in the second half after a turnover…
“I don’t think the two baskets were the full reason I started playing better. Coach brought everyone into the locker room after the first half, but he pulled me to the side and told me I have to attack. He always tells me that there are not too many people that can guard me, and I think I just need to start believing that. When I get my feet in the paint, it creates shots for me as well as my teammates. Once I scored those two baskets, I think I started to realize what Coach was trying to tell me. Now, I just need to start producing in the first half, instead of waiting until the second half when the game is close. ”

Florida Head Coach Amanda Butler

Opening statement …
“I just think it is a game that epitomizes our league. A great women’s basketball contest in the best league in the country. (It was) a fantastic battle and it just came down to two, three or four plays and they made those two, three or four plays. We were steps away from doing what we wanted to accomplish and what we came up here for, but just had critical break downs at critical times and you can’t afford to do that against a great team on their home court.”

On how Kentucky plays different without Janee Thompson
“We didn’t really put time into that. I hate it. I absolutely hate it not seeing Janee out there with her having such a great year. That was not necessarily something we really dwelled on because (Makayla) Epps kind of played the point and she plays everything, just whatever they need. She’s just doing a great job and having a fantastic season.”