Kentucky-Mississippi State Postgame Quotes

Jan. 16, 2011

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Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement:
“Good win for us this afternoon; I am really happy with the result. The players practiced really hard in preparation for the game and I thought they came out very strong today. This was one of the best first halves that we have played. Everybody could see that we hit a bit of a wall there in the second half, but these are precious wins to come by. A Southeastern Conference win is tough to get, and I am really proud to get this one.”

On (Jennifer) O'Neill’s continuing progress…
“She is practicing better and we have tried to coach a little bit better and help her a little more. We really emphasize to her some of the mistakes she makes in practice on defense and I think she has worked hard to correct that. We all have known that she is a very talented offensive player and she got us off to a great start today, she really helped us tremendously. Starting the second half, I think she was in a spot where she thinks the game is over and she just didn’t have the same intensity defensively so we bring her out and get somebody else in and maybe we should have brought her off the bench again in the second half. We are a work in progress and we will learn, but I thought she really took some steps forward today.”

On what he liked best about his team’s play in the first half…
“I think after we got out 7-2 and they went 6-0, then 8-7, it was a long time before Mississippi State scored again and our team really played hard. You had some players out there hustling and I thought our communication was the first thing we talked about today, was hustle added with communication can really do some good things for our defensive play, and I think it was a big run; 22-0 fueled by a lot of effort. There were a lot of young players on the court at that time hustling and doing a good job, so I think the thing I liked most was just their intensity.”

On if the first half will be one to point to and say “this is what needs to happen every time”…
“I think it will be a great example and I thought we started the half with a very strong, solid half court. It is very difficult to press at that, and teams start to figure it out. Your players start to really get worn down, so I think being able to put together a run like we did is good. I wanted to come out the second half and play a little more solid half-court defense and we didn’t do that, but I think it will be a great half to point to.”

On forcing 22 turnovers…
“We were just outstanding in the first half at 16 and then obviously didn’t get much done in the second half, but I was so happy. Sixteen is a lot to force the team into in the first half, so again I thought the press looked great in the first half and caused Mississippi State a lot of trouble. A lot of players have to hustle and be in the right spot and not give up, so a lot of good things happened right there.”

On what has led to more playing time for Bernisha Pinkett…
“Just better practice out of everybody and I think Bernisha (Pinkett) has been the beneficiary of our coaches doing a better job in practice, so I think all of us, players, coaches, staff members, everybody did a really fine job in practice. They had four opportunities this past week and I think Bernisha (Pinkett) took advantage of that and I am very excited to see her have the kind of week that she did, it’s great.”

On what he has changed about practice…
“We are just trying to simplify things and instead of trying to find a play to solve a problem, we are trying to work on coaching and teaching our players. It is not a huge change, but I think that the week we were gone, we really didn’t get a chance to focus on ourselves. We were focused on the next game, next game, next game and I think that that was bad for a young group and they really need to be focused on themselves, so we focused a lot more on Kentucky than we have on our opponent. I think that has helped them a lot.”

On the successful play of A'dia (Mathies) at the point today…
“Very good day for A'dia (Mathies). I think it has helped our team tremendously. Probably the biggest difference is A'dia (Mathies) being able to bring some steadiness to our offense and that is a career high for her. Seven assists as well, so it was a tremendous day for A'dia (Mathies). She was vocal there in the second half when we were struggling. I thought she showed some good leadership, so a very good day for her and we are very fortunate that she is playing at Kentucky.”

Kentucky Players

#0 Jennifer O'Neill, G

On her minutes increasing…
“It’s definitely practice. Lately, I have been practicing a lot better than I did in the beginning of the season. Really, I have just been paying attention to the little things as far as defense goes. It’s all a result of practice.”

On comparing the team this week to how the team was last week…
“I don’t think anybody thought it (the team) was falling apart. There was just stuff we had to work on. As far as our chemistry and stuff like that; it was all just stuff that we had to work on in practice.”

#1 A'dia Mathies. G

Her evolution into a point guard…
“I think I have done pretty well. I think it’s something that we needed at that point in time in the season. I was ready to take on that responsibility. It’s something that I was kind of used to, but I will do anything I can to help my teammates out.”

On what was said after Mississippi State went on a 7-0 run…
“He (Coach Mitchell) didn’t get down on us. He just kept encouraging us saying ‘come on we still got it’. I think just knowing that he had our back (was important) and I think that’s what worked out for us.”

#34 Victoria Dunlap, F

On their first half of play…
“We were executing well on offense. We were getting stops on defense. We were also making them turn the ball over. It just felt really good to know that we practiced that in practice, and we got the job done.”

On how A'dia Mathies has helped the team…
“I think it is just her ability to get to the basket. People are used to her (A'dia Mathies) being on the wings and getting to the basket. She has a nice little jumper, but now she wants to make even more plays for everybody else and she is an even bigger threat.”

On what happened during the 7-0 Mississippi State run…
“I think we were just missing shots. We were getting offensive rebounds in the paint, and getting fouled, so I don’t think it was anything bad that was happening. We were getting stops on defense. That’s just the way the game goes.”

On the difference in practices this week…
“I think now we are able to have practices where we are able to see what we are doing wrong and we are able to correct it right then and there instead of just watching it for hours. We are seeing it, doing it, and then making it better.”

Mississippi State Head Coach Sharon Fanning-Otis

Opening statement…
“I was proud of us fighting back better in the second half, but I’m very, very disappointed in terms of our effort. I think Kentucky has gone through a situation when Amber (Smith) went out of trying to get this point guard situation figured out. We have a freshman playing and then Diamber (Johnson) has changed her role this year. We’ve looked at some different lineups but that can make a difference in terms of flow of your basketball team. That’s something that we have to continue to improve in terms of just leadership on the floor, taking care of the basketball. Look at the first half, points off turnovers I think was 19-2, and then in the second half it may have ended up 7-8 or something like that. A little bit closer, 6-7 actually. So, taking care of the basketball is huge for us. The other thing is offensive rebounding. We just have to fight and get those. When I look at players – you know, the player of the year and the freshman of the year in the league, two of our best athletes in the SEC – then that experience is going to help carry over to some other players that are having to play new roles for Kentucky this year. That’s something that we’re trying with (Mary Kathryn Govero) and Diamber being the two back that had some time with last year’s team, but we had a lot of stats that are gone. That’s something with 11 new faces it’s different. Three of those people have joined us since December. We’re a work in progress. Our goal is to be the most improved team in the league and to find a way to be consistent though, and to have a punch where we can play with the effort that we had in the second half where we can do that for 40 minutes. I’m not worried about scores, win/loss records, they’ll fall into place, but you have to play like a winner. Play like a winner. That’s what we’re trying to define very clearly and for a lot of new folks to try to understand how competitive this league is because most of them haven’t seen it before. That’s disappointing, but the stats are going to improve. We’re going to go back and go to work, find a way to win our next ball game and keep our heads up but learn how to – we have to get some stats. The other thing is the free-throw line that’s been something. We’ve got to keep people off there, keep them from getting layups, our rotations defensively and keep them off the free-throw line. And we’ve got to get there more. Most of the things that define us right now is going to be toughness. If you’re mentally tough you can find a way to win games and that’s what we’re going to have to do. If you can keep a team to under 40 percent – we’ve done that most of the year – that’s what our goal has to be. Then we’ve got to find a way to take enough shots where we can outscore somebody. If we can get close to 40 and keep them under 40, and rebound and take care of the basketball and find ways to win games. Hopefully we’ll understand that definition a little bit better in the next ball game we play (and) execute a little bit better.”

On not sounding too discouraged with her team’s performance…
“Right now I’m about as ticked as I could possibly be. We’re put in a position and this is a teaching/coaching role. My job is to help develop young leaders and help these young ladies be the very best that they can be and whatever they achieve to do. This basketball game is just a platform by which to teach and we represent and yes we have to win ball games. That’s my objective and if I try to keep that focus and stay level with that then I think they can learn to be winners and not be discouraged. You have to punch and fight and expect to win every game that you play. That’s just the way life is and life’s going to be just as tough. They’re learning lessons from this basketball game. So that’s my job is to teach and to help them be the best they can be. And we’re not there. We’re not mentally tough and you’re going to have to be mentally tough in life. So, once we get that ball games will fall into place for us.”

Mississippi State Players

#3 Diamber Johnson, G.

On what she sees for the team the rest of the season…
“We’re learning but I think that at any point or time in a game there can be a turnaround in how we play. Like Coach (Fanning-Otis) said, we know what we can do and we saw that in the second half but we just have to get to a point where we can be more consistent and come with effort for 40 minutes. When we do that we can turn around and can make things happen in the league.”