Kentucky-Georgia Postgame Quotes

Feb. 1, 2015

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Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

On O’Neill’s late-game shooting…
“Well, it’s interesting. You may think she’s supremely confident at all times, and I don’t know if it's a lack of focus, (but) in the middle portion of the game, I just thought she was not into it. So, I don’t know if her focus goes in and out. But I think at the end of the game, in this game today, she was really able to lock in and focus and correct the mistakes she was making because she started playing some good defense as well. So, I don’t think she doubts her ability; she’s been big for us. And I do think she has the toughness to shake off some bad results when you’re in that position. (I’m) really, really proud of her and we needed her today. It was a big 3.”

On Kentucky’s second half defensive breakdowns…
“Yea, it's a great, great question and it’s so valid. The only thing that I can tell you is that some of the combinations we have on the floor are not performing well defensively. And then we got into some foul trouble and had to play some people out there a little bit longer than the people who were better. The people who were better fouled. What happened today, in the second half, is that Coach Landers is a great coach and they run a lot of offense, and they execute well and they started running a cross-screen that we needed to switch so we could deny the ball and our post players just kept getting confused and they just kept popping there. And Donald started driving us. It’s just a pretty simple switch and we have to do better. We’re just working. One thing I told the team before the game, we’re working a large, large portion of practice to giving them a chance to get better defensively with their footwork and their positioning and teaching. We’re into the 22nd game of the year and I am teaching things that really need to start taking hold. I tried to take our defensive fundamentals to the floor today and we did some good things. But in the second half, the players who are unsure of themselves didn’t execute; and then Jennifer had a lapse in the game. She let Griffin get going, and she (Jennifer) was off-balance and she was stepping back, we were letting people drive us to the basket. You know, the post players started driving to the basket and kicking to Griffin. She just, you know, went crazy from the 3-point line there and made some plays. It’s hard to play defense the way we’re trying to play defense. It might look better right now if we got in a 2-3 zone and tried to force people to shoot outside like people do to us. I just don’t think for the long term success of this particular team and the kids next year and the year after (that would be good). I just think this is the way we need to play. It’s frustrating at times, but we have to hang in there and keep coaching them and keep teaching them. But we won the game, which is good.”

On giving up the big lead…
“Well, you know, I try not to fuss at people. I don’t know why some people won’t play really hard. We just had some very low energy plays out there where Georgia just dribbled the ball down the court and scored lay ups. And so I try not to fuss at people. I did a little bit. I got angry a couple times. But I just kept trying to encourage them. If you’ll go back to your fundamentals, if you’ll stop letting the ball get to the middle, if you’ll get ready to get in deny them and disrupt them, we’ll be alright. What happened is they started running a pretty simple action that we just never adjusted in the press. The press was clearly effective early. And then they started running the little simple misdirection play and we just never adjusted and we lost confidence in the press and then we had to go half court with them and it was nothing defensively other than going back to our fundamentals. And then we would hit these stretches when people were in the lane and we can’t make a shot and we aren’t particularly tough around the basket but to their credit there’s three people around them so it’s tough. I think emotionally for us when Jen hit that three to make it 73-72 to me that was the lift that we needed. It was like now okay let’s go down and play defense and get a stop. And I wonder if we would’ve gotten the same kind of lift from a two point basket. I just felt like that 3-point basket got the lead because I told them when we were down 72-70, ‘You gotta put everything behind you and all we need now is one stop and two scores. Score here, get a stop, score again and you can win the game.’ I told them that when it was 72-70. When it was 73-72, they got the lead in one possession instead of two. I thought that in my opinion, we were emotionally spent because we had seen a 17-point lead evaporate and it’s hard. It’s hard when you’re playing well and you stop playing well and the other team comes all the way back. It’s tough. So I’m happy for the team. We got some good stops. We won the boards today, we won the turnover battle and it wasn’t pretty but it was a great win.”

On Makayla’s first half…
“I think she did a good job in the first half. She did get two charges. I’m trying to get her more aggressive and I just think its going to pay big dividends. I told her don’t even worry about the first half. She’s trying to become who we feel like she can become. And if she can become that we have something special on our hands. And that's what we’re trying to be. So, you know, if we lost today, it would’ve stunk and I would not have had as much fun at the Super Bowl party as I’m going to have now. We just have to keep going and Makayla Epps has to keep going. She charged a couple times but she’s trying to do what we’ve asked her to do. She was good at times offensively. I don’t know what happened in the second half. We just were not good defensively and Makayla really missed some key box outs so she’s just got to put it all together and keep working. That’s what she’s got to do. And she’ll be a great player. One of the best we’ve ever had here, she’ll keep working.”

On shooting 23 3s…
“It’s an interesting team right now, I’m telling you. We’re not going to be real fancy and intricate. We’re not going to be Georgia. I mean I’m just sitting over there watching Georgia and I’m thinking how do they do this? They run like 17 different plays and we can’t run one. It’s really something but there are five people in the lane. Look, if you make two more 3s you’re at 35% as a team. If you make one more you’re at 40% so do you try over the next 30 days try and kick in a couple more threes? Is that doable or do you try to teach this bunch how to fun 15 plays which is not going happen? So people are going play in the paint and I thought right now let’s try and see if we can burn them. If we ever start making some shots, we’re all going to have some fun here in Memorial Coliseum or wherever we are because people are just giving Linnae Harper shots. What am I going to tell her? Don’t shoot the ball? You’re wide open from 15 feet, you’ve got to shoot the ball. You’ve got make those shots. She’s not making them right now. She can make them, so I don't know. It’s boring for you guys but we just have to keep showing up every day and working and seeing what we can do but there may have been a few bad 3s out of the 23 maybe there were three or four but the other 19 I think we have to take them maybe. In this particular game, Georgia was not coming out of that lane no-how, no-way so it's a good strategy I guess.”

Kentucky Student-Athlete Quotes

#25 Makayla Epps, So. G

On her second-half scoring compared to her first …
“You know if I could put two halves together I would be pretty dangerous. It happens. I don’t go out there predicting I’m going to drop a certain amount of points or do a certain amount of boards or certain amount of fouls. If I score one in the first half and one in the second half, then I get two (points). That is just how the game ends up and how the game plays out. Credit to Georgia, they took back-to-back charges on me, got me out of there. That slowed me down. Coach got me out of there. I remember the second part of the first half that slowed me down and in the second half I was neck-and-neck the whole time and I just scored when I could.”

On Georgia being able to make a big comeback …
“Mainly, we just have to keep our focus. The game is not over until it’s over. Georgia was up one and then up two. Then we hit a big 3 in a critical moment and then regained momentum. To me, it’s just a mindset. We were up 17 in the first half. I feel like if we would have kept our foot down on the gas pedal we would have had an even bigger lead going into halftime but it’s just a mindset.”

#0 Jennifer O’Neill, Sr., G

On the 3-pointer that gave the team the lead for good and if Coach Mitchell drew up the play …
“He (Matthew) did draw it up but J.J. (Jelléah Sidney) and Lex (Alexis Jennings), they were really the ones that got me open. They set great screens and J.J. made a great pass and the girl just got hit by the screen.”

On why teams are shooting and playing better against in the second half…
“Mentally we’re losing focus and that’s something we have to emphasize in practice when we’re playing the four positions non-stop. I really think it’s just mentally losing focus and people not even getting fatigued. It’s just not paying attention to your positioning and what you have to do.”

Georgia Head Coach Andy Landers

On second half performance and overall game …
“I can sum it all up for you including the battle back. I thought our starters were horrible. I thought we started the game out of focus and really, really poorly. I think had I not substituted early, we would have gotten buried even deeper than we were. I think when we went to the bench they gave us a lift, they gave us spark, that gave us some fight and allowed us to dig out of the hole that we were in. At halftime, we talked about the importance of rebounding the basketball. Defensively, we talked about that a lot. We know we got that message sent but we came out second half and didn’t rebound the basketball. Tiara Griffin made shots, Krista Donald made shots that kept us in it and actually put us ahead. And when we actually got ahead, we made three horrible decisions that resulted in turnovers and two of those turnovers resulted in baskets on the other end. At that point, we hadn’t rebounded the ball defensively yet as indicated by their 19 offensive rebounds. And when you do that on the road in a close game, you’re in trouble.  I give credit to Kentucky for doing what they did. They stayed the course with what they did, forcing turnovers early and late. Other than that I thought we weren’t as good as we needed to be to win one today.”