Kentucky-Florida Postgame Quotes

March 7, 2014

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THE MODERATOR: We'll take an opening comment from Coach Mitchell.

COACH MITCHELL: Terrific game for us. Florida played really, really hard. They have a very good basketball team. Beat us twice this year. Our players have worked really hard to improve since the last time we played them. So it was very gratifying to win this game and also to shake off a very poor first half.

I thought the players showed a lot by coming back in the second half, finding a way to win. We are thrilled with this outcome today and looking forward to tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.

Q. Early in the first half, DeNesha went out with two fouls. You end the first half down. In the locker room how much did you talk about getting DeNesha started in the second half?

COACH MITCHELL: We talked about our post play in general. I thought we sort of stepped back from the challenge in the first half. We didn't have a lot of toughness in the post in the second half of the first half. I just didn't think we were competing very hard in the paint. I thought Florida was much tougher in the first half.

We didn't talk about individually DeNesha. We talked about toughness in the post, that you had to be patient but really, really tough. I thought our play on the interior really stepped up and battled there and played tougher in the second half. We made some real tough buckets.

Q. Obviously early in the season y'all lost to Florida twice. What do you do mentally and physically to prepare?

COACH MITCHELL: We learned a lot in the second game when Florida really took it to us in Gainesville. It's almost a month ago. We went to work on our transition defense, which I thought was much better today.

We held them to 16 fewer points, so I thought our overall defense was better than it was in Gainesville.

It was after that game that we really tried to sit down and figure out which way we were going to go. They've done a lot of hard work since that Sunday in Gainesville. I'm real proud of them. It's great to see a tangible result.

It wouldn't have mattered today whether you won or lost the game. The players worked really hard to make changes and improve. But it sure is satisfying to get a tangible result of beating a team that's beaten you twice. We certainly learned a lot from those games this year.

Q. The game was tied at 53. You had a stretch where Makayla and Linnae either scored or assisted on eight straight points. For a coach, is it hard to trust freshmen in a tournament game like that?

COACH MITCHELL: Their result today was because they've been working so hard and they're extremely talented.

Florida is a difficult team to defend. Schematically against man-to-man, they're so active and take advantage of their personnel, it's hard to play defense against them. It's also hard to stay in the zone because they have such three-point shooters, evidenced by their 10 made threes today.

Defensively this is a challenging game. I've said before those two players have worked hard on their defense and I thought they had some good moments there. They are offensively very gifted.

I thought the pass that Makayla made to DeNesha in transition really energized our team. I thought it was a game-changing play. That's a talented player that made that play on both ends. I thought the freshmen were a big lift to us today, no question about it.

Q. You talked about beating a team that you lost to twice. You have the same scenario coming up tomorrow with South Carolina. What do you need to do differently in this one?

COACH MITCHELL: We have to play better defense than we did in Lexington. We didn't have a good defensive night at all. South Carolina really took it to us that night.

We're going to have to battle a lot harder. I think this team has worked really hard since that game as well. It's going to be a really tough game, and we just have to get our minds ready to battle for 40 minutes.

Credit our team today, that's what they did. We were not looking real good at halftime. They just came out and really fought hard.

This is a real tough tournament to win. I think toughness is at a premium in this tournament. That's what we'll talk to our players about from now until whenever we tip off tomorrow. We need to get ourselves ready to be the tougher team.

Q. DeNesha, you're running out of time in your career. How frustrating was it to be out for the first half?

DeNesha Stallworth: It was very frustrating. But my assistant coaches and Coach Mitchell did a great job of telling me to just stay in the game, not think. That really helped me in the second half.

In the past, I'd probably get frustrated and check out. I knew my team needed me, so I just stayed strong.

Q. You mentioned Wednesday that because you haven't been able to rely on the press, there's more challenges. As a coach, is it harder to coach because you don't have the press to rely on?

COACH MITCHELL: Well, I think it's different to prepare and it's a different preparation clearly. When we had the press, you didn't really have to focus a lot on set plays because you took them out of that. Now scouting is much more important. It is for our players. That's what I credit them for. They've come in and worked really hard to play a different style. They had to do that in the middle of a season.

That's not their fault, that's my fault. To their credit, they've responded to the challenge. I thought we had some very, very aggressive and active possessions in the 2-3 zone today, and they've been working hard at that and will continue to get better at that.

But we had some good, good stretches defensively. Giving up 70 points, I don't know if you'd call that great defense, but it was certainly opportunistic defense today and I was really proud of our team, how they played.

Q. Kind of a personal reflection about your success spawning a new day at Ole Miss. Taking you back to when you first got to Kentucky, dominated by men's basketball, football, women's team not on anyone's radar. Last season you are scrapping with UConn in the NCAA tournament. Talk about your journey, who you give credit to. You can give credit to yourself in that.

COACH MITCHELL: It's been fantastic here at Kentucky. We've accomplished a lot. I give the credit to all the folks that have come in day after day, really worked hard. The players just give so much to us. They're up very early in the morning during the summertime when a lot of people are sleeping in. They're sacrificing so much different opportunities a normal student gets to enjoy.

Really it's been the players who have made it happen. Really, really proud to be at a place like Kentucky that values women's basketball. They've given us a great, great opportunity to be a good program. We're trying to become the best.

So a lot of people have worked hard to get us to the point where we are now. I'm real grateful to be coaching there.

Q. After both the Florida losses, I think all three of you said that you didn't show poise down the stretch. At what point did you feel like you were showing some poise in this game? Was that a difference-maker for you?

Jennifer O'Neill: I felt like we showed a little bit of poise when DeNesha got her second foul and we knew she wasn't going to be able to come back in the game.

The way we responded in the second half showed how much we had going into the locker room, keeping each other together. Writing down points of improvement, points we were doing good, and everybody speaking. That's the first time I heard everybody say something. From that moment, you could just tell that people were listening to what Matthew was saying about having poise, playing for the first four or five minutes.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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