Kentucky-Tennessee State Postgame Quotes

March 20, 2015

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Kentucky Postgame Quotes

Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement…
“I would like to congratulate Tennessee State on a great season, winning the OVC tournament and getting to this point in the NCAA tournament. I have a lot of respect for their team and a lot of respect for Coach Inman. They have done a great job and I know they will be back in the NCAA tournament very soon. I was proud of our team today. Since we left Little Rock, Arkansas (site of the SEC Tournament), we’ve had our minds focused on playing the very best we can play. We want to be energetic and we want to play with a lot of effort and intensity. I thought the players did a fantastic job today. It’s always good when you win an NCAA tournament game and you live to fight another day. I am real proud of the team’s effort. I am so happy we were here in Lexington with a great crowd and we appreciate everyone coming out and watching us play and we will need another big crowd Sunday afternoon. ”

On tonight’s defense…
“I would say a big difference in the game was having Jennifer and Bria, who we didn’t have last time (that UK played Tennessee State). Also, our players have improved over the span of time between the two games. I thought we got some great energy from Linnae Harper early in the game on defense. I thought Alyssa Rice really hustled on defense, so some of our younger players who didn’t perform well last time performed better. We had a chance to focus on us and think about what we needed to do and we had some good preparation time. I think the first game helped us because we were able to show them visible proof because if you didn’t hustle against Tennessee State they could really do some great things against you and they did in the first half. We had a three- or four-minute span where we didn’t hustle as much as Tennessee State did and they closed a 30-point lead back down to 20. It was very quick and we had to play harder than them to have success today. And I thought that was the difference between the two teams.”

On preparing for Dayton…
 “That is the beauty for us in this tournament, we try to keep the focus on Kentucky and what we need to do. Once our quad (Lexington bracket) was released and we knew the three opponents we started working on all three. So now we will just go back to the hotel, the coach who has that (opponent) will know if there are any real difficult or unusual things that we need to cover. But that is really all we will do now. We don’t have time to cover every single thing that they do, so you better (be) really focused on what you do real well. We have been able to do that over the years and I will stress that to this particular team. We just need to do the things that we do well and try to find a way to win the game by one point and keep advancing. That’s the mentality right now. No distractions for our players, just make sure they are focused so their minds can understand their responsibilities in the game and go out and execute. That is our mantra right now. That’s what we will go out and do with Dayton and they are a very good team. We have scrimmaged them over the past few years. They have some great players, we have played them in the NCAA tournament a couple of years ago.  A lot of those same players are back and so it’s a great program and team. We will have to play well to win.”

On Jennifer O’Neill and Mitchell relationship…
“It started with a young kid coming in here who kind of thought she knew what she wanted to do basketball-wise but I didn’t know if she really thought a lot about what kind of person she wanted to be. I don’t know I gave a lot of thought when I was that age either, I’m not trying to put her down when I say that. It has been a great experience, it’s certainly been challenging, we have had moments where it’s been more challenging than my relationship with Bria. But when you do it the way we do it here and you stress family so much it’s really like a family. I don’t know how your families operate but with the Mitchell family it wasn’t just perfect. If somebody did something wrong, it was confronted and you tried to learn from that. Jennifer, I think, didn’t always like what I had to say but I tried to tell her the truth, and to be up front, and I think she has always done that with me and that’s what I have always appreciated about her. It’s really come full circle and the day after the Ole Miss game when the four seniors came and sat on my coach and told me what this program meant to them and has meant for their lives. You guys all know that have covered this, I don’t know if she has ever heard a word I have ever said to her, so it was one of the greatest moments I have had in my coaching career because Jennifer O’Neill told me exactly what Kentucky women’s basketball program is about and what it means for her and what it needs to mean for the younger players. I feel like we have had a great time together and are motivated to win a National Championship. We can’t do it if we don’t win on Sunday so we’re going to put everything we can into it. But I am really proud of Jennifer and we may get into it tomorrow, between now and Sunday’s game, but we love each other and she’s a real success story here at Kentucky in more ways than you guys can understand just from looking at her on the basketball court. She is a player I love a lot, like I do all these players. “

On defense against Tennessee State…
 “We need that right now. We need to create some offense from our defense and Tennessee State is so great at driving the basketball and sometimes our rotation isn’t the best and we still struggle with defensive positioning. So what we’re trying to get the team to do now is to play really, really hard. And if you give up or make a mistake on defense just get it in quickly and try to run it back at them and make up for the mistake. We are going to play a better team on Sunday, and that’s just the way it is. Dayton is a 7 seed and Dayton is one of the better 7’s in the tournament and could have been seeded higher. This will be a very difficult game coming up and we will have to do our best to create some offense (from our) defense, even if it’s not turnovers, if it’s tough shots that we can rebound and get going. I thought any time where we could get either a turnover or a missed basket we were pretty good tonight. And any time we allowed points and they were able to set their defense, we weren’t any good. It will be important for us in this tournament to advance to create some offense.”

Kentucky Student-Athlete Jennifer O’Neill

On Tennessee State’s confidence …
“You could tell they had a lot of confidence. They were talking to each other and trying to motivate each other, saying that this game wasn’t out of reach.”

On ankle injury …
“My ankle was fine, it is fine, and it’s going to be fine. I’m going to make sure I take care of it. We have a great staff here that is doing their job around the clock but I am not concerned about it at all.”

On getting going offensively …
“If you come to our practices you would understand why were executing in transitions because we have been practicing it and now were just able to go out on the court and execute that.”

On Jaycee Coe’s three-point shot and team reaction…
“I think a lot of us are just happy to see Jaycee get in. The fact that we were able to play at a high level and make such a big gap that she would be able to play is something we were looking forward to.”

On playing with great effort today…
“That was also something that was written on our board, just to out hustle your opponent.”

Kentucky Student-Athlete Bria Goss

On getting going offensively …
“Our coaches did a great job preparing us for this game and for this tournament. We went back looked at film and really studied. We watched what we could have done better and really executed tonight by getting into transition and by running the floor.”

On Jaycee Coe’s three-point shot and team reaction…
“Jaycee is very important to us and a big key to our game. When she goes out there and puts up 10 points we get really excited but it’s not just her. Jenn and Makalaya can go out there and have a big night.  We just want to stay energetic and show that we were team oriented.”

On playing with great effort today…
 “It was very important. Our coaching staff does a very good job of stressing at the beginning of the game that our hustle and our energy is going to dictate this game and I think that we came out with great energy and hustle. Which gave us a big lead and we kept it for a while.”

Tennessee State Postgame Quotes

Tennessee State Head Coach, Larry Joe Inman

Opening statement …
“I told the kids before the game we need to get a lead and go from there like we did the first time we played, (but) that didn’t work out for us too well. I thought our kids played hard, I don’t think we shot the ball very well. We missed a bunch of bunnies around the basket and then I just thought our transition defense was just horrible. I thought we played hard, we finished hard, like we should be playing all the time, not just sometimes. I’m extremely proud of this team and what they’ve accomplished and to be in this position they are in today.  So, with that said, I couldn’t ask for a greater group of young ladies than what I’ve gotten to coach this year and what they’ve done with their lives.”

On Tennessee State’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 20 years…
“I have so many emotions right now, going so many different directions. I’ve been other places, I’ve been very fortunate, I haven’t been any place where I’ve felt any more gratified as an individual coach with a group of kids that just seemed to overcome in the face of adversity. When there was no light at the end of the tunnel they pulled together like they said, they just put their team first, they fought, they clawed, they scratched, they did whatever they had to do to get back. Teams would play them; they never changed their mental state when someone would go up on us. They held steadfast and that’s a trait of a champion, whether someone shows it or not, when you hold steadfast, when you never give up, to me that’s what makes basketball important, it’s all about life lessons. Every time you get knocked down, you all know this, you better get back up and that’s what our kids have consistently done.”

On what the team tried to do against Kentucky…
“We changed offenses, we changed defenses, we changed a lot of things but we couldn’t get a strong foothold. I felt like there were spurts where we scored but in my mind I don’t think we play at all defensively. I just feel like we had a horrible night defensively, they just did what they wanted to do when they wanted to do it and that’s the key.”

On Kentucky’s defense now compared to their previous matchup…
“They are much better, they play the passing lanes better, they’re much more aggressive, they are very physical inside. I feel like they did a good job, they applied their strengths and minimized our strengths and created a lot of weaknesses for us.”

Tennessee State Student-Athlete Chelsea Hudson

On how Kentucky got an early lead …
“I think we came out flat as a team, I think they got out to a 17-3 lead at one point. We just didn’t come out with our ‘A’ game like we have these past couple of games. We just didn’t come out like we normally do.  We usually jump out and get a good start, tonight we just weren’t able to do that.”

On if Kentucky affected their game-plan …
“They are a great ball club, they jumped out and got transition points and on defense we didn’t jump back on transition. I think it was more on us, our shots weren’t falling, we weren’t boxing out, they shot too many free throws because we didn’t box out. They got easy fast break points, we started off the game with way too many turnovers and when you play like that it’s a miracle if you win. I give them credit but I also think we just didn’t come out the way like we have in the past.”

On the legacy for herself and Tennessee State…
“That hard work pays off, that you can do this. I’m just thankful as a senior that I could help my younger teammates do this. From the coaching staff to all the way down, I’m just thankful to be a part of this and lay a foundation. We were just talking in the locker room; we don’t want it to be another 20 years before we win another OVC championship. We want to bring the program from a low bottom and bring it up high, and I think we set the bar up high as seniors. Shout out to the other four seniors, but the underclassmen are ready, they’re hungry, and I’ll be around, I won’t get to suit up anymore but I’m thankful to help lay the foundation for such a great program in the future.”

Tennessee State Student-Athlete Brianna Lawrence

On Kentucky’s fast start to open the game…
“I think the wind just got knocked out from under us, when they scored 10 in a row and got that lead, it just knocked our legs out from right under us.”

On the team showing effort throughout the game …
“Our model is to never give up to begin with, we always believe that’s our model. When I got on a run, when my teammates saw me knocking down my shots I think we did have momentum at one point.”

On the team’s growth throughout the season…
“If you guys knew even half of it, we have come such a long way. I was looking at the box score from the last time we played Kentucky and we were 3-8 and I was like, ‘Wow we have come such a long way.’ We won 10 games straight, Tennessee State. All glory goes to God, I know it was nothing but Him, how He pulled us together in unity as one team, it’s amazing.”