Kentucky-Baylor Postgame Quotes
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Matthew Mitchell: Well, that's a great win for us. We have a long way to go as a basketball team, but we learned a lot tonight and we have a lot of room for improvement. It's great to get into an atmosphere like this. I'm so appreciative of the fans for showing up tonight. It was an incredible atmosphere.
We have a lot of respect for Baylor. They're so well-coached and they're such a tough team, and it was a real tough test for us tonight, so our hats are off to Baylor. I know they'll have a great season.
Really proud of our players. It was a very, very poor start to the game, and we came back and really played a tough 20 minutes there in the second half, and I'm very proud of them. We have a lot to learn, but this is a fun game to play in, and it was a great atmosphere. We're just so tickled that we were able to win.
Q. After Jen (O’Neill) missed her first 10 3-pointers, was there ever any doubt in your mind that she was going to make that 11th one?
Matthew Mitchell: No doubt that I was going to tell her to continue to shoot. I don't know whether they're going in or not. I'm cheering for every one of them to go in, and a lot of them looked good, and that's what we have to do. Jennifer O'Neill, the transition offense was creating wide-open, clean looks from the 3, and if you don't make them, you don't make them, but that kid makes shots, and I just continued to tell them in the huddle and I continued to tell her, we are creating. The transition was creating exactly what we were wanting it to. They were running back to a packed lane and we were shooting in-rhythm wide-open 3-point shots, and our offense, we have to shoot that shot, and Jennifer is a great shooter and has been shooting the ball great, so I was happy. I'm not keeping up with that. I have no idea if she's missed them, made them. I'm just coaching every play, and I was telling her every timeout to keep shooting the ball.
Q. At what point do you say she's 0 for something, we need to get the ball to somebody else? Do you just always want her to shoot those?
Matthew Mitchell: If the offense creates a wide-open 3 in rhythm for Jennifer O'Neill, she cannot turn that down. That's how our team is built. We try to wear you down, we try to run you back. I think you saw us start to get some wide-open clean looks there at the end of the game. I think it was producing it. She's clearly one of our best players, one of our most talented players, and call me crazy, but that's just how we're going to play. She is a fantastic player, and she may make nine of 11 on Wednesday morning, you just don't ever know, but you've just got to trust what you do, and that's what we do, we shoot transition threes, if the offense creates it. We took some bad shots in the first half. Clearly it was a poor, poor performance, a lot of jitters, I guess, very lacking in focus. I mean, at halftime I said, I don't know what you folks are doing out there. I have no idea what's going on in your mind, but we don't have a real complicated system here, and we needed to start settling down and showing some poise. I thought they did a much better job in the second half.
Q. Coach (Kim) Mulkey didn't think that the crowd played much of a factor for them. I can't imagine you would feel the same way for your girls.
Matthew Mitchell: Yeah, for us it was fantastic. When you are emotionally down, when you're playing not well and you're clearly discombobulated, I thought, we were lacking energy and emotion there as we were starting to decline in the first half -- there's no question for us, once we started playing with some energy and the crowd responds -- it pumps you up. I think that it was a great advantage for us tonight. For our players, I never can speak to what's going on with the opponent, but for us it was a huge lift.
(I’m) just so grateful to work at a place like this where people care, and on a Monday night where it just is the worst weather ever, they show up and there's 20,000 people. You just have no idea how grateful and blessed we all are to play at a place like Kentucky. This is just unbelievable. It was an unbelievable night.
Q. If I could speak to Matthew Mitchell the marketing major as well as the head coach, what does this do for the product tonight, and especially this kind of game, the way it ended?
Matthew Mitchell: Well, I don't know how Baylor feels, but as I was looking at it, it looked like all the hard work that we've done played a factor in the last 10 minutes of the game. Our brand is to play really up-tempo and to be very disruptive, and we forced 24 turnovers and scored 50 points in a half. I think it does a lot for the brand. I mean, the brand is -- you come here, you're going to have an opportunity to, every day, work on being a great person. We're going to emphasize being a high-character person and being a principle-based person and making sacrifices for each other and being people of great preparation, and if you want to come and turn it loose and shoot after you've missed 10 in a row and your coach will still tell you to shoot, then come to Kentucky. It's a place to go. We're going to try to have some fun and get out there and run up and down the court and make some plays.
I would say it's probably a good night for the brand. It's just me talking, though, the marketing major.
Q. You have a good blend of underclassmen, upperclassmen, but you've got some young players that don't seem afraid at all to be out there. I'm talking about Alyssa Rice. She looks like she's ready to play at this level, I mean, in this kind of a game. Makayla Epps, of course, showed a lot of leadership out there.
Matthew Mitchell: In the second half I think you saw what we can possibly start evolving into, and I would agree with you about Alyssa Rice. It looks like -- you're never going to be able to look at the box score and tell a whole lot about her right now, but as you observed, and I'm sure all of you, she was huge in the second half, just with her physical play on the boards, and she didn't get all the rebounds, but she kept some of the big kids from Baylor from getting them, and she played with a lot of tenacity.
We have the makings of a very good team. We are a long, long way away as you could see in the first half from being what we need to be. We're turning the ball over way too much. But we turned it over 19 times and we need to get it down to 14. We will address that.
Azia Bishop turned it over four times. We'll get those things corrected. But it's just a process. Just the way the schedule hits us now, we don't have a lot of practice time, so we've got to make the most of our time here and try to get a little bit better and see if we can win some games while we're still learning. But that's why this one is so big and such a great win that will still show up at the end of the season, but we're not a finished product. It was great to be able to win while we're still learning.
Q. Talk about Makayla Epps' game. It was huge for her in the second half, and she looked fired up after every single possession.
Matthew Mitchell: She loves Kentucky. She loves playing here. It means a lot to her. That's why I love having Kentucky kids on the team. It's no disrespect to the other kids; they love it, too. But she got down there and checked the floor a couple times, and it's just a little bit different for her. She was very, very fired up, and that was a good thing. She played the point, she played the wing and the post tonight. She's a very versatile player and was impactful in all areas. She's only scratching the surface of what she can become. As you could see first half, very tentative, very passive, not aggressive, and she changed that around.
I give our team a lot of credit because I'm telling you, it was not good in the first half, as you all could see. It was disjointed, there was no rhythm, there was no focus offensively, there was no execution. It was very, very poor, and so we have a lot of room to grow. We can get a lot better, and we need to.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
#0, Jennifer O’Neill, PG
On how they were getting open for shots …
“Really just execute. The first half we were kind of rushing things, and we really weren’t looking at our opportunities. We weren’t feeding the post, and that’s something that we said before coming into the game- that we wanted to play inside-out and completely run away from them in the first half. In the second half we tried to get back to that.”
On taking control of the game after a 14-point deficit …
“I think going into the second half Matthew (Mitchell) had said enough about what we had done the first half so we knew what we had to do. We were aware that we were down but the game wasn’t out of reach.”
On if it was exciting to face Baylor again …
“It’s a game that you’ve got to get up for and you’ve got to get excited for. I think it’s great for women’s basketball to expose us and have the world see how women play basketball. It was two great teams competing. I think it’s really good.”
#25, Makayla Epps, G
On playing in Rupp Arena …
“This is honestly my favorite game of the year besides the postseason tournaments. Playing here is a great opportunity for us coming from Memorial (Coliseum) to Rupp. To look up a couple of times and see my dad, that meant a lot to me.”
On second half adjustment…
“I think mainly in the first half, hats off to Baylor. They played a great first half. They played a great game, but I think in the first half Kentucky beat Kentucky. Whenever we were back there talking about it, it was like ‘come on, guys. They’re beating us on second-chance opportunities and free throws.’ You know, they weren’t really executing but they were beating us on hustle plays. We were putting them on the line and giving them opportunities to beat us. Then in the locker room, Coach (Mitchell) was trying to make us bow up. We weren’t playing like we know we can play. In the second half, we came out, you know, we were down eight at halftime on the boards. We only lost by two (in rebounds), so we changed the whole momentum, but I think they helped us a lot.”
On trusting Jennifer O’Neill and her shooting …
“We were talking about that before we walked up here. I told her, ‘I was going to keep feeding you regardless.’ I mean, she’s the best shooter on the team. We don’t play here often. We play here one time a year, so I mean shots are going to fall, shots aren’t going to fall. I had the utmost belief in her, and I knew once she got hot, she was going to hit it.”
Baylor Head Coach Kim Mulkey
On the loss …
"I just think the inexperience and the changing roles of the returning players who are just sophomores had a lot to do with it. This is a big atmosphere and our first road trip and it's good for us. It was good for us when we played them in December in Dallas last year and I'm glad it was a good TV game."
On losing their momentum ...
"We lost it at the end of the first half with about five minutes to go. We were trying to break it open. We had a 12-point double digit lead there and we turned the ball over, missed free throws, and stopped getting to the file line in the second half. Juniors, seniors and poised and experienced teams extend that lead, because everything was going our way but we kept fighting ourselves...we missed a shot here and then we'd foul, or we'd miss a free throw here and then we'd foul. That just comes with getting out there and playing more games and they will watch film and get better, and hopefully when they are juniors and seniors and put in that situation again, they will learn from it."
On UK changing its game plan in second half to play more inside…
“No, I felt like what they did is, they tucked their head and just took it right at us in the second half and we fouled. The fouls in the second half they shot had to be double the amount of free throws. You have 33 free throw attempts and we only shot 17. Again, they just ducked their head and got to the foul line and hit open 3s. Our defense was not as good in the second half as I thought it was in the first half. In the first half we did pretty good. Now, whether that is conditioning, I thought there were times out there we weren’t in good enough shape to keep them in front of us and we were wounded. I thought we did an excellent job of eliminating their transition game. I really don’t leave here today thinking, ‘wow we can’t stop their transition game’ which is what I was concerned about. I wanted them to have to execute a half-court offense and they just ducked their head in their half-court offense in the second half and took it right at us.”
On Jennifer O’Neill missing open jump shots…
“Well, it really wasn’t about her and the 45 points (last year), it was more how do I help the kids that are guarding her get better. What do I tell them in the timeout? We had Alexis Prince and Niya Johnson on her. I think every perimeter player I had was on her. She hit some big shots, missed some open shots but it is early in the year. She is going to make more than she misses if you leave her open.”
#13, Nina Davis, F
On playing in Rupp Arena …
“They had a nice crowd here tonight, but I can’t say the atmosphere really bothered us. Everything that happened tonight, it was our fault. Our lack of experience and things like that. I wouldn’t think the crowd had anything to do with how we played tonight.”
On how she played…
“I wouldn’t say it was a good game (for me). I did alright. I’m disappointed in myself. I feel I could have done a little bit more to help my team. I missed a lot of easy shots that I usually make, but its things I can correct so I plan on correcting it down the line.”