No. 10 UK Hoops vs. No. 5 Duke -- Postgame Quotes

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UK Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

COACH MITCHELL:  That was a fantastic win.  Just a great battle, great basketball game.  Two good teams going at it.  We thought it would be a battle.  We just tried to hang in there, play really hard.  We just kept telling the players, Hang in, keep playing hard, maybe we can break it open at some point in time.  We finally did. Really, really proud of our basketball team.  It's a big win to build on.  We will continue to try to get better.

Q.  You weren't very happy about that no call in the second half.
COACH MITCHELL:  No, the officials did a good job.  I get a little worked up over there sometimes.  I had been acting really good this year, had been behaving pretty well.  I reverted back to some poor behavior and I'll have to work on that as we move forward.

Q.  Do you feel the team responded after that?
COACH MITCHELL:  I don't know.  I don't know if they did or not.  They responded to something.  I don't know if that's what they responded to.

But we just kept fighting.  It was such a tough game.  As you're out there watching it, I don't know if you're like me, you're wondering if this is going to actually work, just keep trying to push the tempo.  I don't know if they ever got up eight, maybe they did one time.  You're sitting there thinking, ‘Maybe this isn't such a good idea.  They're shooting 56% at halftime.’

But you have to stay committed.  We believed we could finally break it open.  Made some tough, tough plays.  Didn't look pretty all the time.  But they responded to the moment, it was a big moment, and they won.  Real proud of our players.

Q.  On Kentucky’s offense in the first half …
COACH MITCHELL:  Well, so frustrated at halftime because our offense was just not aggressive.  That's not to say Duke doesn't have a good defense.  They do.  We were just standing and not making it very hard on Duke.  You saw 12 turnovers in the first half.  We are fueled totally on turnover margin.  We need the turnover margin against a team like Duke to be between eight and 10.  That's where we need it.  It was three at halftime.  I felt like we had too many careless turnovers.

We tried to talk to them about trying to value the ball.  It was not going to look pretty all the time, but don't cough it up.  If you have to heave it up at the shot clock going off, just don't throw it to them was the message at halftime.  We tried to show them a couple things that might help them.

You see four turnovers in the second half.  There's the story of the game right there.

Q.  You had a couple of freshmen who played really well.  What does that tell you about young kids when they perform that way in this type of environment on this type of stage?
COACH MITCHELL:  Well, it tells you that we're fortunate that those kids signed with Kentucky and we recruited some good players.  That's a credit to our assistant coaches, our players, just the atmosphere that is Kentucky.

So real fortunate that Bria Goss has been steady.  Proud of Azia Bishop.  She had been underperforming, no question about it.  We had a long talk, let her know we believed in her ability, that she needed to start playing better.  She's worked a lot harder and practiced harder.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I thought she would start doing better, but she really was able to rise to the occasion tonight.

Good for those two freshmen players.  They're good, good players.

Q.  A little more on (Azia) Bishop.  What kind of potential does she have?
COACH MITCHELL:  Well, I think that she could be one of the best post players around.  I think if you look at her tools and her gifts, they are substantial.  One thing you haven't seen yet is her ability to shoot the ball.  She can really shoot the 3.  But the game is moving so fast for her right now, that just hasn't come around.

I tell you, she has a lot of ability.  She struggles with just staying focused every day.  That happens with a lot of freshmen.  But if she will work as she has the last couple of days, and play that way, then the sky is the limit.

But she has a lot of gifts.

Q.  You mentioned the first half, the way the girls played.  Would you attribute that to playing here at Rupp Arena, the crowd?  Could we see them playing one game a year here so they can get used to the atmosphere here?

COACH MITCHELL:  Great crowd.  Fantastic job by people showing up tonight.  I really, really appreciate that.  Can't thank people enough.  I thought the crowd actually helped us in the first half.  I thought we weren't playing a lot of intelligence on offense with their zone.  And zone a lot of times is about making some reads.  Sometimes players don't set screens the way they do in man offense.

I just thought it was a lack of execution more than the venue, as you see, unless we just can't shoot very good on that end and we shoot better on the other end.  I don't know what to tell you about the building.  But the building was fantastic and the atmosphere was great.  Whether we play down here, I don't know.  But we were awfully happy to get a win tonight.

Q.  What did the team do different the second half to eliminate the looks right at the bucket that Duke was getting in the first half?

COACH MITCHELL:  Well, one thing that we were doing in the first half I thought poorly was we were not defending dribble penetration and we were helping too early.  So we were giving up on the drive.  We were what we call 'opening the gate', letting the kid drive straight to the basket.  We call that a straight line drive.  Too many straight line drives, too much help.

I told them the whole key to this game was trying to keep the ball in front of you so you didn't have to rotate and help.  That helped us a little bit.

Then I just thought Duke played really tough and worked hard, eventually got some shots that you could not have done a whole lot about.  A lot of the looks at the basket were because they have real tall, good basketball players, and there wasn't a whole lot we could do with that.

I thought we defended the ball much better in the second half.  Thought that was maybe a product of our pressure.  To come out tied on the boards with that kind of size disadvantage, we played four guards for most of the game, that is a testament to our kids' toughness.

Q.  Can you talk about the two wins back to back.  I know there's a long season, a long way to go, but the confidence level of this team.  Also, when you get a crowd like this tonight, how big is it to pull a win out and maybe they'll come back?

COACH MITCHELL:  You just couldn't put it much more succinctly.  That was the whole key tonight, was this opportunity.  You don't want your kids to play tight.  We didn't really talk about it, but that was in my mind, boy, just hoped we could play well.  If we could find a way to win, you capitalize on a moment like this and you just try to continue to build and create energy.  We just need to keep at it.  I think people appreciate how hard the players play.

I will tell you this.  They practiced so hard.  We were so demanding of them.  So it's great that people recognize that.  It's great to be in Kentucky where people care about basketball.  It's great to have an administration that's behind you and will make an event like this come off.

The win is the best marketing tool we can ever have, is win a game like this.  I think people will come back.

Q.  You've beaten the No. 10 and No. 6 team in the country.  You have two McDonald's All Americans that haven't even played yet.  What is the ceiling for your team?
COACH MITCHELL:  I think we can be good.  The trick with us is trying to make them understand that this was a great night.  This means a lot only if we continue to work really hard, we continue to win games, we continue to get better as a team.  I don't think we are nearly as good offensively as we can become.

So I think the ceiling is high for this team.  I think we can be good.  I think they have put themselves in a position physically where you can continue to run the ball back at people.  I think that's one of the best things we do right now, is we just continue to come at you.

As we develop the team and get a little bit better maybe in the halfcourt, I think we can be very good.  But I'm real excited for them tonight.  They worked hard tonight.  Great, great win for our program and for Kentucky.

Q.  In the first half you gave up a lot on the baseline.  I was wondering what you might have done to slow that down.
COACH MITCHELL:  That's what we were talking about earlier with the baseline drive, we needed to do a better job of squaring that up and trying to cut them off before they get all the way into the paint.  That was a product of playing better on ball defense.

UK Players

#50, Azia Bishop, F

On the turning point of the gam
“When the crowd was intense and we were getting runs. We just had to keep going hard.  They could have come back anytime but we pushed it out.”

On the atmosphere in Rupp Arena…
“The atmosphere was very exciting. It’s always great to have a lot of support and I think that helped us a lot and kept our intensity going.”

On playing two top ten teams back to back with Notre Dame coming up…
“The Notre Dame game will be exciting. We have a game on Sunday first then we go to Notre Dame. It should be very fun. I love tough games.”

On Coach Mitchell’s reaction to a certain play during the game…
“I didn’t see his reaction during the game but we talked about it in the locker room.  It sounded funny.  I guess that just shows the heart that he has.”

#13, Bria Goss, G

On how she is feeling after this game…
“It’s indescribable. I grew up watching basketball watching these good teams and big games like this. I couldn’t be happier with the turnout of the crowd. Kentucky, by far, has the best fans for men’s and women’s basketball and I think we set the tone tonight. I just encourage everybody to come back and everybody see us play and this is just one of many and we are just going to keep going from here. This isn’t where we are going to stop. We just have to keep having our fans and just keep having that support and I feel like our outcome is just going to be great.”

On if she feels more comfortable on the court…
“When it comes to big crowds, this is the biggest I have played in. I enjoy playing in big crowds. I look at it as a challenge, I look at it as a time for everybody to shine, a time for our team to get better, and we need to take that kind of opportunity.”

On Asia Bishop’s great game after coming off the bench…
“She’s my roommate and this is exactly how Coach Mitchell wants us to play. She has been kind of down about it and “he wants me to do so much” but this is how she plays and we see it in pickups, we see it practice, and we see it all the time. Now she puts in on the court in this type of game and it is amazing.”

#1, A’dia Mathies, G

On starting four guards against a big team like Duke….
“Almost every team we play against is taller than us. We used quickness to our advantage running up and down the court.”

On what this win means to the women’s basketball program…
“Hopefully we gain a lot more fans because of the record crowd and hopefully it will give us momentum going into another big game against Notre Dame.”

On freshmen Azia Bishop and Bria Goss’ performances…
“They really stepped up tonight.  I don’t think we could have won without them tonight. As a matter of fact, I know we could have not won without them tonight. I am very proud of them, they work very hard in practice and showed it out there today.”

On how great this team can be…
“I think we can be great. We aren’t even to our full potential. There is a lot more to come.”

On how this week has been after beating #10 Louisville and #5 Duke, on a scale of 1-10…
“I’m going to give it an eight. We still have some improvements to make.”

#24, Amber Smith, G

On a scale of 1 to 10, how good was this past week...
“Ten, definitely. Two top 10, 15 teams. Beating them at home is just great. It just says so much about this program. Coach (Kyra) Elzy said this would be a program changer, and I think it is. It just shows you can’t come into Kentucky and say, ‘Oh that's an easy win.’ You have to fight and when we play at home it's real tough to beat us.”

On the non-stop pressure all game...
“We are just everywhere. We have people that just hustle and leave it all in the lines. You don't find that often, but all of us have just bought into what Coach (Matthew) Mitchell is teaching us and just do it.”

On how well the freshman played in front of the big crowd...
“I'm very proud of Azia (Bishop) because in the beginning she had a tough time, but today she showed her heart. The coaches have been pushing her to the limit, and it just shows how hard she's worked. Bria (Goss) works hard every single day and for them to come out and play like this is just amazing. Anybody can step up on any given night, we have a lot of depth.”

Duke Players

#12, Chelsea Gray

On playing in this atmosphere…
“It’s a privilege coming into this arena and playing in front of a great crowd. I think that was our first time ever against that type of crowd. It’s a great atmosphere and you just have to get used to it. Playing on the road isn’t easy, we just have to adapt to the environment and do the best we can with it.”

On the turnovers…
“Credit to Kentucky, they played very good defensively. I just think we were rushing a lot of our passes. It’s a two-way street when you pass the ball, somebody has to come to it. We were just off and I think we were rushing everything.”

#1, Elizabeth Williams

On what changed to end her good start…
“I think I shifted focus a little bit, we had a lot of turnovers so we weren’t really in a good offensive flow. It’s not really an individual issue it’s just the whole team.”

Duke Head Coach Joanne P. McCallie

On fans perception of Duke …
“The fan mentality is not what we are about. We are about who we are in developing and getting better. That is what other people think of us. It is more important of what we think about ourselves.”
On UK’s Azia Bishop’s game …
“I wish she didn’t play too many (minutes) tonight. I think Bishop is the player of the game. With all do respect, Mathies is very good. But, when you have a player come off the bench, matter of fact I don’t think I’ve seen that too much. A player comes off the bench for a double-double in a game like this, a physical game like this, I would call her the player of the game. And say wow, gosh challenge her because she did such a fantastic job, she was terrific. We didn’t do anything to move her, take her out, box her out or anything and she deserves a lot of credit for that.”
On multiple turnovers by Duke …
“That’s terrible on our part, of course you have to give credit to (UK’s) play.”
On Duke’s second half performance …
“I don’t know, you may ask the players that too.  I can say (we) were overrunning. (We) were overrunning things in the first half and I thought Chelsea’s eyes were really good. I thought it really hurt us that Chelsea had her second foul because I thought we were dictating at that point. I thought Chelsea was doing a great job seeing the floor. So, there were some pretty good looks (and) pretty good heads up. Second half I thought their pressure was better, got to give them credit for better pressure. I also think we didn’t run the floor and see as well because of that pressure. Shooting 57-percent in the first half is a pretty good thing and second half, not shooting as well, you have to credit  (their) defense there.”