Kentucky-Belmont Postgame Quotes

Dec. 14, 2014

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Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement …
“Very proud to win today, a great win for us. Our opponent really played well. I thought Belmont was really tough today. Their guards were able to keep their dribbles alive and they were very aggressive and really did a great job. I thought they had a great game plan and competed extremely hard and they certainly earned our respect today. Hats off to Belmont, we certainly hope they go on to have a great season. We were missing Bria Goss today. We are not quite sure – we don’t know if it is a sprained thumb or a ligament problem. It happened this morning in our gameday practice, so a ball hit her and hyperextension. I don’t know exactly what it was, but it was very painful for her today. She tried to give it a go and we were just concerned about her health so decided to sit her the rest of the game. You can see she is a big part of what we do defensively. Proud of the players for finding a way and settling down at halftime and doing a little bit better job in some areas, just happy right now to get the victory.”

On if he expected this much fight from Belmont …
“Yeah, they have won two in a row and had a really tough schedule early on. They just won two in a row and I think were fired up to play. They were awfully tough. For us, it is sort of all or nothing, feast or famine. If we don’t come out with tremendous energy and I didn’t think that we did defensively. We worked really hard on this game because it was one-day preparation and we really worked hard to make them understand how dynamic their offense was. They just move for 30 seconds and they just work really hard. I don’t think our first unit was very energetic to start the game and that is very disappointing. I thought the second unit came in and gave some better energy, so I was glad to see that. But Belmont was tough today.”

On subbing five-for-five early in the game and if he was channeling his inner John Calipari
“Well, I was probably channeling my old Matthew Mitchell because we used to do that some around here. But, that was not my plan at the start of the game. I just was very disappointed with how our first unit came out and played. There is a couple of things that you notice as a coach that you can tell if they are mentally prepared or not. This team is fighting that. We are just fighting some immaturity at some times. We are not getting off to very good start in games and it is maddening as a coach, but we will just stay positive and move forward and keep working hard and keep trying to get them to start games the way they need to start games.”

On the bench scoring tonight …
“Well, we have some good players over there on the bench and that is very fortunate for us. I was just glad that they came in and gave some energy when it was there chance. When you can get some production from Azia (Bishop) that is always good. Linnae (Harper) scored some points today. I thought Makayla (Epps) was a little off today. I didn’t think she was very aggressive and didn’t seem to particularly be as focused as she has been and she has been really locked solid for us all year. So hopefully she will bounce back from a subpar game, but the bench was powerful. That is the thing for us, we need everybody to contribute. We need these young post players to come on and get better. Jaycee Coe is working harder and turning the corner a little bit, it would be great to get her 3-point shooting on the floor, but she can’t do that until she gets solid defensively. It will be a team effort, we need everybody to work hard.”

On Azia Bishop coming off the bench …
“If you think about it, she has done it for three years – coming off the bench. We just need production from her and I loved her fight today. I thought she had some really great moments of fight and really there for first portion of the game at times she was the only one. It is good for her. No matter what it takes, if it is coming off the bench or we need her to start, I think we are clearly still a work in progress as far as who starts the game and maybe it doesn’t even matter for us. Maybe it will always be a collective effort and 40-minute game. I don’t know, maybe we will never start good, we will certainly try to get past that and try to solve that. I think one of the tough things for us right now is just our approach and our maturity level and maybe it is just tough bouncing back from a tough game Friday night. I don’t know. We just don’t seem to really try to play our best. Seems like we just play for whatever the situation asks of you. I don’t like that and I don’t think that is a great policy in life and way to live. I think you need to try to do your best all the time and that is what we will try to get this team to do.“

On what Azia Bishop needs to do to be a starter …
“We need her offensive rebounding energy. It’s very important that she goes to the boards every time. Then we need her on defense. There’s a big difference when she’s in-tune in the stance then when she’s standing straight up and it’s not even close the two. It’s like two different people. The big thing we need from her is transition offense. It just makes a difference now when she runs down. It puts stress on the defense when she runs down the floor its taxing these other teams. That’s one of the things that we’re coming up on here. Our next game with Duke: massive team, huge team, great size. The No. 1 team in the country South Carolina: massive team, huge team, big size. We can’t just go toe-to-toe. We’ve got to get the thing going up and down. And that one thing for Azia, just running the floor and making people run back and making people expend energy to get back and guard us, it’s very important. I think Belmont did a great job, but you saw it started to wear them down. And so those three areas: just offensive in the half-court, rebounding, defense in the half-court in the stance and really being active and sprinting to the rim every time is what I need for her to do consistently.”

On trying to overcome slow starts, even though UK is 10-1 …
“What I have to do right now is I’ve got to do a great job. I’ve got to show some leadership here. I’ve got to really spend a lot of time with this team because clearly it is very exasperating. It’s exhausting, but 10-1, if you’d laid out 10-1 on the table for me before we started I wouldn’t have coached a game and we’d just all have showed up here today and been happy to be 10-1. I’m telling you, it’s incredible that we’re 10-1, but I’ve got to really work hard and all of our coaches and our players. We’ve got to get this thing figured out. We must get better, and I think we will. It’s a good group of kids. It’s just not the most focused group you’ve ever been around. It’s just not the most naturally assertive team you’ve ever been around so I have recruited every one of them and I love them all. They’re really good players so I’ve got to do a good job here. We can’t sit around here and complain about ‘we don’t have leadership, we don’t have this, we don’t have that.’ We’ve just got to get it done, and I think we will.”

On Bria Goss’ thumb injury …
“I think we’re going to x-ray it in the morning. That’s what I was told. X-ray tomorrow and as soon as we know we’ll get that out to you guys.”

On Jelléah Sidney’s knee problems and if she will return to action…
“So we are holding her until after Christmas. She is working and trying to get some cardio, and get into some shape. There’s just a finite number of plays left in that knee. And so she has some tendonitis. It’s very painful. The tendonitis is very painful so we’re trying to work that out and treat that now. Then just see where she is. Just can’t get up and down the floor right now for an extended period of time. This is a degenerative kind of deal. There’s no cartilage in the knee and there’s some tendonitis. It’s not ever going to be a great knee again. And so she’s very valuable to the team. Here’s what she’s done: she’s just come in here and worked so hard. She’s been a great student. She’s looking at a 4.0 this semester. She’s just a hard, hard worker and we just want her to go out as strong as possible and we’re hoping that includes her playing some good basketball down the stretch because she can be effective for us in different situations. We just got to try get her healthy. It’s just really painful right now.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#50 Azia Bishop, Sr., C

On having a double-double in tonight’s game…
“Before the game Coach Amadou was telling me that I needed to come in and work hard, attack the board and just give it my all. I think doing that produced what I had tonight.”

On being inspired to play better after losing starting position…
“Starting doesn’t effect me much but coming off the bench I think is more comfortable for me because I get to see the flow of the game and know what I have to come in and do which has given me that extra push to go out there and play harder.”

On Coach Mitchell pulling the starters early in the first half...
“I think he was frustrated with how the game started. There wasn’t enough ball pressure so he put the new five in just to get the ball movement and intensity going.”

On Coach Mitchell being frustrated during the game…
“I think we just got off to a slow start which we have done before, but I think we did a great job of turning that around in the second half. We got a lot more ball pressure, attacked the gaps in the zone and went to the glass. We need to get pass the slow start.”

On Belmont being tougher than expected…
“Each opponent that we play comes out and gives it their all so I feel like every team we play against is going to be a tough game no matter if it’s Belmont or Duke, either way it’s going to be tough.”

On having just 11 turnovers compared to 28 on Friday….
“Coach Mitchell made an emphasis on that and we ran in practice for the unforced turnover we had. So today, he gave us the goal to keep the turnovers under 12.”

#15 Linnae Harper, So., G

On the bench having a combined 44 points…
“It’s really important. My main focus was to bring energy on the court and just to do anything in my ability to help our team.“

Belmont Head Coach Cameron Newbauer

Opening Statement …
“I’m really proud of our team for coming in and battling tonight. Matthew [Mitchell], what he has going here is tremendous. The way they play, with the pressure is non-stop coming at you. Twenty-one turnovers for us is a lot, but vs. a team of that caliber, I’ll take it for how hard we competed. I don’t think the final score is quite indicative of really what it was. We wanted to limit their free throws, and we did that. We wanted to limit offensive rebounds, well, they get 17 a game, they get 18 [today]. We really wanted to present a challenge to them where we were going to make them beat us from the outside, so our two biggest focuses were that and offensive rebounds. They’re a great team, a really good team, have a lot of depth. I’m just really excited for how hard we competed tonight and hats off to Kentucky, they did what they do. That’s what they do and they’re a good team.”

On if he’s surprised Kentucky won at Louisville …
“No, I coached at Louisville the year we went to the championship, and I understand UofL-Kentucky, it doesn’t matter what it is and it doesn’t matter what the score is. The year I was there, we were up the whole game, at Louisville, and Janee [Thompson] as a freshman hit a three right at the end to take their first lead of the game. That’s one of those games where, it doesn’t matter where it’s at, until the final buzzer, it doesn’t matter. So no it doesn’t [surprise me that UK won], because Louisville’s young, their guards are nowhere near where Kentucky’s guards are right now. You’re talking Linnae [Harper], Janee, Jennifer O’Neill, and how many McDonald’s All-American’s he’s got here, he does a really good job. What they do best is they play to their strengths. We played awesome kids tonight, and I was hoping they’d shoot, but they wouldn’t because they shared the ball, got the ball inside and got the ball to the shooters. So to answer that long question, no I wasn’t surprised they won, because they fight. The way they play, they can come back from any score, because they can change the game in a matter of minutes.”

On how Belmont lost by 60 at Louisville …
“The type of pressure they did on us, it really gave us fits trying to get over the half line with their length and size. They’re a little bigger and longer at the two and the three than Kentucky. For some reason, we handle full-court pressure better. We got some of those little guards that can slice it a little bit. That was a crazy night, but that goes to show you, how many degrees of separation? It doesn’t matter who beats who in what, every night you have to lace them up and play.”

On UK subbing five players at once two minutes into the game …
“I thought you guys were starting to be like the men now, blue and white or something. I looked at the bench and said, ‘is he doing, has he and Cal [UK men’s head coach John Calipari] been hanging out?’ I don’t know if he was upset with them or what, it was 3-3 I thought. I don’t know exactly what he wants with the pressure, and if he didn’t think the pressure was enough at the time with how they were playing. It woke them up I think.”

On his team battling until the end of the game …
“Those are superb athletes we just played. We played our hearts out, played 40 minutes. And yeah, did get a little gassed at the end, we had some kids that played extended minutes. We had a number of kids, a couple of freshmen, that have never seen anything like this. For Sally McCabe and Sierra Jones, to see this environment and play against that sort of pressure, it’s brand new. It’s tough for schools our size, if you don’t play games like this often, it’s easy to get jumped 20-0 right away, and that’s kind of what happened at Louisville at the first media timeout. That’s why I’m so proud of our team, we kept fighting, we wanted to play through any mistake we made, any shot we missed. Just keep fighting and keep playing, and control what we can, which is our attitude and try to learn from whatever mistake might have just happened. That’s what they do. Forty minutes of dread, yeah, you dread it for 40 minutes. At the end of the game, we put some subs in and they were still pressing, and one of my assistants said ‘they’re still pressing,’ I said ‘that’s what they do.’ That’s what they know, and you have to stick with it all the time. And it works, it wears you down, mentally, physically, they’re great at it, they really are.”

On what he takes from this …
“What we take is that we can compete with any style of play, I think. The style of play I think that we maybe have been worried about most is this. We aren’t the most athletic bunch, compared to them, and I think Kentucky, arguably, is the most athletic team in the country, top to bottom. Just knowing we can handle that pressure, there were some box-outs today we missed, we had a couple of turnovers that might have been unforced, but I think we had a couple of players get better and get tougher tonight. That’s the name of the game for us, is just getting tougher mentally, physically, playing through mistakes and having the best attitude we can every day, and I definitely think that tonight, you might think I’m nuts, we lost by 16, but I think Belmont women’s basketball got better tonight.”