Kentucky Concludes Nonconference Play at Duke
Jan. 3, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - No. 10/11 Kentucky travels to undefeated and third-ranked Duke on Tuesday, Jan. 4 to open 2011 and conclude its nonconference portion of the schedule. The game will be televised live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. EST with Beth Mowins and LaChina Robinson calling the action. It also will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and online at UKathletics.com.
The Wildcats (11-1) enter Tuesday's contest riding a six-game winning streak after defeating UT-Martin on Thursday in Memorial Coliseum, 68-47. The Cats are 3-1 on the road this season with their only loss coming at intrastate rival Louisville on Dec. 5.
"Well, our game with Duke has arrived and it's a game that I know everybody that follows women's basketball has been excited about all season," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I don't know who all is playing tomorrow night but I would have to say it's one of the top basketball games in the country. That's great that Kentucky can play in a game like that and we are excited about the opportunity. It's going to be a very, very difficult challenge ahead of us and we will have to prepare well and go and execute well to have a chance to beat Duke."
Reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and UK's Miss Everything, Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.), hopes to return to action after suffering a bruise to her left knee vs. the Skyhawks. She charted seven points and seven rebounds before leaving the game with 9:49 remaining. Dunlap is the team's leader in scoring (17.1 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg) and is listed in the top five of eight SEC statistical categories, including leading the league in blocks (2.2) and steals (3.9). She also ranks second nationally in the steals per game category.
"She'll practice today and she'll try to go tomorrow night full speed," Mitchell said. "We'll limit her activity today but we expect, unless we have a real severe setback today, we expect her to be in the starting lineup tomorrow night."
Junior guard Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.) has been making headlines the past few games for her hot shooting. The 5-foot-7 guard has been on fire from beyond the arc, hitting at least four treys in four consecutive games. Since Dec. 5, Snowden has hit 24-of-41 attempts (.585) and now leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage (.486). She also leads the league and ranks 11th nationally in 3-point field goals made per game (3.2).
No. 11 Duke is 13-0 and off to the best start for a Joanne P. McCallie team over her 19 years as a head coach. Duke is one of only four teams in the nation that is still undefeated -- West Virginia (13-0), North Carolina (13-0), and Florida Gulf Coast (9-0). Duke is currently riding a 15-game winning streak in Cameron Indoor Stadium and has won 38 out of the last 39 games at home. Duke has totaled a 7-0 record at home this season and has won those games by a 16.1 per game margin.
Seniors Jasmine Thomas and Karima Christmas lead the Blue Devils in scoring this season, averaging 14.2 and 10.7 points per game, respectively. Another veteran, senior Krystal Thomas, is the team's leading rebounder with 8.2 boards per game.
"Duke has a very experienced point guard and a very steady leader in Jasmine Thomas," Mitchell said. "They're on their home court with a really, really veteran, outstanding point guard, an all-American type player. They have strength there compared to us and just their overall talent is very good. They are third in the country for a reason. They just have a lot of big, strong, athletic players and they are talented and well coached."
UK is 0-2 all-time vs. Duke. This will mark the Cats' first trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium and the first meeting between the squads since 1995. The previous two meetings were at neutral sites. The Cats fell to the Blue Devils in the championship game of the St. John's Christmas Tournament in Jamaica, N.Y., on Dec. 30, 1986 (68-63) and then lost in the opening game of the Big Four Classic in Greensboro, N.C., on Dec. 29, 1995 (73-54). UK is 10-14 all-time against teams from the current alignment of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Pregame Press Conference Quotes
Opening Statement ...
"Well, our game with Duke has arrived and it's a game that I know everybody that follows women's basketball has been excited about all season. I don't know who all is playing tomorrow night but I would have to say it's one of the top basketball games in the country. That's great that Kentucky can play in a game like that and we are excited about the opportunity. It's going to be a very, very difficult challenge ahead of us and we will have to prepare well and go and execute well to have a chance to beat Duke."
On Victoria Dunlap's status in regard to the injury she suffered against UT-Martin ...
"She'll practice today and she'll try to go tomorrow night full speed. We'll limit her activity today but we expect, unless we have a real severe setback today, we expect her to be in the starting lineup tomorrow night."
On how the freshmen will react to the environment at Cameron Indoor Stadium ...
"Our freshmen at times have trouble with any environment, with the environment in practice that gets loud at times but it will be much louder I'm sure at Duke. They play a huge role on our team and they'll have to play, they'll have to play well. The main thing that I want them to understand is that what we're trying to prepare them for is the intensity level, they have to be locked in. In our last couple of games you've seen some breakdowns mentally there and I think you will see those exposed more tomorrow night if that were to happen - just trying to get them ready to go and play real hard. I'm really encouraged by the progress Samantha (Drake) has made this week. (We are) still just trying to bring Maegan (Conwright) along. She's just so darn talented but is just struggling putting it all together. When she does put it all together we're going to be pretty tough, I think. The rest of them have had good weeks but it's going to be a challenge for them."
On what is it specifically that Maegan Conwright needs to put together ...
"Up to this point she's had a hard time understanding what all we need the point guard to do. Maegan is a really outgoing kid but when she gets on the floor she chooses the wrong time to stop using her personality. We need her to be fireier, we need her to be more vocal and we need her to clap her hands and to get the huddle a little tighter. All the things you want a point guard to do. I think a lot of that isn't unwillingness it's just uncomfortable and you don't realize all important all that is. We're still trying to work on that but she's so gifted physically and doesn't understand all the things that go into being the point guard. She will continue to learn and she has a lot of people interested in her on the coaching staff and I know her teammates have confidence in her. She'll get there; tomorrow night will give her a good chance to grow."
On if Maegan has hit some sort of wall right now ...
"I think that if you look at when she (Maegan Conwright) played well, and in my mind she played well in the Notre Dame game, that's the third day of the season and it was Notre Dame's third or fourth game. It was our third game and I think those are a little bit easier games to play in because not everyone has it all put together. Sort of ignorance is bliss at that point. You just turn loose and play and she still needs to do that but there are a few more things. Defenses are more advanced at this point in the year and they will throw different looks at her. You just have to use your mind a little bit more, you just can't play mindlessly play hard you have to play with some mental effort as well. I don't think it's necessarily a lull that she's hit I just think it's something she has to overcome and I think she'll do it, at what point I'm not sure."
On your biggest concerns about Duke ...
"Just the flip side for Duke is that they have a very experienced point guard and a very steady leader. She's (Jasmine Thomas) clearly in my mind as I watched them directing the team and directing traffic. They're on their home court with a really, really veteran, outstanding point guard, an all-American type player. They have strength there compared to us and just their overall talent is very good, they are third in the country for a reason. They just have a lot of big, strong, athletic players and they are talented and well coached."
On Amber Smith and her status ...
"She's still about four weeks out before we will come to any type of final decision. She's progressing nicely. She can do some shooting but there's a lot of things laterally she can't do but she is running straight ahead and doing the elliptical. She's out there with us going through whatever she can go through. If we're ever doing position work she can go at her own pace. We are still about four weeks away from making any final decision and that will have a lot factors going into it and we aren't trying to pull a surprise on anyone or withhold any information it just isn't time to make a decision."