UK Hoops Opens SEC Slate at No. 8 Georgia
Jan. 6, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky women's basketball team opens Southeastern Conference play Thursday, Jan. 7 when it travels to Athens, Ga., to take on No. 8 Georgia. Game time at Stegeman Coliseum is 7 p.m. EST and the contest will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio), with the Voice of UK Hoops, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WLAP 630-AM.
The Wildcats (12-1) have won six of their last 10 league-opening games and are looking for their second consecutive victory in Athens. UK took a 47-44 win in Athens in 2008, upsetting the 17 th -ranked Lady Bulldogs.
"We are excited to start Southeastern Conference play this week," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We are starting against a very good Georgia team. They are top-10 in the country and undefeated and I am very impressed in their players. This will be a very difficult challenge for us. We will need to play extremely well to have a chance to win."
This is UK's first matchup against a ranked opponent this season. The Cats are looking for their first win on the road against a top-10 SEC team since Feb. 27, 1983 when sixth-ranked UK defeated No. 8 Tennessee in Knoxville, 81-69.
The Wildcats concluded their non-conference schedule at 12-1, their best record heading into league play since the 1990-91 team also began at 12-1. The Cats began the season with a school-record 11-0 mark and the 11-game win streak equaled the longest win streak in school history.
The key behind the great start has been the Cats' defensive prowess. UK leads the nation in turnover margin (+10.8), having forced 20 or more turnovers in 11 of 13 games, including 10 in a row. The Cats also rank among the nation's best in steals (6th - 13.6), blocks (29th - 5.2) and three-point field goal percentage defense (19th - 25.8).
"This is a great team for us to play and they are extremely big," Mitchell said. "They are bigger than us at all positions. We have tried to build our defense to be able to handle that. One of the big challenges for us is to try to create turnovers and score off turnovers. We have been able to do that in non-conference (play), but it will be interesting to me to see how that translates into conference (play)."
The Cats are turning their defense into scoring opportunities as they rank ninth nationally and lead the SEC in scoring offense, averaging 82.1 points per game. UK is outscoring its opponent by a +27.8 margin which leads the league and ranks third nationally. All 12 of UK's wins have been by double digits, including six by 30 or more.
Junior All-SEC forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) and freshman guard A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) lead UK in scoring, averaging 19.2 and 12.1 points per game, respectively. Dunlap, the leader in almost every UK statistical category, also tops the team and ranks third in SE C rebounding (10.0 rpg). She also ranks third nationally and leads the SEC in steals, averaging 4.1 per game. If she continues on this pace, she will break the school record for steals per game in a single season of 3.5 set by Leslie Nichols (1985-86) and Rita Adams (2001-02). Her eight steals vs. Louisville on Dec. 20 set a new career-high and equaled the third-most steals in a game in school history. Dunlap currently holds a streak of 20 consecutive games with at least one steal.
Georgia (14-0, 1-0 SEC) enters Thursday's game undefeated after topping Alabama in its conference opener last Sunday in Tuscaloosa, 52-44. Despite trailing by 10 points (30-20) at the half, UGA outscored the Tide 32-14 in the second stanza for its school-record 14th consecutive win. Senior Ashley Houts led the Lady Bulldogs with 14 points while junior Porsha Phillips had a monster night on the boards, grabbing a game-high 17 caroms. Senior Angel Robinson posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Overall, freshman Jasmine James leads Georgia with 12.6 points per game, while Phillips is the Lady Bulldogs' leader in rebounds with 8.0 per game. Houts, who averages a league-high 34.7 minutes per game, is UGA's top ball-distributor with 3.0 assists per game.
This is the 43rd meeting between Georgia and Kentucky. UGA leads the all-time series 31-11, including a 14-3 advantage in Athens.
Matthew Mitchell Pergame Press Conference Quotes
Opening Statement ...
"We are excited to start Southeastern Conference play this week. We are starting against a very good Georgia team. They are top-10 in the country and undefeated and I am very impressed in their players. This will be a very difficult challenge for us. We will need to play extremely well to have a chance to win."
On Georgia's size ...
"It is interesting and a game that I look forward to because we have tried to build this team to be able to combat some disadvantages that we knew we were going to have coming into the season. This is a great team for us to play and they are extremely big. They are bigger than us at all positions. We have tried to build our defense to be able to handle that. One of the big challenges for us is to try to create turnovers and score off turnovers. We have been able to do that in non-conference (play), but it will be interesting to me to see how that translates into conference (play). I don't anticipate turning Georgia over 40 times, but can we create enough of those opportunities where we can score some will be, I think, the key to our success in the conference. It will be tough."
On if he expects an up-tempo game out of Georgia ...
"They don't have any of their bench players that are really in double digits in minutes, so their starting five are very good. What really concerns me about this is that I could not be more impressed with a player then Ashley Houts. I have been fortunate enough to be around the SEC for a little while now, and she is one of those players that you really admire. She makes so many plays for her team, both offensively and defensively. There is really nothing that she can't do and she plays so many minutes. She never seems to get tired. You think that you can wear her down, but I don't think in those terms anymore. I think they will still push it, I don't see them slowing it down and trying to have a slow tempo game because she is so good at that. I think they will push it. They are still big, athletic and fast, so I don't know that they are going to go slow-tempo, but obviously we have built our team to be more up-tempo. We are certainly not going down there to walk it up or bleed the clock. We are going to try to get it as up-tempo as we can."
On the biggest difference between SEC play and non-conference play ...
"The intensity is at a different level and the athletes are at a different level. I think that your margin of error is much slimmer, which magnifies mental mistakes. If there is any beef that I have with our young players right now, it is in mental mistakes, which is just a product of youth. I don't really have any effort problems with them. Those are the things that concern you. If you are switching out on a screen or suppose to get in front of a post player, just little things that make a difference that maybe you can get away with in non-conference, but get magnified in conference play. The ability to play the game mentally and figure out your assignments is at a premium."