Cats Meet Razorbacks In SEC Home Opener

Jan. 10, 2009

Pregame Press Conference Quotes | Pregame Notes Get Acrobat Reader

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky women's basketball team returns to Memorial Coliseum Sunday, Jan. 11 to face Arkansas in its Southeastern Conference home opener. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio and TV) and FSN South.

The Wildcats (10-6, 0-1 SEC) return home after a tough 69-64 loss at No. 7/11 Tennessee on Thursday in the conference opener for both teams. The Wildcats fought back from a seven-point deficit early in the second half to take a four-point lead with 5:10 to play. The Lady Vols responded with a 10-0 run, including five points from freshman Glory Johnson, to regain a 64-58 advantage with 1:59 left. UT went on to hit 3-of-6 free throws in the final minute to seal the five-point victory. Sophomore guard Carly Morrow led UK in scoring with a career-high 16 points, including four three-pointers.

“It will be good to get back into Memorial Coliseum and open up or home portion of the SEC schedule with Arkansas,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They are a good team and have had a lot of success with the non-conference portion of their schedule and we will have a tough test in front of us Sunday afternoon. We are looking forward to the game being at home in front of a big crowd and we need everyone to come out and help our team win.”

Despite shooting woes and hitting 36.4 percent from the field to begin the season, the Wildcats have improved their field goal percentage, shooting 42.0 percent or better in four of the last five games. UK's perimeter shooting has improved from 21.2 percent in the first five games to 41.3 percent in the last five.

“We have made tremendous strides in the last four or five weeks and it is evident if you have watched us before and watch us now, “ Mitchell said. “We are shooting the ball better and certainly executing our offense better as well. I think that is the reason why we are playing better. The players have started to understand what their roles are on this team and what we need from everybody. We truly need a team effort. They have done a good job of that more so than we did at the beginning of the season.”

Three players are averaging double-figures in the Wildcats' balanced scoring attack. Sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.), who also is tops in blocks (17) and steals (30), leads the team with 12.0 points per game while senior center Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) follows close behind with 11.1 ppg. Junior guard Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) averages 10.5 ppg and shoots a team-high 89.7 percent from the free-throw line.

Roddy, who leads the Southeastern Conference in double-doubles with eight, ranks second in the league in rebounding with 8.8 rpg. Dunlap is third in the SEC, averaging 8.3 rpg.

Arkansas (11-5, 0-1) is coming off a 62-42 loss to LSU in its SEC opener. The Razorbacks charted a season low in points (42), field goal percentage (25 percent), points in a half (18) and assists (4) against the Lady Tigers.

Three players are averaging double-figure scoring. Freshman Ceira Ricketts, a native of Louisville, Ky., leads the way with 13.1 points per game while seniors Ayana Brereton and Whitney Jones follows with 10.4 and 10.1 ppg, respectively. Jones is the leader on the boards this season with 7.5 rpg.

Arkansas leads the SEC in three-pointers made per game with 7.1 per game. Lyndsay Harris is tops on the squad with 28 this year. The Razorbacks have attempted 110 more three-pointers than the Wildcats (257-367).

Arkansas is in its second season with former Louisville head coach Tom Collen as the head coach.

This marks the 24th meeting in the series between Kentucky and Arkansas. The Razorbacks lead the series 12-11 but the Wildcats own a 7-3 advantage when the game is played in Lexington. UK has won the last five against Arkansas, including two straight in Lexington.

UK also defeated Arkansas last season in Fayetteville, 59-56.

Pregame Press Conference Quotes - Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement …
“It will be good to get back into Memorial Coliseum and open up or home portion of the SEC schedule with Arkansas. They are a good team and have had a lot of success with the non-conference portion of their schedule and we will have a tough test in front of us Sunday afternoon. We are looking forward to the game being at home in front of a big crowd and we need everyone to come out and help our team win.”

On how he feels this team has progressed …
“We have made tremendous strides in the last four or five weeks and it is evident if you have watched us before and watch us now, it is visible. We are shooting the ball better and certainly executing our offense better as well. I think that is the reason why we are playing better. The players have started to understand what their roles are on this team are and what we need from everybody. We truly need a team effort. They have done a good job of that more so than we did at the beginning of the season.”

On if the loss last night was somewhat a moral victory …
“With this group, it is extremely important to focus on the successes that they have had. I have had to try to coach them in a manner that best fits each player's personalities. I would like to, as we say in Mississippi, ‘raise a little more cane' sometimes but I have to yell less and teach more with this group. I don't want our team feeling good about losing last night but there are spots in the game where we can point to success. I want to be careful on how we handle that because I don't want us to ever think that we don't have a chance to win or that if we play them close it's a positive outcome. We see that if we pull it together and rebound and execute better we can compete with anyone in the conference.”

On when he changed his coaching approach …
“Probably after the Tennessee State game was a good indicator. On paper, we shouldn't have lost that game, but we should have lost it on the court because they beat us. But the basketball season is long and we had a lot of basketball left in front of us. We were 5-4 and we weren't happy about that, but you can either be stubborn to a fault or you can make adjustments while sticking to your principles. Our principles haven't changed. We are still being very honest to them, working hard every day and trying to be disciplined. Those are the principles but the delivery with this group need to change. They were not responding to guilt trips and other things that I was putting on them. I credit my staff to that, because I have really good people around me and told me to maybe change my approach and we have seen some positives from that. The players that we have here at Kentucky have to play at their maximum level and I have to do whatever I can to get that out of them. It doesn't mean no yelling at all, it just means that we are trying to start from a place of teaching and make certain that they understand what we are asking them to do. After I am certain that they know what they are suppose to do, then maybe yell at them at that point in time. We are going to teach first, but certainly be tough on them. I have found in the past that when I teach more I don't have to yell as much because they are a willing group but they need further explanation.”

On Brittany Edelen's play …
“I am proud of the progress that she has made, but I think that at one point in time she was being stubborn to a fault. There are certain things that she needs to do as a player and they are specific. She needs to play her game. What I mean is that she needs to do certain things like not getting off the game plan and freelancing. She needs to stick with the plan and she wasn't doing that. I was very frustrated with her before the Santa Barbara game and she didn't play a minute. To her credit she went home after that game and could have returned and tanked because she didn't get to play. She came back after Christmas and had the best practices that she has had and since her play has been terrific. In the last four games she is averaging 12 points a game and being very productive. She was getting in the passing lanes last night and disrupted them and made some big shots. I give her a lot of credit for listening and doing what we need her to do and go out and practice in the way to earn her some playing time.”

On how big the minutes from Edelen and Catina Bett will be heading into conference play …
“It will be very important. At some point when you get into league play the rotation of players starts tighten down anyway. I don't see it as a disadvantage for our team. Someone asked me last night if we were tired and yes, we were, but so was Tennessee and you get tried playing basketball. We were still making plays at the end of the game and guarding them and carrying out what we need to do from a physical standpoint. For us to be our best they both need to play well, but with this team we need everyone to play well.”