Wildcats Travel To Tuscaloosa for SEC Showdown
Jan. 14, 2009
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky women’s basketball team looks to capture its first Southeastern Conference road win when the Wildcats take on the Crimson Tide Thursday, Jan. 15 in Tuscaloosa. Ala. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price from Coleman Coliseum.
UK (11-6, 1-1 SEC) is coming off a 72-63 win over Arkansas at home while Alabama is in search of its first conference win after losses to Vanderbilt and LSU.
“We are going on the road for the second time in the SEC and that is always something that is very difficult in this league,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “After watching them, (Alabama) they are a very impressive team. They are athletic and carry a lot of people and can give you problems that we will have to be ready for them. They are a good rebounding and aggressive team. They are tough defensively and have had a big turnaround this year with Coach Hudson. He has done a great job at Alabama. It’s always tough to go on the road and we will have to be prepared for a good game in Tuscaloosa.”
This is the 34th meeting in the series between Kentucky and Alabama. The Wildcats lead the overall series 18-15 but trail 5-9 in games played in Tuscaloosa. However, UK has won three of the last four in Coleman Coliseum, including a thrilling 63-62 buzzer-beater in 2007. The Cats also defeated the Tide last season in Lexington, 64-44.
Since dropping two straight games in mid-December, Kentucky has drastically improved its field goal percentage. The Cats have won six of their last seven games and improved their field goal shooting percentage from .346 at the beginning of the season to .420 percent in the last seven contests. The Wildcats also are shooting .393 from the three-point line, compared to a .232 percent mark prior to Dec. 14.
Three players are averaging double-figures in the Wildcats’ balanced scoring attack. Sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.), who led all scorers with 16 vs. the Razorbacks, leads the team with 12.2 points per game while senior center Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) and junior guard Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) follow close behind, averaging 10.8 ppg apiece. Sophomore guards Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) and Carly Morrow (Chattanooga, Tenn.) near the double-figure mark with 7.7 ppg each.
Roddy, who leads the Southeastern Conference in double-doubles with eight this season, also tops the league in rebounding with 8.9 per game after grabbing 12 caroms vs. Arkansas. Dunlap is third in the SEC, averaging 8.2 rpg.
Alabama (12-5, 0-2 SEC) is led by sophomore forward Tierney Jenkins, who comes off the bench to average 11.5 points and 7.1 boards per game. She is the only tide player in double-figures although freshman Ericka Russell nears double-digits with 9.9 ppg.
Former Alabama men’s basketball standout Wendell Hudson is in his first season as head coach of the Crimson Tide. Prior to becoming the head coach for his alma mater, he served as the Associate Athletics Director for Alumni Relations at Alabama. His 26-year coaching career began under former Kentucky Athletics Director and Tide men’s coach C.M. Newton. He served as an assistant coach under Newton from 1974-79.
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Quotes
On the new transfer of Crystal Riley …
“We have good news today for the Kentucky Basketball program as we announce that Crystal Riley, a point guard from LSU is transferring to us. She is one of the top point guards in the county in her class and for us to have the opportunity to coach her is something that we are very excited about. I think that she can help us and she will be eligible in the fall semester as soon as finals are over.
“It happens from time to time with players all over the country who go to a school, but it doesn't work out. Semester transfers are not all the uncommon. When Crystal [Riley] was looking for a place to go she had a familiarity with some of our staff. She played for Coach [Matt] Insell this summer and Kansas was on her final list so she had a great relationship with Coach Kyra [Elzy]. That gave us an opportunity to be considered by Crystal. The familiarity with our coaching staff gave us a big advantage. She will learn what an exciting place this is at the University of Kentucky. She knows that she's needed here and that if she comes in and does what she is supposed to do there is playing time available. The combination of all these factors led her to this great opportunity for her at the University of Kentucky.”
On Kentucky having three transfers next season …
“It is strange to have this many transfers. I'm glad it's worked out this way. The most important thing for us is to get the right people involved. My first year coaching at UK we obviously weren't able to find the right people in the early signing period. It isn't the traditional way that things happen. They are all three players that I am confident are going to be the kind of players that move us forward and get us to goals that we are trying to reach.”
On if the transfers will mean the there will be a totally different team next year …
“That is the beauty of it I think. We do have several players returning so it will be a good mix of experience and injecting the team with new energy and new players that have their own personalities and enthusiasm. It will be exciting. It helps that our sophomore class have all played college basketball unlike the freshman. I am very happy for our recruiting class. It is an ongoing process that we are always working hard in and it is moving in the direction that we want it to move.”
On Carly Ormerod …
“She was great and is feeling good. She played well and is playing the way that we need her to play. She had a huge offensive rebound and was fouled at the end of the Arkansas game and I don't think that freshmen or sophomores make that play, that was a senior and an experienced type play and the kind that you need to win in this league. She was fantastic and feeling good. I thought that she had some rust from not being able to practice missing some layups but she will only get better as we go along. She was very steadying for us on Sunday. We were having some trouble taking care of the basketball and against Arkansas' zone they were difficult to score on. So the basketball needed to move and sometimes we started to hold the ball but when she came in the game she understood what need to happen to move the ball. That comes from experience and maturity. She listens to what the coach wants to do and executes. She means so much from those standpoints, doing the little things. The experience and great character she has is great. The thing about her is that more than anything is that she loves to wear the Kentucky uniform. That is what we need in this program that sprit and enthusiasm our players need to have and understand that this is a special opportunity to play here at Kentucky. She gets that and that is why I love coaching her and glad she is playing right now.”
On Jodie Meeks' performance last night …
“I think the last time that Jodie scored 46 than Amani [Franklin] had 20 in the first half. So, now if we could get 27 in the first half by Amani that would be great. I would be on top of the world if she came into my office and said she wanted to score 56 points in our next game and top Jodie Meeks. That would be great and I would be pumped. All jokes aside, that was an unbelievable performance by Jodie last night. Obviously, the greatest single game scoring performance that we have had and it was fun to watch. I do think that the players are around each other enough in the training room that they find inspiration from each other. Jodie is a great young man and I enjoy being around him and hopefully our players were inspired by his performance. We don't necessarily need anyone to score 54 but the way that he goes about it and plays hard is the performance that we need. However we can get the job done at Alabama is great for me. We are just going to go down there and get a win.”
On Alabama …
“We are going on the road for the second time in the SEC and that is always something that is very difficult in this league. Their one home game against Vanderbilt they had a 56-point output in the second half and watching them they are a very impressive team. They are athletic and carry a lot of people and can give you problems that we will have to be ready for them. They are a good rebounding and aggressive team. They are tough defensively and have had a big turnaround this year with Coach Hudson. He has done a great job at Alabama. It's always tough to go on the road and we will have to be prepared for a good game in Tuscaloosa.”