UK Hoops Opens Three-game Homestand vs. Alabama
Jan. 16, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky women's basketball team opens a three-game homestand, its longest Southeastern Conference home stretch of the season, with a contest against Alabama in Memorial Coliseum Sunday, Jan. 17 at 2 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live on the SEC Network and broadcast on theBig Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.
Single-game general admission tickets are available for $5 adults/$2 senior citizens and children 6-18. Ages five and under are admitted free. UK students, faculty and staff also are admitted free with valid identification based on availability. For further ticket information, log on to UKathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287).
Fans are encouraged to park in Parking Structure 5 located next to Kennedy's Bookstore on Limestone Avenue. Parking within Parking Structure 5 will be available free of charge. A shuttle bus service also will be provided and begins one hour prior to game time until one hour after the game. Additional game day parking is available in the E lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum including the Martin Luther King Parking Lot and the Student Center Parking Lot.
UK (13-3, 1-2 SEC) looks to get back to its winning ways after falling to South Carolina on the road Thursday, 79-71. The Tide are 8-9 overall and 0-4 in SEC play after falling to intrastate rival Auburn on Thursday, 74-62.
"Coming off what is clearly our most disappointing performance of the season, it will be important for us to bounce back quickly," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "Alabama has a very athletic team. We have been struggling rebounding the basketball and they have been a team that is very powerful on the boards. It is a huge game for us and we need to try to bounce back and get a win against a team that can really give us a lot of problems with their athleticism."
The Wildcats have won 11-straight contests in Memorial Coliseum which ties for the fifth-longest home win streak in school history. The key to UK's success this season has been its been defensive prowess. The Cats have forced the opponent into double-digit turnovers in all 16 games. Opponents are averaging 26.1 turnovers against the Cats' pressure defense as UK leads the Southeastern Conference and ranks second nationally in turnover margin (+10.1).
Junior All-SEC forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) leads UK in almost every UK statistical category. She is tops on the team in scoring (17.6 ppg), rebounding (9.1 rpg), steals (3.9 spg) and blocks (2.2). Following Dunlap in the scoring column is freshman guard A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) and junior point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) with 11.9 and 11.1 ppg, respectively. Mathies is coming off a career-high 20-point outing vs. South Carolina while Smith followed with 19. Smith has been impressive in UK's three SEC games as she averages a team-high 18.0 points per game.
Three players average in double-figures this season for Alabama. Junior guard Varisia Raffington leads the team with 12.4 points per game and has scored in double figures 10 times this season. She is followed by Tierney Jenkins (10.8) and Ericka Russell (10.5). Alabama freshman guard Celiscia Farmer is coming off a career night vs. Auburn. She notched a career-high 18 points, hitting 7-of-16 from the floor and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.
The Crimson Tide, whose seven of nine losses have come on the road this season, are a solid rebounding team as they rank sixth in the SEC in rebounding margin with a +2.5 advantage. Alabama also ranks second in the league in rebounding offense with an average of 43.2 boards per game. Jenkins, who ranks 14th on UA's all-time rebounding list, leads the team and ranks second in SEC rebounding, averaging 9.3 rpg.
UK leads the all-time series against the Tide 19-15, including an 11-5 advantage in Lexington. The Cats have won the last four meetings against Alabama.
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Pregame Press Conference
Opening Statement ...
"Coming off what is clearly our most disappointing performance of the season, it will be important for us to bounce back quickly. Alabama has a very athletic team. We have been struggling rebounding the basketball and they have been a team that is very powerful on the boards. It is a huge game for us and we need to try to bounce back and get a win against a team that can really give us a lot of problems with their athleticism."
On if last night was a toughness check for them ...
"Last night was the first time that we had just been void of effort the entire 40-minute span. We have had a couple of games where I think that we really competed for 40 minutes. It is a long season and it is hard to do all the time, but once you get to conference play your effort needs to increase, not decrease. Last night really caught me off guard. I thought that we would play a fantastic game and the team was ready to go. That is what makes coaching challenging and humbling for sure, right now. That one caught me off guard because the team had competed so well. I was upset with them last night after the game and I told them it wasn't because of the losing, because we had just lost a week earlier at Georgia, but it was the way that we didn't compete last night. I would say that Sunday would be the toughness check. There was no toughness check last night. Sunday will be the day to see if we can bounce back."
On holding home court and how important these next three home games are...
"If we had not played the way we played last night, I may be talking about something like that, but now, in today's practice, we need to try to identity things that can help us get better. For some people it is mental. For our five starters, it is mental things that held us back last night. For some of our bench personnel, it is physical things that we can help them get better with. We just have to figure out who needs what today and try to bounce back. The home court is very important and it looks like if you can scratch one out on the road here and there then you will be important. It looks pretty balanced."
On if the team let off of the gas a little bit after the win to Vanderbilt and rested on its record ...
"I could see where somebody could feel that way, but I never talk about the record so it would be hard for me to say. Maybe they have read the paper or watched television, you know, those kinds of things. I am not with them all the time, but I can assure you that I am trying to figure that out. What happens last night is pretty much what I have been saying. If we play that way that is the result that we will get. We just haven't seen a lot of that from our team. That could have been the problem but we will be on the quest to find out what it is and try to correct it."
On Amber Smith's play recently ...
"Scoring wise, she has been terrific and she is really aggressive offensively. But she and a couple of other players left a few out there last night and we continue to be plagued by missing layups. Her offensive game is good and she has to be feeling pretty good about herself on the offensive side of the ball. I was very disappointed that she was one that did not play defense up to the standards that this team has set for themselves and proven they can play to. That part was disappointing."
On if it was the defensive effort that he was most unhappy with ...
"Yes, the defensive effort last night was no where remotely resembling what we have done this season. That is what is so puzzling. Maybe with it being so early in the season and we know that we are capable of doing that, we can try as a coaching staff to stay a little bit more on guard. Probably, it was a miscalculation on my part to think that, to that degree, that much lack of effort was just not possible. That was probably a bad move on my part and I need to do a better job there. We didn't do things that we have been doing all season. We didn't trap the ball screen, which has been our bread-and-butter all season. We were missing those types of assignments and we have been stopping teams in transition pretty well and we were totally out of whack last night. They were making layups in transition and things that hadn't happened all year. It was a good wake-up call. I need to do a good job of making sure that we were ready to go."