No. 6 UK Hoops Travels to No. 15/14 Georgia

Jan. 18, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The sixth-ranked Kentucky women’s basketball team remains the only undefeated team in the Southeastern Conference (5-0) after two hard-fought wins over No. 6/7 Tennessee and No. 24/RV South Carolina last week. The Wildcats now face their third consecutive ranked opponent in No. 15/14 Georgia when they travel to Athens, Ga., on Thursday. Game time in Stegeman Coliseum is 7 p.m. ET.

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Kentucky at Georgia
Thurs., Jan. 19 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Athens, Ga.
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The Wildcats (16-2, 5-0 SEC) look to snap a two-game losing skid to the Lady Bulldogs, and capture their first win in Stegeman Coliseum since 2008.

“We have a big road challenge ahead of us,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Georgia is an outstanding basketball team with really good players and is always well coached. We always have a real, real tough game any time we go to Athens. This year will be no different. It will be a real, real difficult road test for us and we’ll have to work hard to earn a victory down there.”

UK is coming off a hard-fought 66-58 win over South Carolina on Sunday. It was UK’s first win in Columbia, S.C., since 2009. The balanced scoring effort was led by senior guard Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.), who came off the bench for 15 points and three steals. Ten of the 11 players who saw action scored at least two points.

Junior guard A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) was named the SEC Player of the Week for the third time this season after averaging 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2.5 steals per game in UK’s two wins. She scored a career-high 34 points in the upset of Tennessee, including hitting the game-winning shot with 4.2 seconds left in the game. Against South Carolina, Mathies scored eight points and tied a career high with three blocks, while also getting three steals.

Overall this season, Mathies dominates in almost every statistical category for UK as she averages 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and leads the team in 3-point field goal percentage (.403) and steals (3.3). She has netted double figures in 14 of 17 games she has played this season, including seven games with 20 or more points. She ranks second in the SEC and 17th nationally in steals per game, having swiped at least one steal in 18 consecutive games dating back to last season.

Freshman Bria Goss (Indianapolis, Ind.) also continues to impress as she is the SEC’s leading freshman scorer with 11.4 points per game. Goss has reached double figures in scoring in 14 of 18 games this season.

Following Goss in the scoring column is Snowden with 11.4 points per game. She has netted double-figure points in three consecutive games, including a season-best vs. Mississippi State.

“It would be hard for me to accurately put how proud I am of Keyla,” Mitchell said. “… She has been more vocal than I have ever heard her before and she has been much tougher than at any point in her career on a consistent basis. She’s had some huge games here, but her stats aren’t even what I’m impressed with, it’s her attitude and her toughness. She has really, really been tough in five games in the league. You need that and I just think it’s been a real evolution of Keyla Snowden from being considered a stand-still shooter and a weapon, to now just a really top-level Southeastern Conference basketball player, and we wouldn’t be where we are without her contributions.”

No. 15/14 Georgia enters Thursday’s contest coming off a 68-51 victory on the road at Mississippi State on Sunday. The Lady Bulldogs (15-3, 4-1 SEC) were led by junior guard/forward Anne Marie Armstrong, who scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed a team-high tying nine rebounds.

On the season, UGA has been led by junior forward Jasmine Hassell, sophomore guard Khaalidah Miller and Armstrong. Hassell is averaging a team-high tying 13.3 points and a team-high tying 5.8 rebounds per game. Miller is tied with Hassell in scoring, also averaging 13.3 points per game to go with her 4.4 rebounds. Armstrong is tied with Hassell in rebounding, averaging 5.8 rebounds per game, 11.5 points and a team-high 1.1 blocks per game.

The Lady Bulldogs are 9-0 in Stegeman Coliseum this season. UGA’s last loss at home was Feb. 24, its final home game of the 2010-11 season vs. No. 22 Auburn. The Tigers defeated UGA 63-58.

UGA leads the all-time series 34-12, including a 16-3 advantage in Athens. UK has lost two in a row to the Lady Bulldogs. UK’s last win over Georgia came on Feb. 11, 2010 in Memorial Coliseum (64-48).

The Cats have also dropped their last two games on the road at Georgia. UK’s last win in Athens came in 2008 when the Wildcats upset No. 17/14 Georgia in Athens on Jan. 31 (47-44).

Five of the last eight meetings against Georgia have been decided by seven points or less. UK went 2-3 in those close matchups, winning by a +5 margin and losing by -2.3.

The game can be heard live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network or www.UKAthletics.com with Neil Price calling the action. Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.

Pre-Georgia Media Opportunity - January 18, 2012

Head coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement…
“We have a big road challenge ahead of us. Georgia is an outstanding basketball team with really good players and is always well coached. We always have a real, real tough game any time we go to Athens. This year will be no different. It will be a real, real difficult road test for us and we’ll have to work hard to earn a victory down there.”

On how Georgia is different than their previous road challenges…
“One thing that is always true in our league is very good players. Georgia has that. I’m really, really impressed by their team. Anne Marie Armstrong is having an unbelievable start to the SEC portion of the schedule and is a real weapon for them. Georgia always has really big, tough, athletic players who are tough on the boards. In a lot of ways, it’s the same type of things that are important in every game. I think being on the road is really tough. You have to play really good defense on the road to be successful. We’ll have to work hard to do that. Georgia, I think, will challenge us, particularly on the inside. I just think their two post players who are starting the game, (Jasmine) Hassell and Armstrong, are tough matchups for us. Then, Meredith Mitchell is one of the most, I think, versatile players in the league. Just to watch her improvement from her freshman year to now, her senior year, she’s a really versatile player who can affect you in a lot of different areas on the court. (She’s a) really good offensive rebounder. Each one of them is unique because it’s a different team, but usually the issues in this league are pretty similar. You need to play really tough defense, rebound the ball and compete hard on the backboards on the road.”

On how he has seen his team evolve in road games after losses to Notre Dame and Middle Tennessee…
“I was real proud of the team after Florida because we bounced back from what was a substandard energy level by Kentucky standards at Middle Tennessee, and then very quickly the next game we were able to get energized and beat a really tough Florida team. I thought that was a huge turning point for our season, just to be able to get that back. We need energy to be successful, and I thought they did it again in Columbia. That’s just such a tough place to play, like Georgia, so you better have your head on straight and you better bring your energy. We didn’t do that great last year in Columbia and didn’t do it that great in Athens, so hopefully some of our veterans can learn from that. I thought in terms of energy around last Sunday, we will have to be very energetic tomorrow night in Athens. That would be the biggest thing, just mentally preparing yourself to accept the challenge and go after it. I think we’ll definitely need some of that tomorrow night.”

On Georgia not having to come to Lexington, Ky., and how that impacts the conference race…
“That is something we have talked to our team about. When you just have a team one time this is your only shot so you have to put everything in to this game. You can’t be thinking, ‘Well, we’ll get them back here when they come to Lexington.’ Those thoughts have to be really out of your mind. This is the only time, unless we meet them in the (SEC) Tournament in Nashville, that we’ll see them. So, it’s a huge game and they are clearly one of the best teams in the country and clearly one of the best teams in our league. If we want to continue our good play, we’ll have to play really well tomorrow night, but it is a very good team.”

On the play of senior guard Keyla Snowden over the past few weeks…
“It would be hard for me to accurately put how proud I am of Keyla, because after the disappointment in Middle Tennessee – we were so down and had been defeated by a good team but just didn’t feel like we gave the kind of energy we needed – I just thought Keyla did what a senior should do. She’s stepped up in every area where she could. She has been more vocal than I have ever heard her before and she has been much tougher than at any point in her career on a consistent basis. She’s had some huge games here, but her stats aren’t even what I’m impressed with, it’s her attitude and her toughness. She has really, really been tough in five games in the league. You need that and I just think it’s been a real evolution of Keyla Snowden from being considered a stand-still shooter and a weapon, to now just a really top-level Southeastern Conference basketball player, and we wouldn’t be where we are without her contributions. Real proud of her.”

On Kentucky’s depth on the bench…
“I really like our team, and I like the players that come off the bench; we do have some talent. I think probably the best thing (we have) going for us, is we have really good attitudes right now. For example, Samantha Drake came to me yesterday, not in a negative way, but just, ‘Hey Coach, what can I do to get some minutes’ in the hard working approach. Samantha is a talented player and there haven’t been minutes for her in the last couple games, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be there for her. We just have a team full of that. We have a team full of kids who really seem to be pulling for each other and rooting for each other and focused on Kentucky winning. You need that when you have a deep bench because there aren’t as many minutes to go around. We talked about that early in preseason, how if we really wanted to be successful that was a formula we would all have to contribute and sometimes you’d have to sacrifice and it’s come together nicely. But we do have some talent on the bench and it’s a great thing to have.”

On how his team is settling in to the Thursday-Sunday SEC schedule routine…
“I think it’s been really good. I just know from a coaching perspective, if you’ve been in this league or around this league for awhile it’s sort of comforting – teams are talented, that’s not comforting – but at least you know what you need to do to be successful in this conference. I feel like it gives us a better focus. I enjoy this time of year from a coaching perspective, the nonconference maybe you can experiment with some things and I’m always trying to figure out the best way to coach the team, but conference time helps me a little bit to get really focused on what’s important and the players have responded. They have responded big time. We try to focus on different things on Tuesday than maybe we do on Wednesday, but it’s all in an effort to get ready for that Thursday game, and the same is true with Friday and Saturday. I think the players have really taken to practice and what we can get out of it. They practice with a great sense of urgency – we don’t have many practices left to be quite honest with you, this season is flying by – so minutes and each segment of practice is real important. I’ve been very pleased with how the players have responded. We had a heck of a practice yesterday.”