UK Hoops Meets Florida Thursday in Gainesville

Jan. 19, 2011

Gameday
Gameday Information
Game Notes Kentucky Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | Florida Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Date & Time Thurs., Jan. 20, 7:00 p.m. ET
Coverage Radio: BBSN
GameTracker
Online Audio
Text Updates
Location O'Connell Center
Gainesville, Fla.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky women's basketball team travels to Gainesville, Fla., Thursday, Jan 20 in search of its first conference road win and first win over the Gators on the road since 2006. Game time is 7 p.m. EST in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. All the action can be heard live on the Big Blue Sports Network with Neil Price.

The Wildcats (13-4, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) look to keep their winning streak alive after defeating South Carolina and Mississippi State last week in back-to-back home games. Senior forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) led the way, averaging a team-high 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals per game. She has moved up several UK career charts, including points (No. 5 - 1,567), double-doubles (No. 3 - 26) and blocks (No. 2 - 157) and needs only four more rebounds to become UK's No. 2 all-time leading rebounder. Also helping UK get back on the winning track has been the stellar play of sophomore A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.). The reigning SEC Freshman of the Year moved to the point guard position in the second half of the Georgia game and has since led UK to a 2-0 record while averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds in her new role.

"This is a big game for us, an exciting opportunity for us to go on the road and play against a very good Florida team," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I think that the team is better equipped this time than the last time we went on the road. I think we have practiced a little better so I am excited to see how we handle this challenge. Florida is an extremely difficult team to prepare for and I have a lot of respect for their coach and how she runs that program. There are a lot of players involved with them and it is very difficult to key in on one player. Our team will have to be excellent in our preparation, very mentally focused, to get ready to go down to a place we haven't won in quite some time. It will be a big challenge for us and we are excited to play."

Florida enters Thursday's game at 12-7 overall, 2-3 in SEC play after dropping its last two league contests. The Gators fell to No. 5/6 Tennessee at home (83-40) last Thursday and lost a tough road game Georgia (70-64) on Sunday.

Jordan Jones leads the Gators in scoring, recording 9.9 points per game, hitting a team-leading 38 three-pointers and playing 32.3 minutes per outing. Junior center Azania Stewart is Florida's leading rebounder with 6.4 per game and is tops with a 52.5 percent field goal mark. Junior guard Lanita Bartley is dishing 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals, while finding her way to the free throw a team-best 67 times.

Kentucky continues to rely on the solid play of Dunlap this season. The 6-foot-2 senior forward paces the Cats statistically, averaging a team- and SEC-high 17.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. Also averaging in double-digit scoring is Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) and junior sharpshooter Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.) with 14.2 and 11.6 ppg, respectively.

Thursday will mark the 43rd meeting between the schools in school history. UK trails 20-22 in the all-time series and 10-7 when the game is played in Gainesville. The Cats are looking for their second-straight win over the Gators after defeating them in Memorial Coliseum last season (77-51) but are searching for their first road win over UF since Jan. 12, 2006 (80-65).

Pregame Press Conference: Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement ...
"This is a big game for us, an exciting opportunity for us to go on the road and play against a very good Florida team. I think that the team is better equipped this time than the last time we went on the road. I think we have practiced a little better so I am excited to see how we handle this challenge. Florida is an extremely difficult team to prepare for and I have a lot of respect for their coach and how she runs that program. There are a lot of players involved with them and it is very difficult to key in on one player. Our team will have to be excellent in our preparation, very mentally focused, to get ready to go down to a place we haven't won in quite some time down in Gainesville. It will be a big challenge for us and we are excited to play."

On the improvements his team has shown...
"After looking at the video of Duke and Arkansas, we just weren't practicing at a level that allowed us to win those games. I just think our team is practicing better. I think several of our players have roles that are well defined and so I think we are just in better shape. That doesn't mean we are going to win, but I feel more confident  and I have to believe that the players have gained some confidence from these practices."

On Florida being so well-balanced that it makes scouting difficult...
"It does. It makes it difficult in the sense that you have to be prepared for everybody to be the player that is going to make the big difference that night. It's not just Florida. You look at a team like Kentucky. How are you going to shut down a player like (Victoria) Dunlap, and (A'dia) Mathies? (Florida) does such a good job of balance so with that challenge our players have to be very into it. I thought we had a huge mental lapse on Sunday vs. Mississippi State. We got off to a great start and then you watch it, and we didn't get worse at halftime, we didn't get slower, we didn't change physically. That was a mental change. That does concern me as we go into a game like this."

On UK's road losses this season...
"There were different issues in all of those games. In the Louisville game, we were not emotionally or mentally in that game for whatever that reason was. We will examine that after the season. We will go back and re-visit that. The Duke game, you know, we had a chance to win, so it's not the road. It's not going to someone else's gym that gets you. That game, rebounding jumped out at you and then two days later, we were at Arkansas and we weren't into it at all. That's what I was saying earlier. We will be better prepared this time. I think we will. As a coach, you are always trying to stay optimistic and excited about it. I really am looking forward to seeing how we handle the road. I'm interested in how we handle unfamiliar surroundings. It's a little bit out of your comfort zone. Everybody in our league has to play eight times on the road and you need to win some of those if you have any aspirations of doing well. We have clearly struggled, but I think we are in a place where we at least have a chance to try to go down and earn a victory."

On Jennifer O'Neill's production in practice resulting in playing time...
"It is. I wouldn't go as far as saying she is starting to get it. She has gone from getting nothing to getting some level of understanding of what we need to do. It's exciting on one hand. You see what she can do for you offensively. She is just so supremely talented. She made a couple of shots in the Mississippi State game and in the South Carolina game that not a lot of players can make. Just really coming off a screen, catching and shooting, squaring the shoulders in all one motion and shooting a 3-point jump shot; that's a talented play she can make. And then, the dumb coach I am, you will look and see she has 11 points at halftime and Carly (Morrow) is 0-3; well, you just make that substitution and she was just really not into it defensively and it let Mississippi State get into some rhythm early in the second half. So, that's the challenge you have with her. I think with her, she is in a place now where she wants to do well. I think for so long, she was admired into the fact that `I'm not doing well' and `this is just never going to happen for me' and I think she is out of that. When I talk to her in practice and I show her the video, you can see the willingness a little bit more in her eyes and her mouth than you would have seen a month ago, so she is practicing better and she could be a big key for us to get us jump started."

On rolling a TV out on the court during practice and how that originated...
"Desperation was where the idea originated. You just are racking your brain trying to figure out something because we worked very hard. The staff worked hard. The players worked hard. Just for some reason, we just could not make the connection. It was just so glaring and we had so much to try to correct (after the loss to Georgia) and the kids seemed so out of sync that I just felt like the immediacy of us watching it, then going to do it seemed like the right thing to do. The players have responded well to it and the practices have gone a little bit longer now, so it was just trying to find out a way to reach them and so far so good. I don't know if that is going to be something that we look to that got them turned around, but they are playing well and so hopefully that has helped them."

On A'dia Mathies changing positions to the point guard...
"She was playing the small forward for us earlier in the season, so it's a position that she is running the point and it has helped us tremendously. A lot of our problems were not only leadership and just directing the team and getting us into things, but when we actually got the ball let's say to Victoria (Dunlap), she was giving it to her in bad spots and there was no real chance for success. I think she had six turnovers against Georgia. Some of that is her pressing because she was given the ball in a bad spot and she didn't have much choice. Adia, the best perimeter player, wasn't touching the ball where she needed to so it's helped her a lot to be pretty productive these last two games.  She was very good in the scoring role we needed her to be in so I don't think it's hindered her at all running the point. I think it's actually helped her get more opportunities. She needs to play with a little bit more spirit and a little bit more leadership vocally, but she has been good at that and I have been really happy with the progress that she has made and the willingness that she has had to have to take on this really important role."

On what it takes to change positions like that especially to a point guard role...
"Well, it just takes a really good basketball player. It takes someone with real gifts that not everyone possesses. That's why we are so fortunate that A'dia decided to come to Kentucky, because A'dia is one of the smartest players that I have ever had the privilege of coaching and it's very rare for someone to be capable of this (position change) at this stage in the season. I said it earlier, but I always thought that this was always possibly one of our options and we were hoping the younger kids would come through, but the young kids are just in a different role now."