No. 6/5 UK Hoops Travels to LSU

Feb. 4, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The No. 6/5 Kentucky women’s basketball team is set to embark on a tough stretch in conference play as it travels to LSU on Sunday for the first of three straight road games. Game time in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center is 3 p.m. ET and it will be televised on Cox Sports Television.

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Kentucky at LSU
Sun. Feb. 5 - 3:00 p.m. ET
Pete Maravich Assembly Center
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Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | LSU Get Acrobat Reader

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TV: Cox Sports Television
Radio: UK IMG
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UK, which has won three in a row over the Lady Tigers, is one win away from tying the school record for the most Southeastern Conference wins in a single season and the longest consecutive winning streak in school history (11).

“We have a tough task ahead Sunday afternoon,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “LSU’s a very talented team and they’ve gotten a bit more healthy here. They’re motivated to win so it’ll be a tough matchup, it always is in Baton Rouge. We’ll have to do a good job as we’ve been able to on Friday afternoons of getting ready to turn our attention to our game Sunday. I’m real confident we’ll have good preparation for the LSU game, we’ll need it.”

This marks the first time in program history UK has started conference play 10-0 and UK’s 21-2 start ties its best start in program history through the first 23 games. Kentucky also started 21-2 in 1982-83. The Wildcats have also won a school-record 13 straight SEC games dating back to last season, including six consecutive league road games, also a school record. UK is 4-0 in SEC road games this season.

Leading the way for the Wildcats is junior All-America and SEC Player of the Year candidate A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.). Mathies leads the team in almost every statistical category, including scoring (15.2), steals (2.8), 3-point field goals made (39) and 3-point field goal percentage (.382). She is also second on the team in rebounding (5.5), assists (2.5) and blocks (0.7). SEC Freshman of the Year contender Bria Goss (Indianapolis) follows in the scoring column with 11.7 ppg. She has scored in double digits in three of the last five games, including a team-high 19 points vs. Ole Miss on Thursday. Sophomore forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) is UK’s leading rebounder with 6.3 rebounds per game and has averaged 8.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in the last four league contests.

UK ranks in the top 10 of five national statistical categories. The Cats lead the nation in turnover margin (+12.0), are sixth in won-lost percentage (91.3), sixth in scoring offense (78.3), seventh in scoring margin (21.9) and eighth in steals per game (13.3).

LSU (14-8, 4-5 SEC) enters Sunday’s contest coming off a 64-73 loss to Florida at home on Thursday evening. The Tigers had three players reach double figures in the game, led by junior guard Adrienne Webb’s team-high 19 points. Senior forward LaSondra Barrett pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

Barrett is the Bayou Bengals’ leading scorer and rebounder on the season, averaging 12.0 points and 6.9 rebounds. Barrett has been especially efficient on the glass in conference action, grabbing 8.3 boards per game, the third highest mark in the SEC. Senior forward Courtney Jones is also having a very nice SEC season. Nine games in, the Midfield, Ala., native is averaging 10.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

Sunday is the 39th meeting between Kentucky and LSU. The Lady Tigers lead the overall series 28-10, including an 11-3 advantage when the game is played in Baton Rouge.

The Cats have won three in a row over the Lady Tigers by an average of +4.3 points. UK defeated LSU twice last season, winning on a buzzer beater in Lexington, 49-47, and taking a 60-58 win in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.

The game also 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-LSU Media Opportunity, Matthew Mitchell - Feb. 3, 2012

Opening statement...
“We have tough task ahead Sunday afternoon. LSU’s a very talented team and they’ve gotten a bit more healthy here. They’re motivated to win so it’ll be a tough matchup, it always is in Baton Rouge. We’ll have to do a good job as we’ve been able to on Friday afternoons of getting ready to turn our attention to our game Sunday. I’m real confident we’ll have good preparation for the LSU game, we’ll need it.”

On if there’s extra intensity going into Sunday’s game after Tennessee’s loss Thursday night...
“No, I think we’ve done a great job of focusing on the most important thing, and that’s how we play. We haven’t changed that from opponent to opponent. I think the kids are certainly aware of what happened last night but I feel good about them staying focused on what they need to do. It’s really just relevant to our preparation whatsoever. Until we play Tennessee again, that’ll be the next time we’ll have to think about them. There’s a lot of games left and I’ve said this before, I don’t think you can lose very many and win this league and we’re trying to win it.”

On if this team has peaked yet...
“I don’t think so. We missed 50 shots last night so it’s very hard to think we’ve played a complete game when you miss that many shots. The reason we missed 50 was because our layups just aren’t being executed correctly right now. We’re falling away from the basket, we’re rushing that too much. I think if we can get our shooting together and get into the mid 40s, which I think this team can do, and then play with the kind of intensity we played with last night I think that’s when you would see us really operating at our highest level.”

On if this feels like it could be a special season yet...
“I thought last night was a special performance. Just from the energy and unselfishness that you have, I think we’re all human and it’s all very fragile. If you don’t do certain things every day you know people can act different on different days. I’m not ready to declare that just yet. I just think we need to stay focused and in the moment and try to see if we can get ready for LSU. It’s a special thing happening, it’s never happened - 10 wins in the conference in a row, all those things are happening around. But they’re happening because our kids have been able to stay really focused and put in the preparation before the season and during the season to play this way. We’ll have plenty of time to assess it at the end, but I just think we need to get ready for LSU on Sunday.”

On if it’s encouraging to see A’dia Mathies continue to shoot despite her shot not falling...
“I was really proud of A’dia Mathies last night because there were times in the game where I could tell she was frustrated. A’dia’s the kind of player who wants to do well, and it means something to her and I think that’s why in the past you’ve seen her when she feels like her shot’s not on she’ll stop shooting. Last night, she went in and three people converged on her and knocked her down and there was no call and it was almost like a pass - the shot - and Brittany Henderson tipped it right in. So the result of the play was the same as if she had made the shot. She garners so much attention that that’s why she needs to keep shooting because that’s going to open things up. When she goes passive and stops working then you’ve done exactly what the opponent wants you to do. I was really happy to look at the stat sheet, but she shot 14 times - I’m not worried about her only making two. Those nights aren’t going to happen much. But when she goes 2-7, those next seven attempts are when she could get going and it may kick in. You just never know when she can get hot. There’s a very positive development that she shot 14 times last night.”

On how teams are choosing to defend her and if they’re being more physical with her...
“It looks like that. They’re holding her. I told her to go to the boards last night and she looked over at me and grabbed her shirt - she’s good with the sign language, she enjoys that - so I just told her you got to go. It’s clearly what people are trying to do. They’re trying to frustrate her, they’re trying to get her to guard herself because that’s really the only person who can stop her unless you put two or three and then if you do that you’re not going to stop the rest of us. So it’s been happening and we need to learn how to work through it and deal with it. I thought last night was progress.”

On if A’dia Mathies is a definitive player of the year candidate in the SEC...
“Yes. Yes. I don’t know of a player who means more to her team that’s having the success that we’re having. A’dia Mathies has my vote but I don’t get to vote for her so I’m bummed out about that. I have to vote for somebody else.”

On if teams being able to pass over their full-court, pressure defense for layups is a concern...
“I wouldn’t say it’s a fluke. I would just say it’s a really good play made by a really good player. When it only happens a couple times it doesn’t concern you as much. What I have to do with this team is let them play. I tried to stay calm last night early in the game and they just ended up figuring it out. It looks a little silly sometimes when the other team goes down and shoots a wide open layup, and you have two people standing back there and they’ve trapped the ball, but the good far outweighed the bad. This is a talented team, they’re playing hard and we’re going to make some mistakes with this style of play. You have to be ready to accept that. The thing when I get concerned is when the effort level is not high and they get easy buckets that way. They’ll get an easy bucket here or there when you’re playing hard, but it won’t be a bunch of them. And as you can tell, 41 points last night, they didn’t score very much. That’s why I think it takes some discipline and a little bit of stomach for this style of play because early in the game when it’s 20-18 and Ole Miss is winning and shooting layups, it’d be easier to say, ‘Stop, let’s get back here and keep them from scoring and slow it down a little bit.’ But over the course of 40 minutes it’s real effective.”

On when he knows they’re not playing with the effort level they should be playing with...
“The ball is getting driven to the basket and it’s getting very deep, if that’s happening repeatedly - that happened in the Alabama game, we showed them about 30 clips of when that happened - then when you’re getting all the way to the bucket and shooting layups, no one is rotating over and trying to help out in those situations. When we can’t stop the dribble in the trap, the post players are not setting post-screen traps, the post players are a step slow. There are different things there. When we’re not offensive rebounding, that’s one of the biggest indicators I can tell and it spills over into defense and everything because it’s effort. There’s nights where I’m calling timeouts and, ‘Hey we don’t have but four offensive boards and they’re outrebounding us.’ Those are generally effort areas there. It’s not same every night, but I’ve got a pretty good feel for this team and I can tell. Last night, that’s why I was so calm at 20-18, because it was so chaotic and Ole Miss was making some plays, but we were playing as hard as we could play so I really wasn’t worried. If it had been 20-18 and we were playing pretty lazy then definitely I’m more upset. It’s not hard to tell.”

On if when he is evaluating effort during a game he’ll go back and see it differently on tape...
“Sometimes, not much. I used to get so upset about everything so I was upset all the time. Then I tried and read some motivational books and self-help books that said I needed to calm down, so then I started calming down. Then we’d go back and look at the tape and decide I needed to be upset, so now I just try to not overthink it. If I’m upset I may yell and scream at them and if I’m happy with them I’ll pat them on the back. Something like that. It’s generally not what you think. There are always plays when you get on somebody, ‘Bria (Goss) you didn’t do this,’ and then you go back and actually it wasn’t Bria’s fault. Those happen all the time. We usually have a good feel for it during the game.”