No. 7/8 UK Hoops Returns to Memorial Monday vs. Vanderbilt

Feb. 19, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 7/8 Kentucky women’s basketball returns to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum for its Play 4Kay game vs. No. 24 Vanderbilt on Monday night. Game time is 9 p.m. ET as it will be televised live on ESPN2 with Pam Ward and Rebecca Lobo calling the action.

Gameday
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Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt
Mon., Feb. 20 - 9:00 p.m. ET
Memorial Coliseum
Fan Guide
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | VU Get Acrobat Reader
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TV: ESPN2
Radio: UK IMG
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Live video via WatchESPN
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Fans are encouraged to wear pink and $1 from every single-game ticket purchased will be donated to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Fans wishing to make a contribution in person can do so at the marketing gazebos located on each concourse prior to the game.

The 2012 Play 4Kay initiative, Feb. 10-20, is an opportunity for a nation of coaches to raise breast cancer awareness and funds for research on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond. The official charity is the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in partnership with The V Foundation and Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA).

After falling at Alabama on Thursday, the Wildcats (21-5, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) currently sit in a tie with Tennessee for first place with three games remaining in the regular season. UK had one of its best starts in program history, winning 21 of its first 23 games and each of its first 10 games in league play.

“We have a huge game coming up Monday night with Vanderbilt,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We have obviously been through a tough spot here – a tough patch of basketball. Our team really needs our fans to come out Monday night. I know it’s a late tip, but this team has been terrific at home and we’ve had a great season up to this point at home in Memorial and we need a big crowd for a very, very important game against Vanderbilt. They are a tough opponent, a very good opponent, and we’ll have to prepare very hard over the next couple days to get ready for it. I just want everybody to know what a big game it is and I hope everybody will come out and watch us play and we’ll be working hard to get ready for it.”

The Wildcats have their sights set on winning their first SEC regular season championship since 1982. The Cats are just one win away from tying the most SEC wins in school history at 11. Kentucky has won the last three meetings against Vanderbilt, including a 78-68 win last season in Lexington.

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 (15.4), steals (2.8), 3-point field goals made (41) and 3-point field goal percentage (.380). She is also second on the team in rebounding (5.2), assists (2.6) and blocks (0.7). SEC Freshman of the Year contender Bria Goss (Indianapolis) follows in the scoring column with 11.6 points per game. She has scored in double digits in four of the last five games, and she leads the team in charges taken with 18. Sophomore forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) is UK’s leading rebounder with 6.1 rebounds per game.

Vanderbilt enters Monday night’s game coming off a 75-69 overtime victory against Florida at home on Thursday. The Commodores were led by junior forward Tiffany Clarke’s 18-point, 17-rebound double-double. Sophomores Jasmine Lister (16 points), Christina Foggie (15 points) and Stephanie Holzer (14 points) also reached double figures in scoring.

Vanderbilt has been led this season by Foggie, who is averaging 18.0 points per game, the most in the SEC. Foggie has done much of her damage from beyond the arc, shooting an SEC-best 43.7 percent from 3-point range and knocking down an SEC-best 2.8 3-pointers per game. Clarke leads the Commodores on the glass with 7.6 rebounds per game, the fifth best average in the league. Holzer isn’t far behind, averaging 7.4 boards per game, the sixth best mark in the SEC.

The Commodores have won six of their last seven games and are tied for fourth in the SEC standings with an 8-5 mark.

This is the 44th meeting in the all-time series with Vanderbilt. The Commodores lead the series 27-16 overall, including a slight 10-9 advantage in Lexington. UK won all three meetings vs. the Commodores last season, including a 78-68 victory in Memorial Coliseum.

Single-game reserved tickets are available at a cost of $7 for all ages. General admission tickets for adults are also $7 while single-game general admission tickets for seniors and children (18 and under, 65 and over) are only $4. Age 5 and under, along with UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free, while supplies last.

If not able to attend the game, it can be heard on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network. Fans can also follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.

Women's basketball parking for Monday’s game is available in the following surface lots and parking structures:

  • Student Center Lot - off Euclid Ave
  • MLK South Lot - between Lexington Ave and MLK Blvd. and south (towards Euclid) of the center drive lane. DO NOT PARK IN NORTH MLK LOT (closest to Wildcat Lodge) AS THIS IS A RESIDENTIAL LOT AND SUBJECT TO TICKET/TOW
  • Handicapped Parking (first come-first served until full) is located in the Northeast corner of the MLK South Lot, must have valid state-issued hang tag
  • Joe Craft Center North E-Lot - large lot located north of the Joe Craft Center, and accessible via Lexington Avenue or Rose St.
  • Good Samaritan surface Lot - accessible off MLK Blvd
  • Parking Structure #5 - entrances off Limestone and S. Upper

Other important notes about Monday’s game:

  • UK Athletics encourages women's basketball fans to arrive early to ease traffic and parking congestion around the Coliseum.
  • Doors to the Coliseum will open one (1) hour prior to tip-off.
  • Surface event lots (i.e. Student Center, Hardymon, South MLK, Joe Craft Center North and Good Samaritan Surface Lot) typically reach capacity approximately 45 minutes prior to tip-off, at which point, vehicles should proceed to Parking Structure #5 (PS#5).
  • The PS #5 shuttle will begin one hour prior to tip and end one hour post-game. The PS #5 shuttle picks up on Administration Drive, accessible via the sky bridge located on the 3rd Floor of PS#5.

Pre-Vanderbilt Media Opportunity - Feb. 17, 2012

Opening statement…
“We have a huge game coming up Monday night with Vanderbilt. We have obviously been through a tough spot here – a tough patch of basketball. Our team really needs our fans to come out Monday night. I know it’s a late tip, but this team has been terrific at home and we’ve had a great season up to this point at home in Memorial and we need a big crowd for a very, very important game against Vanderbilt. They are a tough opponent, a very good opponent, and we’ll have to prepare very hard over the next couple days to get ready for it. I just want everybody to know what a big game it is and I hope everybody will come out and watch us play and we’ll be working hard to get ready for it.”

On Kentucky’s current three-game losing streak and what has caused it…
“It’d be hard to tell you exactly. It’s a combination of the players allowing their confidence to drop as shots have not. It’s been a challenge for us as coaches to get them to continue to weather the storm and play hard and not let offense affect defense, and last night we absolutely let that happen in the first half. If we just could have found a way to hang in there in the first half, you saw what happened in the second half. We played with the kind of defensive effort you would expect our team to play with, but we just failed to do that for about 12 crucial minutes in the first half. We acted as if the game was over. I think as a coach what you have to do is when you’re winning it’s not always as great as it looks, and when you’re losing it’s not as bad as it looks. What I’m excited about is we have a lot of really good players, young players that we’re going to get to practice with over the next couple days and get the ship on the right course. It’s just been three tough road games, we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well and then last night we didn’t play with very good effort in the first half and dug ourselves too big of a hole to get out of. In the second half we really turned it around. We shot 60 percent, made some layups and played with great defensive effort and that’s what you have to build on going into this game with Vanderbilt. You have to, if you can, not put the three games together and think about what we have to do just to win on Monday, and it’s tough. They’re young kids trying to stay competitive in this conference. It’s tough, but I think we’ll get there.”

On how tough the Southeastern Conference is…
“I think it’s always a tough conference and it’s interesting to see a lot of (teams) have similar records right now. Nobody’s out running away with it and there’s a lot of teams grouped up there at the top. It’s a very good conference.”

On if he thinks teams have started to figure Kentucky out by the second time they play them…
“I think that is part of it. I think teams have made good adjustments and I think we are in a spot where we just need to counter those adjustments and that’s a lot on my shoulders and that’s a lot on our staff making sure we have a good plan. Then, it is important for our players to understand that things just don’t happen just because you’ve built a reputation. You can lose that reputation very fast if you don’t do the required work. I don’t think it is overly complicated here. We just need to have a real solid couple of days of work here defensively and get ready for Vandy.”

On balancing building confidence up and pointing out what needs to be improved on…
“You stick with the first principle of our program: honesty. I don’t think you artificially can manufacture confidence. I think that’s the wrong road to go down. I think that it is a great opportunity for us in this time of adversity, as much as adversity can be related to playing basketball. It’s a tough time for our basketball team, but it’s a great, great opportunity for our kids to understand that when things don’t go great, you just have to continue to work and you have to have faith in yourself. We have some really good players. I was encouraged with the fight we showed because it looked like we were on the borderline of quitting last night. They got it together and they played real hard. I think we’re just going to devote our time with these kids over the next couple of days and if they’ve ever needed me they need me now. I have to stay with them and work with them and that’s my job is to encourage them. We’ll build confidence by playing good basketball. My job right now is to hang in there with them and they’ve done a great job, we have a really good team, we have a chance to get even better over the next couple of days. It’s a tough time right now but we need to put that behind us. A win would do a world of good as far as building confidence. I think that’s where the confidence is going to come from.”

On Vanderbilt…
“They are a really good team. (They have) five starters they can put on the floor who can score, and score at a high level. Christina Foggie is one of the top offensive players in the conference. (She’s) such a great shooter, really, really tough player who we have to do a good job of guarding. They have great size inside and those kids work really hard. I think we need to do the very best we can to getting back to running on offense. I think you’ll see us do that on Monday night. We’re going to work hard to see if we can get the tempo going. We just have not pushed the ball the last couple of games. We’re going to address that in practice and see if we can get that going. Vanderbilt is a tough, tough team that has a lot of offensive firepower.”

On why he thinks they played the way they did in the first half against Alabama…
“If I knew the exact answer to that we would try to see if we could prevent it. I think last night what happened as far as the first half, is we started missing easy shots again and I think they got very discouraged. We’ve been talking so much about it and all I can tell you is we have to learn from it again. I told them after the game, ‘Maybe the next time that you have some struggles you won’t fall apart.’ If we had just hung in there in the first half and not just really laid down there for a few crucial minutes to dig that big of a hole, maybe the next time you’ll understand – and this is what I try to tell them all the time – you’re good enough to weather any storm that comes your way in a basketball game. But listen, it’s so much easier for me to say it than for the kids to do it out there on the court. You have to realize we’re still a work in progress with these kids. They’ve done a great job up to this point. I just think when we started missing a few shots it was more like, ‘Here we go again.’ That’s the disappointing part. But listen, we’ll just bring them in today, we’ll look at more examples of why you need to hang in there. Last night, the second half should hopefully be a lesson to us that no matter how far we get down if you can just hang in there it will turn for you at some point. That’ll be the lesson we’ll learn from some point.”

On if he believes the team has gotten tired from its pressure defense each game…
“For me, I think where the focus needs to be on us is our basketball execution. I think for the players sometimes they start looking for something in the atmosphere that’s happening or why are things happening instead of staying focused. There were reasons why Alabama was driving the ball to the bucket and it had to do with our stance, our position and our intensity. That’s where I’m going to try to keep the focus. We don’t have anybody playing huge minutes. We just came off of a bye week a couple weeks ago. I don’t think for one second we’re done physically or we’re worn out or tired. I think we’ve hit a very difficult stretch that’s been hard for this particular team to handle mentally. We have 10 of our 13 as sophomores or freshmen. This is just a great time for them to learn and a great time for them to check how strong their character is. I’m really optimistic about our team and what we can do Monday night.”

On fatigue being a factor…
“Not a factor at all from a physical standpoint. If you all can read people’s minds then you’re ahead of me, so I won’t speak for our players, but I just think that right now this is a tough time, we’re going to stick together here and I think our basketball team is going to do some great things down the stretch.”