UK Hoops Travels To LSU Sunday

Feb. 21, 2009

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Coming off a 66-56 upset over No. 13/19 Tennessee on Thursday, the Kentucky women's basketball team looks to carry its momentum into Baton Rouge, La., when the Wildcats take on Louisiana State Sunday, Feb. 22 at 3 p.m. ET in the second meeting between the squads this season. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.

UK's (14-12, 4-7 Southeastern Conference) win over the Lady Vols marked its first in Memorial Coliseum since 1986. The Wildcats' now look to snap another streak as they have lost 15 consecutive games to LSU, including heartbreaking 59-56 loss in Lexington on Jan. 25.

“LSU is a very good team,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We had a tough battle with them here in Lexington. They play very well at home, so that will be a huge challenge for us. We need to try to build on our good victory against Tennessee and a win in Baton Rouge will be good for us. It is an incredibly important game and we have to give maximum effort to win.”

What makes the game difficult is the Lady Tigers, who are coming off wins over Florida and Georgia, are one of the top defensive teams in the country. They lead the SEC and rank fifth nationally in field goal percentage defense, limiting their opponents to just .354 percent shooting. They also lead the SEC in scoring defense (52.2 ppg), three-point field goal defense (.291) and defensive rebounds (26.8).

They are led by junior guard Allison Hightower who ranks among the SEC's best in several categories. She leads LSU and is sixth in the SEC in scoring with 14.1 points per game. She also ranks fifth in field goal percentage (.452). Freshman LaSondra Barrett follows with 11.0 points per contest while grabbing a team-high 5.8 rebounds per game.

For Kentucky, senior All-SEC candidate Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) leads three Wildcats in double-figure scoring with 12.2 points per game. She also grabs 8.5 rebounds per game. Sophomore All-SEC nominee Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) and junior Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) follow with 12.1 and 10.8 ppg, respectively. Dunlap also has established herself as a top contender for SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors as she ranks in the SEC's top 15 in rebounding, steals and blocks, including leading the league in rebounding (all games and SEC) with 9.0 rpg.

The Lady Tigers lead the overall series 27-7, including a 9-3 advantage when the game is played in Lexington. UK has dropped 15 straight games to LSU, including seven in a row in Baton Rouge. UK's last win over LSU came in 1999 at the SEC Tournament (81-71). The last regular-season win was a home game played in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1998. UK won in overtime, 74-71. The last win in Baton Rouge was on Feb. 25, 1995 when the Cats defeated LSU, 63-49.

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement…
“LSU is a very good team who had a big win last night, and they played well on the road against Georgia. We had a tough battle with them here in Lexington. They play very well at home, so that will be a huge challenge for us. We need to try to build on our good victory against Tennessee and a win in Baton Rouge will be good for us. It is an incredibly important game and we have to give maximum effort to win.”

On Thursday's win against Tennessee…
“The players will always have the victory and the memory. If we look back after the season, no matter what happens, it was a great win and significant. But, it can become very special if we can win on Sunday. It has the potential to become better and better if we can close the season out. We desperately needed the win. The players played a hard game and gave tremendous effort. Last night, our team didn't win a game that put us into first place. We need to keep plugging, because we are fighting an uphill battle. When you are headed up hill, you have to work, so that is where our team's focus is. I will explain that to them and I'll be disappointed if we don't put this win behind us, and wait until the season is over to reflect on it. We don't have a lot of time to celebrate victories right now because we need a few more. When you are involved in a series that has been as one-sided as the Kentucky and Tennessee series has been, it feels great to win.”

On preparing for LSU…
“We struggle to find consistency for 40 minutes from all five players on the floor. Last night was a step in that direction. We can found out some good things about the players if they come back focused today. They need to be focused.”

On sophomore Catina Bett…
“It is an unfortunate situation with Catina Bett. She is suspended for a violation of team rules, and it has to do with academics and responsibility. Like I've said all along, our first mission here is to use basketball as a tool to prepare our players for life. We believe in being honest, working hard and having discipline. That isn't only in basketball, it is also in our academics and social life. In this program, you have to work under all of those guidelines. We are working with Catina, and it is an indefinite suspension. She could potentially be back by the end of the season.”

On senior Eleia Roddy…
“She has been a huge producer offensively and defensively, because she scores and rebounds. It is gratifying as a coach to have a player you can depend on every game. For her, this season is off the charts. This is clearly her best season statistically and I believe she is enjoying that. Injuries get frustrating, and to rehab and come back so many times means you have to have some toughness about you. We are happy for her.”

On preparing for the rest of the season…
“When it comes down to this time of year, and you have aspirations for the NCAA tournament, some may not try to figure out what the scenario is. It is important for our team to know what is ahead of them. I thought we floundered in a couple of games where we needed to win. As a coach, that makes me think that we need to make adjustments to get through to them. We have tried to tell our players what they are playing for, and what the different options are. We had a conversation before the Tennessee game that said, if we don't win any more games, it is clear what is going to happen. We haven't gone into the specifics, but we want them to know what they can play for. At 4-7 in the SEC, it is easy to get discouraged, but we do still have a chance. We have to play well and we face an uphill battle.”