UK Hoops Meets Arkansas on Senior Night
Feb. 23, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 20 Kentucky looks to send out its two seniors (Victoria Dunlap and Carly Morrow) on a high note when the Wildcats take on Arkansas in their regular-season home finale Thursday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live on the Big Blue Sports Network and FSN South with Garry Gupton and Christi Thomas calling the action. Carl Nathe will serve as the sideline reporter. The game also will be available nationally on the ESPN Full Court package and ESPN3.com and on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.
Dunlap and Morrow will be recognized during a special “Senior Night” ceremony prior to the game.
Single-game tickets are on sale now. Single-game reserved seats are $7 (regardless of age) while general admission tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for youth/seniors. UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification. To purchase tickets, visit the Joe Craft Center in person, call 1-800-928-2287 or go online at UKathletics.com.
“This is a big game tomorrow night,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Arkansas is a very good opponent and they really took it to us in Fayetteville. We need to certainly play better than we did on that night. We are very motivated to win our last home game of the year and send Carly Morrow and Victoria Dunlap out with a victory. That is something that is very important to everybody in the program. I would like to encourage everybody to come out and get here early and we will have a great celebration before the game for two players who have given so much to Kentucky. If a lot of people will show up and fill this place up and we have great energy than we will celebrate after the game with a victory, hopefully. No matter what, these two deserve a great sendoff and a big crowd to help us do that. We will look forward to a tough battle tomorrow night and we will work hard to send these seniors out right.”
Although senior point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) has decided to take a redshirt year and return to UK next season after sitting out with an ACL tear in her knee, the senior class made up of Smith, Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) and Morrow (Lookout Mountain, Ga.) will forever be etched into the UK record books as one of the most successful classes in school history.
UK seniors have won 81 games in their careers. That total is tied with the 2010 class for the fifth-winningest class in school history. With four more wins, the 2011 class will tie the 1981 class for fourth with 85 wins. The 1983 class is the winningest class in school history with 96 victories. In the four years prior to their arrival, UK went 71-56 overall, 22-34 in the Southeastern Conference. In the four years with Dunlap, Morrow and Smith, the Cats are 81-47 overall, 33-25 in SEC play, and have advanced to three consecutive postseason tournaments, including an NCAA Elite Eight appearance last season.
At season’s end, Dunlap will undoubtedly be revered as one of the greatest players in UK Hoops history as she ranks in the top 10 of 14 career lists, including No. 2 all-time in rebounding (1,042), blocks (170), steals (291), free-throws made (414) and free-throws attempted (671). Dunlap, who is nominated for every major national award this season, is set to graduate in May with a degree in family science and a minor in psychology.
Morrow has started in 58 of 112 career games. She averages 4.8 points in her career and ranks seventh on UK’s career list for three-pointers made (180) and fourth in career three-pointers attempted (395). She is a four-time member of the Dean’s List, a three-time member of UK's Athletics Director Honor Roll for earning the team's highest GPA and has twice been named to the SEC Winter Academic Honor Roll. Last season she was named to the SEC Community Service Team and UK's prestigious Frank G. Ham G. Ham Society of Character for her dedication to community service. Morrow, a member of the 2011 District 4 Capital One Academic All-District Team, is set to graduate in May with a degree in business economics.
Kentucky (20-7, 9-5 Southeastern Conference), which currently ranks third in the league standings, is coming off a monumental win over Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., last Sunday. The Cats defeated the Commodores 80-71, marking its first win in Memorial Gym since 1986. Five Wildcats scored in double figures sparked by 22 points from Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.). The sharp-shooting junior nailed four 3-pointers while dishing out a team-high three assists in her first start since Jan. 19. Snowden has hit 52 three-pointers this season which moves her to eighth on UK’s single-season list.
Arkansas (18-8, 6-8 SEC), currently eighth in the SEC standings, snapped a four-game losing skid by picking up a pair of SEC wins vs. Ole Miss and LSU last week. The win at Ole Miss was the first in program history in Oxford and the victory over LSU completed a two-game sweep for the first time in program history.
Arkansas has three players averaging in double-figure scoring. Sophomore Sarah Watkins leads with 13.4 points per game while Louisville, Ky., native and junior C’eira Ricketts follows narrowly behind with 13.3 ppg. Junior Lyndsay Harris averages 12.2 ppg and leads the team in 3-point field goals made with 69 this season.
Arkansas coach Tom Collen is the former head coach at Kentucky’s instate rival Louisville. He spent four seasons with the Cardinals before becoming the seventh head coach in Arkansas women’s basketball history in the spring of 2007.
Thursday marks the 28th meeting in the series between Kentucky and Arkansas, and the second matchup this season. UK leads the all-time series 14-13, including a 9-3 advantage when playing in Lexington. UK has won the last four meeting against Arkansas in Lexington. The Cats look to avenge a 78-67 loss to the Razorbacks in Fayetteville in the SEC opener on Jan. 6.
UK Athletics encourages fans to arrive early to ease traffic and parking congestion around the Coliseum. Doors will open one hour prior to the game (5 p.m.) Thursday.
Women's basketball parking is available in the following surface lots and parking structures:
Surface event lots (i.e. Student Center, Hardymon, MLK and Good Samaritan) typically reach capacity approximately 30-45 minutes prior to tipoff, at which point, vehicles should proceed to Parking Structure #5.
- Student Center Lot - off Euclid Ave
- MLK South Lot - between Lexington Ave and Martin Luther King Boulevard 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.
- Joe Craft Center North E-Lot - large lot located north of the Joe Craft Center and accessible via Lexington Avenue or Rose Street.
- Good Samaritan surface Lot - accessible off Martin Luther King Boulevard
Parking Structure #5 - entrances off Limestone and S. Upper.
- The parking structure shuttle will begin one hour prior to tip and end one hour postgame. A free shuttle picks up on Administration Drive, accessible via the sky bridge located on the third floor of Parking Structure #5.
- 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
Pregame Press Conference: Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
Opening Statement …
“This is a big game tomorrow night. Arkansas is a very good opponent and they really took it to us in Fayetteville. We need to certainly play better than we did on that night. We are very motivated to win our last home game of the year and send Carly Morrow and Victoria Dunlap out with a victory. That is something that is very important to everybody in the program. I would like to encourage everybody to come out and get here early and we will have a great celebration before the game for two players who have given so much to Kentucky. If a lot of people will show up and fill this place up and we have great energy than we will celebrate after the game with a victory, hopefully. No matter what, these two deserve a great sendoff and a big crowd to help us do that. We will look forward to a tough battle tomorrow night and we will work hard to send these seniors out right.”
On the Victoria Dunlap and Carly Morrow going through senior night without Amber Smith …
“That will be a bit odd. We have known here for a little while now that it would be this way and I have just tried to direct my focus on those two. I try to tell the team that all we need tomorrow night is a really, really, strong effort and then nobody can leave the court thinking they let someone down, no matter the outcome. If we come out and play as hard as we can, as a coach that is all we can ask someone to do. As a team, we have to play really hard and execute and know what needs to happen to beat a good Arkansas team.”
On Carly and Victoria’s impact on the program …
“Well, it has been significant the impact that they have both had on the program. The program is definitely different the four years after they entered Kentucky. I think that if you look at both of them personally, Carly did such a great job for us in one area in particular that I think made the most impact. We tried to establish a culture at working hard on your game outside of practice and games and being a player that took responsibility to your individual development outside of any practices the coaches called or games. We tried to stress that and so many times when I would be in my office and you would hear the ball bouncing it would be Carly Morrow in the gym, working hard to try to improve as an individual player which would make our team better. Then when we went to the pressure defense last year, we put in a pretty tough set of fundamentals and started to stress defensive footwork. She worked really, really hard on that throughout her career that by the time we got to the pressure defense in her junior year, she had worked so hard that she was an example that we could put forward for the perimeter players on how to use your feet and how to play. Those two things more than any of the big games that she has had, and she has had some big games and made some big shots, are her biggest contribution. She is someone that you can point to as being a really hard worker in the program. We are closer to being a program that values hard work outside of the practice and Carly has attributed to that.
“Victoria, there are just so many places statistically that she has impacted the program, but to me the biggest thing is just her development over the four years. Being a kid that would come in here that was extremely gifted and talented but didn’t have a polished game and could have just shown up every day and get better incrementally by just showing up. Instead, she embraced everything that we asked her to do. She embraced individual workouts, she embraced getting better as a free-throw shooter and all these different things that we threw her way. She worked herself into be an All-American, which is really remarkable. When we go out now and talk about the Kentucky program, I think that a lot of people think of Victoria Dunlap and what she has been able to do and how dynamic she is. She sort of gave us a face of the program that people identify with. I think that a lot of young players now have a player at Kentucky where they can say, ‘Hey, I can go be the next Victoria Dunlap,’ or ‘I can be like Victoria Dunlap’ or ‘I can have some success along those lines.’ I think that you need a player like that that you can point to and say that big things can happen for you at Kentucky. You can be an All-American. You can go to the Elite Eight. All of those things are important when you are trying to climb the ladder for what has traditionally been a program that has not had a lot of success. To me, that is the biggest contribution that she has made the program. Both of those kids I have become very close to and feel like family. I look forward to watching them develop throughout their life. I think that what we have will be a life-long bond and that is the most gratifying for me personally.”
On Coach Mitchell coming into the program the same year Carly and Victoria did and if they grew up together …
“No question. We all came in as freshmen together. None of us knew what in the world we were doing when we got here in a sense. That is what makes this one so unique. I don’t know what it is like without those kids here. They have been here since day one and certainly honoring their commitment and giving me a chance to coach them I will be eternally grateful for. They have been here through some really tough times and toughed it out and hung in there. Now look where we are now. I feel like I have learned as much from both of them as a coach and the different things that I have gone through with both of those kids and the teams they have been on has been a tremendous opportunity for me to learn.”
On how much he has seen them lean on each other …
“It is interesting. All three of them have been through different things from injuries together and losing games and going to the Elite Eight. All of these different things that they have all experienced together and they have all been close-knit. It is interesting that Carly and Victoria came in rivals from Tennessee and different basketball, AAU and track and all these different things and now to see them walking out of here as life-long friends and best friends is touching to see as a coach. We had an atmosphere here where that was possible. I have seen them lean on each other a whole lot throughout the course of their career.”
On the defensive system and how much it was a fit for the personalities of the seniors …
“I think that is a great observation and that can’t be understated. We have always said that we went to that last year out of the desperation because we didn’t have any tall players, but if you had short players that didn’t work hard you wouldn’t have had a chance to turn it into what it has become. It had a lot of do with those personalities. Those three kids are really hard-nosed and competitors on the court. They are hard workers in practice. There are a lot of tough, repetitive things that are so physically and mentally in a practice day after day after day. I think that their personalities were huge in us being able to be successful with it.”
On them playing pranks on him throughout their careers …
“I think those things show that they care and show that you have some type of relationship if they go out of their way. In college, kids have a lot of stuff to do. To me, I always thought that was pretty special to be sitting in my house and hear fireworks go off or something like that or they take the time to blow up balloons to put in my car. Either they care about me of they have very boring lives, both are possible I guess.”
On Arkansas and what problems they pose …
“That particular night we did not do a good job of matching their intensity and they were very determined to get out in the open court and make plays. I am telling you they made plays. We didn’t play particularly bad, but they played with so much effort and energy. They really hurt us with their transition offense against our transition defense. Then they were really aggressive trapping out of their zones. We didn’t do a good job of handling that. I thought that we had a little panic sit in that night, too. We didn’t make shots early and it was just a tough night and Arkansas really did a good job. I think that the place where we start is trying to do a better job of not letting C’eira Ricketts get ahead or steam up and get into the open court and make plays because she is unstoppable when she does that. Also trying to make them work as hard as they can to make buckets because when they get out and operate comfortably they can put some points on you. That is the biggest key is to make sure we start the game with the kind of intensity of keeping them in the mindset that they are going to have to come down and earn a bucket.”