No. 13/15 UK Hoops Looks To Snap Losing Streak at Arkansas

Feb. 25, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 13/15 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team will be looking to get back to its winnings ways on Thursday night, as it travels to Fayetteville, Ark., to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks for an 8 p.m. ET game that will be shown live on the SEC Network+, ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. The game can also be heard on the UK Sports Network with Neil Price on the call.

Gameday Central
Kentucky at Arkansas
Thursday, Feb. 26 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Fayetteville, Ark.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UA Get Acrobat Reader
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Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via SEC Network+
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The Wildcats, who currently sit in sixth place in the Southeastern Conference standings with an 8-6 record, are looking to snap a three-game losing skid. UK’s last three games have been against No. 6/6 Tennessee, No. 15/15 Texas A&M and on the road at Ole miss. With just two regular-season games remaining, Kentucky is still looking to chart its 20th win for a school-record sixth straight season and secure a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament for the sixth straight season.

The Wildcats have won four straight over Arkansas, including the last matchup in Fayetteville on Feb. 7, 2013. It took extra minutes to defeat the Razorbacks, 80-74. Kentucky is led by the guard play of Bria Goss, Makayla Epps, Linnae Harper and Jennifer O’Neill. Epps, an All-SEC and Nancy Lieberman Award candidate, currently leads the league in scoring with 15.9 ppg, while O’Neill, a candidate to repeat as the SEC 6th-Woman of the Year, follows Epps with 13.5 ppg. All-SEC candidates Harper and Goss follow with 12.6 ppg and 10.4 ppg, respectively.

UK leads the all-time series with Arkansas 18-13 and have won the last four meeting but trail 9-4 when the game is played in Fayetteville.

The Cats have forced at least 20 turnovers in 21 of 27 games this season and are 18-3 overall, 8-1 in SEC play when doing so. Those forced turnovers are turning into points for the Wildcats as well. UK averages 23.6 points per game off forced turnovers, compared to the opponents’ 14.1 ppg. UK ranks 17th nationally and second in the SEC turnover margin (+5.7) by forcing 22.7 miscues per game, while committing just 16.9 per game.

Harper should also be considered for the SEC All-Defensive Team as one of the most versatile players in the SEC. She one of only two players to rank in the league’s top 10 (SEC games only) in rebounding (6th) and steals (2nd). Standing at just 5-foot-8, Harper is the only player in the SEC and one of only four players in the NCAA to stand at 5-8 or under and average at least 7.0 rebounds per game.

Single-game reserved tickets are available at a cost of $9 for all ages. General admission tickets for adults are $8 while single-game general admission tickets for seniors and children (ages 6-18, 65 and over) are only $5.

Children ages five and under are admitted free in the general admission seating area and UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification.

Fans interested in UK Hoops tickets can visit the Joe Craft Center ticket office, go to UKathletics.com, or call the UK ticket office at 1-800-928-CATS. Tickets are also available at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Follow UK Hoops on Twitter and Instagram at @UKHoopCats and on Facebook by liking University of Kentucky Women’s Basketball.

Media Opportunity - February 25, 2015

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement …
“Arkansas is coming off of a great win against LSU where they played extremely well. They’re a very good basketball team with a lot of weapons and they are very hard to score against. It’ll be a big challenge for us to go on the road and see if we can earn a victory which would be real significant for us. It’s a big game for us, so we need to work hard to get prepared.”

On the challenging road schedule to close out the season …
“This is a tough week for us with two games in the central time zone. The kids got back very, very late on Monday night and probably even later on Friday morning. It’s just how the schedule falls and it’s a challenge. It’s difficult to play two of your last three on the road. It’s a unique challenge, but we have to fight through some adversity. We’re in the midst of some poor results. We need to really, really fight for a great attitude and I think that’s what will get us to where we need to be – is just getting our mindset right an there’s no better place to do it than have the adversity of the road. The schedule has produced a tough challenge. You can rise and meet the challenge or shrink away from it. I believe this team is going to rise up and meet the challenge.”

On playing another team fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives …
“For the disappointment of the loss against Ole Miss, I thought the loss had a lot to do with how well Ole Miss played and how prepared they were and motivated. It was like the first game we had with them. It was real close coming down the stretch – same thing here in Lexington. We were able to find a way to win that game, and they made some great, great plays to beat us. We saw some positive things out of the game and I really liked the teams’ mindset yesterday and we will go at it again today. This is no time to flinch and this is no time to hang your head. This is time to rise up and play for each other and play for Kentucky. I believe that we will di that tomorrow night.”

On the team’s offensive struggles …
“We are putting an awful lot of pressure on our defense right now because we are struggling to score. It just comes down to Ole Miss created some open shots that they made. They created some offensive rebounds and put-backs that they created through their effort and energy. We are just not making open shots. We’re getting some offensive rebounds and just not finishing at the rim, missing a ton of layups, things like that. You just have to continue to persevere, fight hard, things like that – stress in practice. Give the players accountability, and if they don’t do it, find a way to get them to do it. I think that we have to be active in making our offensive woes go away by just being tough, making some open shots, making some layups and you can’t let it deflate you. We just have to persevere. This team has put a lot of time into shooting the ball, and we’ve had some games where we’ve shot it well and we just haven’t done that in the last few games. It’s been very, very poor shooting, and so you just have to stay strong, keep the faith, keep working. Our kids are in the gym right now before practice working hard to see if they can make some shots. Everybody is playing us the same way. Arkansas looks like they’ll play us the same way and force us to make some perimeter shots and at some point you have to step in there and make them.”

On the impact of Makayla Epps’ injury and her status …
“Well, imagine a team losing their starting point guard and what happens to that. And then you’re blessed enough to have a very capable person who was a starter, but now she slides over to starting point guard and she gets hurt. Now you’re down to your third option, which for us is still a good option, in Jennifer O’Neill. It just shortens your bench and puts some pressure on your bench and your depth, but I talked with Makayla today and she is just going to have a great day of mental preparation and we just feel like the day of rest is important for her right now. She’s going to be with me in practice right beside me all day seeing what I see, and just really having a great day of mental preparation and putting in a great gameplan and being very vocal with her teammates. I think she’ll be ready to go tomorrow night. You never know how the game is going to go and how her injury is going to react, but her mindset right now is to push through it and play through it. There are different things that make it hurt more than others. She’s not going to feel great tomorrow night, and so mentally she is just going to get to a spot where she can just play hard. I think everybody this time of the year is banged up. I bet Arkansas is not feeling 100 percent, so it’s just the nature of a long SEC grind. We just have to gut it out and find a way to win. We expect her to play and be ready to roll tomorrow night.”

On Arkansas in Jimmy Dykes’ first season …
“Well, you know, I’m probably—just the way the schedule’s fallen, I’ve probably seen them the least of anybody. Have watched them a lot here in the last 24 hours and just impressed with how they persevered from an early stretch where they weren’t winning games. Now they find themselves with a chance to fight to .500 in the league, which is a task. So it looks to me like they’re doing a great job and they’ll be a very challenging opponent tomorrow night.”