Cats Travel to Auburn for Regular-Season Finale
Feb. 27, 2010
Cats Travel to Auburn for Regular-Season Finale
UK Hoops will finish No. 2 in the SEC standings, its highest finish since 1983
LEXINGTON, Ky. - After a tough loss at No. 4 Tennessee on Thursday, the Kentucky women's basketball team looks to get back on the winning track and end the regular season on an upswing when it takes on Auburn Sunday, Feb. 28 in the final women's basketball game in storied Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Game time is set for 3 p.m. EST and it will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and streamed live on UKathletics.com.
UK Hoops fans can also get score updates via a text message by signing up for Wildcat Alerts at UKathletics.com.
"It's very important for us to get refocused on what we need to do and that is to play better of the defensive end as we go to Auburn," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We are going to play at a place that is always very tough to play. It will be the last time anybody plays in that building. There is an interesting dynamic there. The overall thing is that Auburn presents some matchup problems for us. We need to be ready to put last night behind us and be ready for Sunday."
Despite being picked to finish 11th in the preseason polls by league coaches and media, Mitchell has led his squad to a remarkable turnaround, going from 16-16 overall, 5-9 in the Southeastern Conference last season to an impressive 23-5 overall, including a school-best 11-4 mark in league play.
With their impressive season, the Cats have secured the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye heading into the SEC Tournament next week in Duluth, Ga. They will face the to-be-determined No. 7 or No. 10 seed Friday, March 5 at 2:30 p.m. EST in the Gwinett Center. The Cats' No. 2 ranking marks their highest finish in the SEC's current 12-team format. UK was the East's No. 2 seed in 1983 when the SEC had a 10-team, divisional format.
Anchoring the turnaround is SEC Player of the Year and All-America candidate, Victoria Dunlap (Louisville, Ky.). The 6-1 forward ranks in the top 10 of seven different SEC statistical categories and is the only player in the league to rank in the top four in scoring (4th - 17.7) and rebounding (3rd - 8.8). She also leads the SEC in steals (3.1), ranks fifth in blocks (1.9) and is seventh in field goal percentage (.506).
SEC Freshman of the Year nominee A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) also has been a key catalyst in the Cats' success as she ranks second behind Dunlap in scoring (12.5 ppg), steals (70) and blocks (14). She has scored in double figures in 10 of 15 SEC contests and three of her 20-point scoring outings were against SEC competition. She currently holds the school record for steals by a freshman with 70.
The Tigers, who will move into their New Auburn Arena next season, enter their "Senior Day" after a 65-61 loss to Ole Miss on Thursday in Oxford, Miss. Auburn (13-15) has lost five of their last six league games with the lone win coming in convincing fashion over Mississippi State (50-36). The Tigers currently sit in a tie for 10th place with Arkansas at 4-11 in the SEC.
Junior guard Alli Smalley and senior center KeKe Carrier lead the team in scoring, averaging 15.1 and 12.7 points per game respectively. Smalley ranks sixth in the league in scoring and also leads the team with 49 three-pointers. Carrier is 13th in the league in scoring but also leads the Tigers and ranks seventh in the conference with 7.3 rebounds per game.
Auburn owns a 24-12 advantage in the all-time series, including a 9-5 lead in Auburn. The Cats have won the three of the last four matchups against the Tigers, including a 68-50 decision earlier this season in Lexington. UK's last win in Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum was Jan. 21, 2007, 68-65.
Matthew Mitchell Pregame Quotes
On last night's performance (Feb. 25, 2010) at Tennessee...
"We did not have a very good performance last night at Tennessee. I am disappointed by that. It's very important for us to get refocused on what we need to do and that is to play better of the defensive end as we go to Auburn. We are going to play at a place that is always very tough to play. It will be the last time anybody plays in that building. There is an interesting dynamic there. The overall thing is that Auburn presents some matchup problems for us. We need to be ready to put last night behind us and be ready for Sunday.
It was a very poor start for us defensively. I was upset about that part because the margin for error with them [is slim]. If they play a great game and we play a great game, it's still going to be tough to beat them because they are so talented and you just can't afford to be slow of rotations or other things like that. With the things we tried to do, we had maybe three parts doing well and two parts not, and that is just not how our defense works. The thing I was so disappointed, in more than anything, was not being able to start off a game like that well. That was disappointing. We are in a position we have never been in before as a program. I'm interested to see if we can learn from it because we did not handle it well at all last night."
On bouncing back from losses...
"I think that would be great if we went through this season without a losing streak in the SEC. I think that would be pretty remarkable. We have followed every loss up with a victory and I think that is worth mentioning to the team. That shows they have had some resilience and we will definitely need that because we are a little banged up now. It's the end of the season, a tough time to play and Auburn, I'm sure, will be motivated; it is the last time they will be playing in that building. There is a lot on the line for them and we will need to see what we're made of."
On how vital Sunday's game (vs. Auburn) is being so close to tournament...
"I certainly don't want to have to go into the tournament with two straight losses. I want to have for us to go in winning our last one and feeling good about ourselves. [There are] a lot of things going into this one. We need to perform well Sunday afternoon. "
On recent injuries...
"Retooling this time of year is not ideal, but, certainly, it is necessary at this point in time. Crystal (Riley) being out is probably the biggest thing we will have to overcome, from a defensive standpoint. We can do it; we can overcome it. We played a terrific game last Sunday against South Carolina with a lot of energy and a lot effort there. It can be done, but it's certainly not ideal."
On Lydia [Watkins] and Carly's [Morrow] injuries/sickness persisting...
"I think Carly had a lot taken out of her. I think she will do nothing but get stronger from this point on. I think she is still trying to shake off some of the effects of her illness. Lydia,... It's a long season. With eight screws in her back and sore knees, I think the time off for her will really help. We've got some time after Sunday. We will give them two full days off after the tournament and then you have a lot of time after the SEC tournament. I think that is going to benefit Lydia. I don't think anything that is bothering her right now is going to be something that rest won't help her fix."
On A'dia [Mathies] playing point guard...
"Tennessee has the capability of really getting up and pressuring you. I think that A'dia might be the best option when Amber [Smith] is out. The thing that Crystal's loss hurts us with right now is Amber is not quite as fresh. We've got to figure that out. We've got to keep Amber fresh and energetic because she is much better when she has energy. A'dia can handle that position. She did a great job in the South Carolina game. She will be in that slot some. "