UK Hoops Advances to Second Round vs. Michigan State
March 21, 2010
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Playing for the chance to advance to its first regional semifinal since 1982, the No. 4-seeded Kentucky women's basketball team will battle No. 5 seed Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Monday, March 22 at 7:21 p.m. EST in Freedom Hall. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and ESPN2.
Tickets are still available from Freedom Hall by calling 1-800-633-7105 or 502-852-5151 or online at uoflsports.com. All session books, which include all three games, are only $27 while single-session tickets are $16.
“When you're playing a team like Michigan State, they're clearly in a position that they're comfortable with,” SEC Coach of the Year Matthew Mitchell said. “They've won 20 games seven years in a row and have been to the Final Four. They have players that have been in the tournament, and that's an advantage that I think they have over our group. I think that one of the advantages that we can find is if we can somehow get another big crowd. That was a great crowd yesterday, 3,500 very vocal, boisterous Wildcat fans. Maybe they can help us offset some of our inexperience if we can get extra boosts from our fans. Our team feeds off of energy. We have to play with a very energetic mindset, and we have to play with a lot of enthusiasm and effort. The crowd can fuel that, so I just ask all Wildcat fans that can get here tomorrow night to get here because I believe that it can make a big difference.”
Paced by a career-high 32 points from SEC Freshman of the Year and Louisville native A'dia Mathies, Kentucky (26-7) won its third consecutive NCAA Tournament first-round game, topping No. 13 seed Liberty 83-77 on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats rallied from a nine-point first-half deficit, but trailed only 35-33 at intermission. Liberty held a slight 48-47 lead with 14:40 left in the game when Kentucky exploded on a 16-5 run to grab a 10-point advantage. The Cats held for the six-point victory, giving them a school-record 26 wins this season.
“Not a lot of people set their career scoring mark in the first round of the NCAA Tournament playing at home,” Mitchell said. “It was really an unbelievable performance and it just shows you how special she (A'dia) is.”
Junior forward and SEC Player of the Year Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) and sophomore guard Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.) added 15 points each. Dunlap was 9-of-10 from the foul line to go with four rebounds and a UK NCAA record five steals. Snowden made a UK NCAA record four three-pointers as the Wildcats shot 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from beyond the arc against the Lady Fla mes.
The Cats were red-hot from the floor in the second half, shooting a season-best 72.2 percent (13-of-18). UK also forced the Lady Flames into 22 turnovers and has now frustrated their foes into 20 or more turnovers in 25 games this season, including six in a row. The Wildcats are 23-6 when forcing more turnovers than the opponent.
The Wildcats compiled an outstanding resume en route to the most wins in school history (26), including a school-record 11 wins in the Southeastern Conference. Despite being picked to finish 11th in the preseason polls by media and coaches, UK finished second in the league standings and also had an impressive showing in the SEC Tournament. The Cats defeated Auburn and Mississippi State on their way to meeting No. 3 Tennessee to its first SEC Tournament final since 1982.
The Wildcats earned their seventh overall bid to the NCAA Tournament with a No. 4 seed in the Kansas City Regional. This marks the Cats' first appearance in the Big Dance since 2006.
UK is now 5-6 all-time in the Big Dance and the No. 4 seed is the highest for UK Hoops since its 1983 trip to the NCAA Tournament as No. 3 seed.
The best finish for UK came in the very first NCAA Tournament in 1982 when the Wildcats fell one win shy of the Final Four, losing to eventual national champion Louisiana Tech. Since the NCAA went to 64 teams in 1985, the Cats have never advanced past the second round.
Michigan State (23-9) is an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament from the Big Ten Conference, finishing second in the league by winning 11 of its last 12 conference games. MSU defeated Bowling Green 72-62 in first-round action to advance to the second round.
Senior forward Aisha Jefferson, who scored a team-high 17 points against Bowling Green, averages 7.9 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game this season. Senior Allyssa DeHaan, a 6-foot-9 center, was the first player in school history to be named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year earlier this season. She leads the team with an average of 10.9 ppg and blocks an impressive 3.2 shots per game. DeHaan led the Big Ten in blocks (conference games only) for the third consecutive year. She recorded eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds in the first round.
UK is 1-3 all-time vs. Michigan State, including 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament. The teams last met in the second round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament with the Spartans pulling out a 67-63 win. UK's only win in the series came on Dec. 8, 1989 (89-72) in East Lansing, Mich.
UK is 28-41 all-time v s. teams from the Big Ten conference. The Cats have lost eight-straight games to Big Ten teams, dating back to 2005-06. UK's last win over a Big Ten team was Nov. 1, 2004 vs. Northwestern, 70-63, in Chicago, Ill.
Pregame Press Conference Quotes
Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell
(On the pressure defense: is it the personnel or something he's always believed in)
“Well, I started out as a high school coach and some of mentors that I learned a lot from back in Mississippi were all man-to-man pressure defense type of coaches. That's what I learned as I was learning how to coach, so there's a comfort level there. When I was at Tennessee with Coach Summitt, they were very much an up-tempo pressure, defensive team. Some of the people that I've learned from and worked with helped me with that. We weren't able to do it personnel wise my first two years. We had to do some different things to give those teams the best chance to win. This year, we did have the personnel and with no real size in the paint, it was out of necessity this year. Now that we have a chance to build an identity, we can recruit towards that. You can try to get players that can play in that system, and that's something that we're comfortable with and have gotten some success from. We like it an awful lot.”
(On what it means for a program to have an identity and about his turnover goal)
“The goal is 25 turnovers each game. That is a lofty goal. When I talked to some people about developing some ideas for the defense, a person that I have a lot of respect for said that 25 in the mentality that you need to have. I didn't know that we could get there, but in the non-conference games we were able to. I was very interested to see if we could get there in the conference play. We were right around 23, which is pretty good for the Southeastern Conference. The goal is 25, and then the goal for points off of turnovers is 25. I think team identity is invaluable. Seniors are always leaving and you're always brining in freshmen, and when you have an identity, it helps you identify players that fit into that. It excites the players that will work well in that style of play. I think that it's important to know who you are and what you're trying to do. That's important in life and it's important to the basketball program.”
(On what defense he plays when the press gets broken and Michigan State's size)
“The good thing for us is that we've been undersized all year, so it's a place we've been before. There is a comfort level there. It doesn't make it any easier because Michigan State is an extremely impressive team to watch on film. I have a lot of respect for their players and what they are doing out there on the court. It is going to be tough. We mainly play man-to-man. What you have to do, is if they want to catch it 20 feet from the goal, we're trying to get them to catch it 25 feet from the goal. We're going to try to just take them out of their comfort level and rhythm. It is a simple theory, but it's hard to actually make happen. For instance, with DeHaan, if the guard can't see her, they she can't get it in there to her because DeHaan is always going to have the height advantage. Ball pressure is where it all starts. We talk a lot about playing post defense 35 feet from the basket. We pick the ball up early and try to make it tough for them to get into what they're trying to do. Michigan State has a terrific team, and it's going to be a big test for us tomorrow.”
(On the challenges that DeHaan causes for Kentucky, with Kentucky being undersized)
“If you let her catch it close to the basket, even if you bring the double team, it just doesn't do much because we don't have much size to bring in there. The whole goal is to have it go in there as few times as possible. I'm not giving away any secret, I'm sure that Michigan State understands that that's what we're going to try to do. I'm sure they're going to try to get in there as much as they can. One thing that we need to do better than what we did yesterday is rebound the ball, and that's going to take a real commitment mentally from our players as we don't have a lot of time. Usually when we have a few practices to work on things, this group does pretty well with that. It's a big challenge for them and we don't have a lot of time. We have to make a mental adjustment and commit to our rebounding fundamentals. Our philosophy is that if she gets it in there and makes it, we have to try to get back and get a bucket to answer that. Then, we have to come back down next time and try to not let it go in there. It's pretty simple; we just don't want it in there very much.”
(On the advantage with fan support)
“When you're playing a team like Michigan State, they're clearly in a position that they're comfortable with. They've won 20 games seven years in a row and have been to the Final Four. Their program has some tradition. They have players that have been in the tournament, and that's an advantage that I think they have over our group. I think that one of the advantages that we can find is if we can somehow get another big crowd. That was a great crowd yesterday, 3,500 very vocal, boisterous Wildcat fans. They weren't all Wildcat fans, but clearly the majority was there. Maybe they can help us offset some of our inexperience if we can get extra boosts from our fans. Our team feeds off of energy. We have to play with a very energetic mindset, and we have to play with a lot of enthusiasm and effort. The crowd can fuel that, so I just ask all Wildcat fans that can get here tomorrow night to get here because I believe that it can make a big difference.”
(On the connection with Matt Insell's dad, who is the head coach at Middle Tennessee State University, and if Michigan State reminds him of anybody in the SEC)
“Well, he has his hands full with the Mississippi State team today, and I have not checked in with him about Michigan State. I did not want to disturb him on the day of a game. My philosophy is that every year is so different, that that's probably not where I'd go. Not that I don't think that he would have something to offer. We have so much tape here; we're trying to get ready. They're so big and I think that they're similar to Tennessee or Georgia. They have big and powerful interior players that are difficult for us to matchup with. They basically have three post players at one time. I guess we have one if you want to call Victoria a post player. It's going to be very interesting, as we have contrasting styles to see who can impose their will on the game will be very interesting to me. I just know that we need to stick as close to our formula as we can. We'll see if that's good enough. They are an awfully good team.”
(On the pressure for A'dia to duplicate what she did in the first round)
“I have a lot of concerns always going into a game, but A'dia Mathies is not a concern that I have. Like I said yesterday, these kids are not robots. You cannot program them or turn them on or off. I'm sure she's dealing with a lot of emotion and she wants her team to advance. For me, it's comforting because she is so steady. She's unusual as a freshmen and she hasn't had a lot of lows. I thought it was funny talking about keeping her inline because she doesn't get out of line a whole lot. She just stays so steady. One thing I do know is that she cares for her team and she wants us to win tomorrow. The only concern that I will have is if she weren't that way. With the way she approaches things, I don't have a lot of concerns with A'dia Mathies tomorrow, I have a lot of confidence in her.”
(On Keyla Snowden)
“She's a real weapon for us. I think she's a big piece to us advancing in this tournament. I think to advance in this tournament, things have to come together and everybody has to start firing at the same time if you want to advance deep. I would think that Keyla or someone is going to have to step up and fill that role tomorrow. I'm real proud of her for admitting that she was nervous and admitting that she had jitters, and having the courage to work through that in the game. She just made a huge difference for us. A lot of kids fight that and say that nothing is wrong and that I'm okay, but they don't face that. That's what I really admired out of Keyla. If we admit what is going on, maybe we can work through it. I thought that she handled herself great yesterday. You're right, it only takes one for her generally and then she is the closest thing that we have to a machine, a shooting machine. She can really, really make some shots when she gets going.”
(On what he saw on A'dia to predict that she's going to have a big tournament)
“It's just so unusually for a freshman to come in and a lot of times in the power conference, you see some of these highly touted freshmen really do well against the nonconference opponents and then they struggle to adjust to conference play. A'dia was sort of the opposite; she had some huge games in the SEC and was incredible in the SEC tournament. When she got a few days off and got to go home, it seemed like she came back really recharged and ready to go. In practice, she looked great and explosive. She looked confident and looked to be in control of her game. That's what led me to believe that she was poised for something like that. I was concerned with the Louisville thing, coming back home and how she would process that. It was just incredible how she handled that. Not a lot of people set their career scoring mark in the first round of the NCAA Tournament playing at home. It was really an unbelievable performance and it just shows you how special she is.”
(On building a women's program at a university with a successful men's program)
“There are no challenges, none whatsoever. There are only positives and only benefits. One is the brand, Kentucky basketball. People identify and connect with it, so it's not hard if you're trying to build some tradition on the women's side to say look, people care about Kentucky basketball. The men's tradition is nothing but a positive for you. Our facilities are incredible and the support we receive from the administration is unbelievable as far as with what they provide you. It's wonderful to be around somebody like John Calipari who is so supportive. He called me last night when I was waiting for it to calm down so I could call him and congratulate him. He called me first and we talked. I wonder if he's going to move into our offices because he is over there all of the time. He's just so enthusiastic and positive. We're trying to feed off of energy and try to tell people that we can build a similar tradition. It's nothing but exciting.”
Victoria Dunlap Junior Forward
(What was the fan support like yesterday and what do you expect tomorrow?)
“The fans were definitely great for us yesterday. They gave us a lot of pep and hype for the game and they were definitely there for us when we were in our slope. I think it is going to be more people tomorrow. It will be great for us.”
(How do you minimize Michigan State 's height advantage and what kind of problems could that pose?)
“Clearly, we are not the tallest people going into this game but I think the fact that we play hard and our speed is going to be really effective against them. With their size, you have to be real physical with them and keep them off of the boards because we did a good job of that yesterday. We just have to battle inside and get up and down the floor and get easy buckets.”
(How big for the program is it to now have an identity?)
“It is really big for this program and coach has done a great job putting that into our minds knowing that we have to come out and play hard against every team. He shows us that we cannot come out and expect that it is going to happen; we have to come out and do it ourselves. Just the fact that people realize how hard we work and our pressure defense and up-tempo style is how we get it done.”
(When you see what A'dia did yesterday with her career high 32 points, do you try and keep her or any of the other freshmen in check?)
“No, I applaud A'dia for all of her hard work and how she plays. I don't look down on anybody. If they come out here and score 40 points I am still going to be like “that was a great game too and I wish I could do that.” I am not the kind of person to say okay you're a freshman so don't get to excited you scored 32 points, she did it, so I am proud of her. We haven't seen that from any of them so I guess I could put my foot down but there has not been anything like that. I think they're okay.”
(How does Allyssa DeHaan compare to some of the SEC players and have you ever played against a 6'9 player before?)
“No, I have not. I think we are going to do a lot of shot fakes and go around her and not really go in and try to score lay-ups. I know me personally, I would try to do that even though I did that in the SEC and did not make a lot of shots and got blocked. We are going to try to focus on going around her and not really going into her and using our other teammates.”
(How do you guard DeHaan and how do you keep pressure on them and not let them set up into a half-court set?)
“I think we will start with the guards and ball pressure. We haven't talked about how we are going to guard them yet but we will probably start from there and just be real physical and not let them post up and get a lob or easy bucket.”
A'dia Mathies Freshman Guard
(What was the fan support like yesterday and what do you expect tomorrow?)
“I think the fans really helped. I expect even more people to come out for the next game because it is further into the tournament. They did give us a lot of energy and showed everyone in the nation what Kentucky fans are all about.”
(Can you talk about playing in your home town and in maybe what is the last game in Freedom Hall?)
“It's all excitement. Just knowing that my family and my friends can come out and see me makes me even more excited.”
(What does this venue mean for the city of Louisville ?)
“It has a lot of history here. It has been here for 50+ years. There has been a lot done in this place and just to be able to come back home and play here with all of my family and friends means a lot to me.”
(What was your reaction like after the game?)
“There was a whole lot of text messaging, facebook and things like that. There was so much support. I am really looking forward to the game tomorrow. I am going to try and stay as focused as I can.”
(What exactly does Michigan State do and do they remind you of anybody you have played in the SEC?)
“Not anybody I can think of. I watched them before our game yesterday and I can see that they are real explosive and they do have talent and size. I am expecting it to be a great game and we're going to come out ready to play Kentucky basketball.”
Amber Smith Junior Guard
(What makes your pressure defense so effective?)
“It puts a lot of pressure on them and they get real rattled when I guard them. My teammates are denying them and that doesn't let the person that I am guarding get the ball.”
(When did the pressure defense become your team's identity?)
“I would have to say in preseason this year. The past two years we were not as much of a pressure team. In preseason, coach really got after us. We stepped up to the challenge.”
(You guys gave up a lot of points yesterday compared to how many you normally do, is that just a result of the up and down nature of the game or was there something else there that caused it?)
“I don't think we played our best game defensively yesterday and I think we will come back tomorrow and play better defense and get back to our identity of playing pressure defense. That was just us not being very focused on defense and we will not do that tomorrow.”
(Who do you credit with that?)
“I am not sure but I know we will come back tomorrow and play Kentucky defense like we have been playing.”