Kentucky Media Opportunity - March 21, 2015

March 21, 2015

Kentucky Head Coach, Matthew Mitchell

On what was going on during the three-game losing streak …
“We just had a distracted group. We were distracted with different things going on, and I think it was just a bit of immaturity with our team. And so talking about it, we just talked about things I haven’t had to stress with prior teams – about having to stay focused – and it’s little things, but just trying to eliminate the distractions. Instead of everyone getting on the bus and putting their heads in their phones and kind of going in their own spot, let’s put the phones away and talk to each other and things like that. Nothing more dramatic than that, but it did have a dramatic effect on how the team connects. It’s just the way now. It’s not anything negative in the world except when you’re really trying to come together. When your team depends on being cohesive, and having to play together, and outhustling people, you have to work even harder to raise your level. Your ability to be connected is much more important than if you were just the most talented team in the country and you didn’t have to worry about that connection that you might have. It’s really what might on the outside seem small, like putting their phones away and talking to each other, spending time together in a team room with no distractions and no outside distractions has really had a powerful effect, (such as) taking the floor and running the warmups and putting them through where they can really stay focused and it’s more practice-like and you can warm up game speed. It’s just been more things where you can zero in and change their mindset, so it’s very simple, but pretty powerful.”

On what the biggest change was in the locker room after the three-game losing streak …
“I think what happened with us and our locker room was when Janee Thompson got hurt, she had that confrontational edge that could keep everybody (focused). The seniors have been great and they’ve done a great job, but they lead a little bit differently, maybe not so confrontational. That’s the good thing about Janee. Now she’s rehabbing off the court, and I think it was just a gradual – it kind of hit us before we knew it. We had a three-game slide and you saw how distracted everyone was and so we didn’t look like we had much to do in the NCAA Tournament when we left Oxford, Mississippi, but I would say we have a lot of ability to play well tomorrow and see if we can advance on a good Dayton team. A lot of things go into building a team and having a good team, and sometimes things happen all of the sudden we find ourselves in a spot like we did in the Ole Miss game kind of searching for what’s going on. That’s why I’m grateful for the seniors. They really confronted an issue that helped us have a chance to have some success in the tournament.”

On having former Dayton assistant coach Adeniyi Amadou as an assistant coach and its advantages …
“It might be more helpful if it was a game on the schedule and you had multiple days to really prepare and you had a team that is able to take in a lot of information and is really a veteran team that can kind of make changes on the fly. It might be more beneficial to a team like that. For our team, we just need to stay focused on what they need to do. I’ve said this many times, we can’t get overly focused on the opponent, especially in a tournament setting. Dayton does a great job, and they just execute so well, and they are very explosive offensively. So we will need to do the things that Kentucky does well to try and take them out of being able to execute. The advantage, I think, is negligible. It’s certainly not anything that we mention with our team. Does it give Dayton a little bit of an added motivation? You’d have to ask them. All I can do is get our team as prepared as possible and as we relay the information to the team. It’s not like we have some secret switch and knowledge that will turn the trip for us tomorrow. We’ve got to really focus in on playing well, so in this kind of setting, it’s really not much of a factor, I don’t believe.”

Kentucky Student-Athlete Jen O’Neill

On how they change defense into offense …
“Our defense creates our offense because when we play with a lot of energy and we play real intense and we get a lot of deflections because that’s how we get into transition and get easy buckets.”

On what makes Linnae Harper hard to guard …
“She’s probably our most talented player we have on the team. She’s a strong guard who can grab rebounds and she uses her body really well to score.”

On the high level of play in recent games …
“We’ve changed our mindset. After having our meeting with Matthew (Mitchell), everything has changed. But probably the whole highlight of the SEC Tournament was the meeting prior to.”

Kentucky Student-Athlete Bria Goss

On her defense …
“There are games where shots just don’t fall, but you can bring your defense to every game and you can really count on that. We count on our defense to get our offense started.”

On what makes Linnae Harper hard to guard …
“Linnae has a great first step and she rebounds the ball really well. Linnae is a very competitive individual and she is a lot of fun to play against.”

On what stands out to her about Dayton …
“Just watching them yesterday in the Iowa State game the thing that really stuck out to me was how fundamental they were and how well they execute and push the ball, and how well-coached they are. They’re a great team and it’s going to be a lot of fun to play against them.”