Kentucky Media Opportunity

March 23, 2014

Matthew Mitchell, Kentucky, Head Coach:

On Syracuse and what they do well …

“Well, we had a great day yesterday and we had a significant advantage in personnel. This game, the difference in personnel is not as great, the advantage is not as great and we have to be ready to play. We really need a good day of preparation here to get ready for Syracuse. What I see with them is a team that is able to create some turnovers in a different way than we do. They full-court press you, three-quarter court press you, they’ve got some half-court traps that we’re going to have to deal with and then the 2-3 zone, which we’ve had some success against, but it certainly hasn’t been automatic this year. There have been times where we’ve struggled against the 2-3 zone. When you think about us offensively, we really just really need to be sharp during our practice session today and see if we can transfer from yesterday, which was all man-to-man, and now tomorrow is pretty much all a zone look unless Syracuse changes something up. (I’m) trying to get the players to switch gears and their preparation is going to be important today. And then offensively, they certainly have some explosive players that pose some problems for us. They have a big presence there with (Shakeya) Leary in the middle, and she had a big day yesterday in Chattanooga and we were impressed with her. (Tasia) Butler is a great shooter and I don’t know about (Brittany) Sykes and what her health is, but she is an unbelievable player. She is very, very high-level and just explosive. It’s a really good group of players there that are talented and have won some big games, so we’ll have to be ready for them.”

On how he prepares for Syracuse with the injury concern of Brittany Sykes …

“Well, with this short period of time, we’re just going to prepare like she’s going to play. I don’t know if this point in time with our team that we make it totally about the opponent. We really try and have a good plan that we can execute whether she’s playing or not. You may change it slightly. You may and try and do some things in the game a little bit differently if she’s not there. She’s a huge part of their team and she is a very explosive player and so certainly their dynamic will change. As far as our preparation. I think its wisest if we prepare like she’s going to play unless something comes out and they make some type of statement that she is definitely out and there’s no way, no how that she’s playing. I don’t think we’re going to get that word before practice, so we’ll prepare for Brittney Sykes.”

On the team’s performance against Wright State …

“I don’t know if there was anything in the game yesterday that I didn’t believe we were capable of. I was saying yesterday, that I was trying to go into yesterday’s game with the expectation that we needed to win and as a coach, I needed to be there as a coach to encourage them to do whatever they needed to do to win. I didn’t go in thinking we were going to win by 20, or 40, or anything like that. I sort of showed up with the mindset yesterday of let me do my part for the victory, let me coach the best that I can and lets see what happens. Nothing that they did really surprised me, but I was extremely pleased and grateful to the players that they came out and executed the gameplan. I think one thing that’s helping us right now is that we have a pretty good level of focus, so then that allows someone like Azia Biship and Jelleah Sydney to come in and you don’t have that big drop off from DeNesha (Stallworth) and Samarie (Walker) if they’re focused and energetic. Now we can get back to running and running players at you in waves and trying to ware you down and trying to make it a game of attriticion. Back in January, we weren’t focused and we weren’t confident and we weren’t able to throw a lot of people at you because we weren’t playing that well. I think the biggest takeaway for me yesterday is that if we can be in that mental place tomorrow, it can be really good fir us because I think we need this to be a fast-paced game, we need this to be a game where depth becomes a factor, and the only way that you can make depth become a factor is if your bench plays well. Yesterday it was good to see everybody in the same spot mentally where you didn’t have a big swing defensively when people came off the bench and replaced each other. That was one of the really good things about yesterday.”

On if he’s worried about a shooting letdown after yesterday …

“I tried my best to get into a positive place. I worry about a whole lot of stuff and then I try and stop myself and I try and get to a spot to where I don’t worry about it. What we’ll focus on today is we’ll try to focus on what we can control. We try to talk to the players all the time that you can’t let good execution, on-balance shots that don’t go in, you can’t let that affect you. We try to not and focus and put a big number on percentages and I would think that the team would only have that kind of game if they showed up tomorrow for some reason thinking that because we’re in Memorial (Coliseum) that it’s automatically going to happen. That would be the thing as a coach that as I coach, I’ll try and make sure that mentally they’re sharp and know that we’ve got to go out and play tomorrow night, and we’ve got to play tomorrow night. Saturday really doesn’t really come into play. We’re not going to shoot 57 percent because we did on Saturday. And we didn’t shoot 57 percent yesterday because we fooled around. We did some really good thing. We went to the offensive glass, we got some put-backs, things like that. I’ll be trying to get the team to a spot to where they come out with great focus and trying to do the right things that will help them shoot well.”

Samarie Walker, Kentucky Forward

On the precise game against Wright St. yesterday …

“I wouldn’t say I am amazed, I am proud of my team we have come out and played hard. It’s something that we’ve been working on all season but were finally starting to click and we knew that was what we were supposed to do and that’s what we did.”

On her play against a 2-3 zone …

“Yeah it’s a little frustrating for inside players because we don’t know where were going to get the ball, we have to work just a little bit harder than man. We might not always get the ball on the block which is where we want to get the ball, it’s a lot more movement for us but I think by now we should be used to it because that is what we got played most by in the SEC.”

On rebounding against a 2-3 zone…

“For me I wouldn’t say it’s either, I don’t think we crash the boards as hard when teams play zone on us/ We’ve been working on that a lot. For us playing zone, we have learned triangle. I don’t know if other teams do that, but yeah, it’s a little different.”

Jennifer O’Neill, Kentucky, Guard

On the 2-3 zone of Syracuse …

“Yeah I perk up a little bit but I think it should be easier for us because it’s just one thing we have to focus on, it’s the 2-3 zone. We don’t have to worry about them playing man or trying to switch it to a 3-2 or stuff like that. We know what they’re going to play and now we just have to go out and perform and execute.”

On being a 3-point shooter against a 2-3 zone …

“I have the same feeling when the team is going to play man.”

On watching the second game and their impressions of Syracuse …

“Yeah we got to watch some of the game and I feel like we could get the ball into the middle of the paint and short corners and then we’ll have success with scoring the ball.”