UK Hoops Practice Report: Sept. 17, 2014

Sept. 17, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The University of Kentucky women's basketball team had its first full team practice on Wednesday morning at the Joe Craft Center, as head coach Matthew Mitchell opened his eighth season at the helm of the Wildcats.

Kentucky practiced for an hour on Wednesday morning, working on defensive intensity and efficiency as the focal point of the session.

"We were just trying to get some team drills in," Mitchell said about the opening practice session. "We were doing some things that we think will help us play at a very fast pace. It's kind of funny how it starts out really slow to go through all the drills. It was a good learning day though, there's no way around it. We have to get out on the court and learn them. The players have had some good sessions in the small group, and I think we are ready to start coming together as a team.

Kentucky's up-tempo style of play and signature "40 minutes of dread" defense has wreaked havoc for opponents over the past five seasons. The Wildcats have ranked in the top five nationally in turnover margin, having forced more than 800 turnovers in four of the last five seasons. Since 2009-10, UK has compiled an impressive 118-27 record when forcing more turnovers than the opponent.

The Wildcats, who were ranked No. 6 in an early preseason poll by ESPN.com columnist Charlie Crème, returns seven letter winners from last season, including key players in Bria Goss (Chicago) and Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.), returning starting point guard junior Janee Thompson (Chicago) and sophomore guards Linnae Harper (Chicago) and Makayla Epps (Lebanon, Ky.). Adding depth to the post position are seniors Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) and Jelléah Sidney (Queens Village, N.Y.) New additions to the roster this season include junior-college transfer and 6-foot-6 center Ivana Jakubcova (Bratislava, Slovakia), freshman shooting guard Jaycee Coe (Gainesboro, Tenn.), freshman forward/center Alexis Jennings (Madison, Ala.) and freshman center Alyssa Rice (Reynoldsburg, Ohio). Sophomore forward Kyvin Goodin-Rogers (Lebanon, Ky.) also will be available for action after sitting out last season with a pulmonary embolism.

"Our goal is coming together and becoming our team and being our best," Epps said. "Accountability has really been stressed over the summer, especially with strength and conditioning. I've taken a major outlook on what I was eating on campus my freshman year and what I need to stop eating. I've stopped drinking soda, I'm running more, taking it more seriously and watching what I am eating. The transformation is great. I'm loving it. I'm moving better and I'm ready to get the season started."

Wednesday also marked the opening day for Big Blue Madness campout in Lexington, as 650 tents (as of 9 a.m. ET) have been placed around the Joe Craft Center for Saturday morning's Big Blue Madness ticket distribution. Big Blue Madness is set for Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. ET in Rupp Arena.

"This particular week is one of my favorites," Epps said about campout week. "This is one of my favorite things about being at Kentucky. Being from Kentucky, I know a lot of people out there, and a lot of people know me. I'm a people person. I love talking to them. I can't wait to be done with my day today because I'm going to go out there and roam around and see who I can find, and maybe throw some cornhole with some people.

"They have us surrounded here," Mitchell said about the campers. "It's such a unique thing and there is no other fan base that has the kind of passion that the Big Blue Nation has. It's such a fun event, and people want to be there. It's such an exciting night and to see people surround Memorial Coliseum just so that they can get a seat that night is really a testament to the passion for basketball and that event."

Tickets are free again this year, and there will be a limit of four tickets per person at Memorial Coliseum. Online orders will have a minimal service fee attached, and there will be a limit of four tickets per household. All duplicate orders will automatically be cancelled. All patrons require a ticket, regardless of age. Please note that due to the anticipated stage set-up inside Rupp Arena, the view may be partially obstructed during a portion of the event for the following sections: 11, 34-44, and 238-241.

The Cats will open the 2014-15 regular season with an exhibition home contest vs. Pikeville on Nov. 6 followed by a three-game homestand beginning with Appalachian State on Nov. 14. It will mark the first game between the Wildcats and the Mountaineers in school history. Following the home opener, UK will play host to the Baylor Lady Bears in Rupp Arena on Nov. 17 for its annual "Pack the House" event. UK and Baylor have become familiar opponents having played each other three times in the last two seasons, including twice last season. This year's game is part of ESPN's seventh annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon and set to tip at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Season tickets are available for purchase for $65 online at UKathletics.com/tickets or by calling the UK Ticket Office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-2287. Lower level reserved tickets for UK's game vs. Baylor in Rupp Arena on Nov. 17 are also available for only $9 by calling the UK Ticket Office. Seats will be assigned in September after the season ticket renewal deadline. All other single-game tickets will go on sale in late October.

For continuing coverage of UK women's basketball, log on to UKathletics.com.