UK Hoops Travels to Marist for Season Opener
Nov. 6, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 7/8 Kentucky women’s basketball opens its 40th season of varsity women’s basketball when it travels to New York for a two-game road trip this weekend. The Cats will first take on Marist in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be carried live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price, including locally on WWTF 1580 AM. A live video stream will be available through the subscription video portion of www.GoRedFoxes.com and fans can follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats.
|Kentucky at Marist
Fri., Nov. 8 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | MC
|Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via Marist
“We’re really excited to get the season started,” UK Hoops coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I thought we had a good day of work Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. I thought Eckerd College really did a good job of helping us get ready for this road trip. We have tremendous respect for Marist and their program. I think that Coach (Brian) Giorgis is one of the better coaches in our game. It’ll be a sellout crowd, so it will be an incredible atmosphere for women’s college basketball and we’re awfully excited to be a part of it. We get to spend a little time in New York City on Saturday and that’ll be good for our players from that region. Jelléah Sidney and Jennifer O’Neill are both from New York. Kastine Evans is from Connecticut and Bernisha Pinkett is from Washington D.C., so it’s good that we’re up in that region so some of our kids can get some friends and family to the game.”
Kentucky returns 10 letter winners and four starters from last season’s NCAA Elite Eight squad who won a school record 30 games. Leading the way this season will be All-Southeastern Conference performers Bria Goss, DeNesha Stallworth and Samarie Walker and NCAA Tournament Bridgeport Regional All-Tournament Team honoree Jennifer O'Neill. UK will lean on veteran leadership as nine of the 13 players on the roster are upperclassmen, including five seniors. New faces to the roster are McDonald’s All-Americans Linnae Harper and Makayla Epps. Freshman forward Kyvin Goodin-Rogers will not see action this season after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism.
Stallworth was named a preseason First-Team All-SEC selection by the coaches and media and is on every major national award watch list this season, including the preseason “Wade Watch”, the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 30 list and the Senior CLASS Award Top 30. Walker and O’Neill were named to the All-SEC Second Team by the league’s coaches for the 2013-14 season.
Stallworth posted a game-high 17 points and game-high tying six rebounds and two steals in UK’s 83-35 exhibition win over Eckerd College on Sunday, while Walker had 12 points and six rebounds. Epps came off the bench for 10 points, hitting 2-of-6 from the 3-point line.
Marist is coming off its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance after a 26-7 mark in 2012-13.
The Red Foxes went a perfect 18-0 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and won their 10th consecutive MAAC regular season championship.
Marist returns 11 letterwinners and four starters off last season’s NCAA Tournament team. Senior guard Casey Dulin is the team’s leading returning scorer after averaging 10.2 points per game. Returning with Dulin are all-conference selections sophomore guard Sydney Coffey, senior forward Emma O’Connor and senior guard Leanne Ockenden.
The Red Foxes are led by head coach Brian Giorgis who is in his 12th season at the helm. Under Giorgis, Marist is 277-80 which is good for a winning percentage of 77.6 percent.
This will mark the third all-time meeting with Marist but UK’s first in McCann Arena. The Wildcats defeated the Red Foxes in Memorial Coliseum last season, 78-56, and won 96-65 in the team’s first meeting in Lexington on Dec. 26, 1993.
Along with the game, both head coaches will be doing their part to help fight hunger in the Hudson River Valley. Giorgis, who is dedicating the 2013-14 season to hunger awareness in the Hudson River Valley, will be donating 10 cents for each person who attends a women’s basketball home game this season. The campaign will begin Friday against the Wildcats and Mitchell has agreed to match Giorgis’ donation in the season opener.
“Brian Giorgis is donating a dime for every person who attends a Marist home game this year and asked if we would match that during our game,” Mitchell said. “It’s a hunger initiative in the Hudson Valley and hunger is a national issue which breaks down into different regions. It’s an issue in the Hudson Valley and in the Bluegrass. The cause really hit close to home because we’re already involved in hunger awareness and hunger issues. (UK Athletics Director) Mitch Barnhart several years ago implemented a program to support God’s Pantry here in town. I’ve had the absolute honor of speaking at God’s Pantry and their big fundraiser the last three or four years, so I’m close to the organization. Our players work here with it and we also go out one night a year and actually go to the food bank. It’s an issue we are aware of and we want to bring awareness to. When Brian asked us to be involved with it in Poughkeepsie and in the Hudson Valley, we were happy to be a part of it and I commend him for bringing awareness to the issue there.”
Media Opportunity - November 6, 2013
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
“We’re really excited to get the season started. I thought we had a good day of work Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. I thought Eckerd College really did a good job of helping us get ready for this road trip. We have tremendous respect for Marist and their program. I think that Coach (Brian) Giorgis is one of the better coaches in our game. It’ll be a sellout crowd, so it will be an incredible atmosphere for women’s college basketball and we’re awfully excited to be a part of it. We get to spend a little time in New York City on Saturday and that’ll be good for our players from that region. Jelleah Sidney and Jennifer O’Neill are both from New York. Kastine Evans is from Connecticut and Bernisha Pinkett is from Washington D.C., so it’s good that we’re up in that region so some of our kids can get some friends and family to the game. Then we’ll go out and play Wagner College on Sunday, so it should be a good opening weekend for the Wildcats. We’re ready to get it going.”
On if he wanted to open the season on the road…
“Scheduling is such a dynamic thing, so I don’t really have any set goals before we go into a season. Often times you are working off two-year contracts, so just trying to figure out when you can actually play certain games is always a challenge. You aren’t always working with your schedule, but you are working with other school’s schedules. Now that it’s here, I think it’s a tremendous benefit. I think there is tremendous benefit by starting the season with a team that we feel like can be very good and can be challenged the opening night. We could be here in Memorial Coliseum and playing a team that is not of the quality or caliber of Marist and not be nearly as challenged. Practices have been different and the sense of urgency to get prepared has been different, which are all good things. If we don’t talk to each other and if we don’t play with tremendous defensive fundamentals and if we don’t really have a sharp mental focus then it will be trouble. It’s a great, great thing to go to Marist and have to prepare for all that, so I think it will do nothing but benefit our team down the road. I’m excited about the opportunity and we’ll have to play well to win.”
On what he took from the exhibition versus Eckerd College…
“I am really grateful to Eckerd College for being so well-coached and for giving us a look that I think we will see a lot of this season. You saw Samarie (Walker), DeNesha (Stallworth) and Azia (Bishop) all had very productive days from a statistical viewpoint. We just have to believe that teams are going to realize that and are going to try and take our inside presence away. On a poor shooting day we just have to continue to take some shots that are a little easy to take instead of working a little bit harder and finding some paint points. The film was very valuable. It was a 50-point margin, but still extremely valuable. Eckerd gave us a real gift from that standpoint. That’s what our focus has been, trying to really focus on our defensive fundamentals. Marist is such a good motion offense team and you don’t know exactly what they’re going to do. We have to be ready to make some plays and then just try and get as many paint points as we can against a sagging defense.”
On Janee Thompson and Jennifer O'Neill battling for the starting point guard spot…
“I think Jennifer and Janee can be such a lethal combination at point guard. They are so similar. They have an incredible amount of talent and they have speed, quickness and explosiveness. All the things we value and we have two of them that can really push tempo for 40 minutes and I just don’t know of a situation that could be a lot better for this team. There’s not a tremendous amount of difference in either one of them, so as you try to figure out who is going in the game first, it comes down to practice. The kind of attention you pay to detail and the way you approach practice, so that’s really where the decision has been made. Jennifer hasn’t had terrible practices but she hasn’t practiced as sharp as Janee. That’s really not a knock on Jennifer, but a compliment to Janee. Janee has been extremely focused and sharper. Like I told Jennifer, it doesn’t matter to me if she starts or comes off the bench because she’s going to play. I just get concerned that her lack of attention to detail is going to catch up with us not only this season, but also when she stops playing basketball. We’re just trying to get Jennifer to focus more on preparing before she steps on the practice court. Once she gets on the practice court and I make corrections then she usually gets it going. I want her to move beyond that point. Somebody has to start the game and I don’t know if Janee will start every game this season because it is that competitive. It’ll be sorted out in practice the way every position is.”
On how practices have been going leading up to the season-opener…
“This team has practiced so hard in preparing for this season. I’m really excited to see them play. I’m excited for them. We hold them to such a high standard. I don’t know if people realize this, but because of academics and how important it is for our seniors to get their degree and be able to do that in a timely fashion, our team has been up early every practice session. We’ve practiced early in the morning every time since September and then you include how early they got up during the summer, so this team has worked extremely hard. I’ve been very excited to go to practice with them every day.”
On how the team deals with preseason accolades…
“We just don’t ever talk about them. They never come up in conversation because we’ve got too much work to do. We have such a great opportunity in front of us. DeNesha (Stallworth) is told every day in practice how valuable she is to our team, not because of any award she is going to win, but because our team needs her to do well so we can all be successful. I’m very appreciative of the coverage and of the excitement those kinds of awards have for our fans. I think it’s wonderful our fans are excited about this team in Lexington and around the country for our high preseason ranking and preseason awards. Those things we are grateful for because there was a time at Kentucky where it didn’t happen, so I’m not trying to be cavalier about it, but as far as our day-to-day operations we just never speak about those things. We do have a clear vision of what we can be and we’re trying to become that.”
On how this team compares to last season’s…
“This team has been much more energetic than, say, last year’s team. They seem to be having a lot of fun together, which is fun for me. It’s not just blood and guts every single day and I have to just wring it out of them. We are having some really intense practice sessions but we’re having probably as much fun as I can remember. I don’t know if I’m having more fun or the players are having more fun. It seems like the players really like each other and they work together real well. When they do have a struggle, they bounce back quickly which indicates that it matters to them. I get frustrated with this group a lot less and it sort of magnifies when you do get frustrated with them. I’m expecting us to go to New York and compete real hard against Marist and enjoy every second that we have in the city on Saturday and then go play real hard against Wagner and enjoy the trip back home Sunday evening. I think this team needs to be there. I think for us to reach our full potential they need to play with some joy in their heart and they need to have some fun and enjoy being with each other. It looks like they’ve done that so far.”
On the hunger initiative Marist and UK are teaming up together for this weekend…
“Brian Giorgis is donating a dime for every person who attends a Marist home game this year and asked if we would match that during our game. It’s a hunger initiative in the Hudson Valley and hunger is a national issue which breaks down into different regions. It’s an issue in the Hudson Valley and in the Bluegrass. The cause really hit close to home because we’re already involved in hunger awareness and hunger issues. Mitch Barnhart several years ago implemented a program to support God’s Pantry here in town. I’ve had the absolute honor of speaking at God’s Pantry and their big fundraiser the last three or four years, so I’m close to the organization. Our players work here with it and we also go out one night a year and actually go to the food bank. It’s an issue we are aware of and we want to bring awareness to. When Brian asked us to be involved with it in Poughkeepsie and in the Hudson Valley, we were happy to be a part of it and I commend him for bringing awareness to the issue there.”
#32, Kastine Evans, G
On teamwork this year…
“I agree. A lot has to do with our change in our offense with A'dia (Mathies) here last year. We've had a lot of changes here since then. We're playing according to our personnel and the athletes that we have especially with the incoming freshmen and the veterans that are still here. So I think a lot of changes in our offense have made that choice where everybody is going to be involved and making plays and playing basketball.”
On beginning the season on the road…
“I think it's a good test especially because we played Marist last year here so we have an idea of how they play and their style of play. They are a really good team they always do a really good job in their conference and make it to the NCAA tournament. It will be a really good test for us and a win that we will definitely want later in the season. We've worked really hard we've gotten an earlier start this year and have been able to start workouts in the summer. I think we're further along than we were last year so it will be a good run for us. ”
On if she likes the early start to the season…
“Definitely. Starting earlier gives us a chance to work with the coaches, start on the playbooks and start on execution on offense and defense. It is definitely better to start earlier because we get a wrap on the fundamental stuff a lot earlier. ”
#13, Bria Goss, G
On beginning the season at Marist…
“We're fortunate to play such a great team at the beginning of the season. Marist is very fundamentally sound. It will be a very good test to see where we are at early in season. We are very fortunate to play a good team like Marist.”
On this year’s team…
“We're such a dynamic team this year that there's not just one scorer anymore. If they're packing it on DeNesha, DeNesha is able to get it out to shooters and if shooters are guarded we're able to pack it in to Samarie. We're just really fortunate to have a whole bunch of scoring opportunities on this team.”
On having some offensive woes in the exhibition game…
“We're a better offensive team. We're always going to have off nights, but maybe it was just jitters, nervousness and excitement to play. We came out with really good energy and even though we weren't knocking down our shots, we still scored 83 points which was really good. It opens up for rebounding opportunities, put-backs and kick-outs. Although we weren't able to stoke it from outside from a high percentage we were still able to put a lot of points on the board. I think that says more than our shooting percentage. ”