UK Hoops Travels to Morehead for Season Opener
Nov. 10, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 18/15 Kentucky women’s basketball team opens its 38th season of varsity women’s basketball when the Wildcats travel to Morehead State in Morehead, Ky., on Friday, Nov. 11. Game time is 7 p.m. ET in the Johnson Arena.
|Kentucky at Morehead State
Fri., Nov. 11 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK
|Radio: UK IMG
The game can be heard live on 1580 AM in Lexington or www.UKathletics.com with Neil Price calling the action for the sixth consecutive season. Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
“We are looking forward to getting the season underway tomorrow,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It’s an exciting time of year and our team has worked extremely hard in preparing for this game and the 2011-12 season. I am really happy about our effort in practice up to this point. We still have a long way to go but it will be good to get to play a game tomorrow. (Morehead State) is a tough opponent, they have scored a bunch in their first two exhibition games, they are averaging 96 points a game and forcing a ton of turnovers. It looks like they are really trying to play a full court game, up tempo on defense and offense. We are going to have our hands full and should be a great way to get the season started off. We are certainly going to go over there and work hard in order to earn a victory.”
Friday marks just the ninth time in school history the Wildcats have opened the season on the road. UK is 3-5 in season openers away from home but has won seven consecutive games over the Lady Eagles and two-straight season openers.
Mitchell welcomes back 10 letter winners, including four starters from last year’s 25-9 team, as well as redshirt senior guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.), who started in all 36 games during UK’s magical run to the Elite Eight in 2010. Also returning for the Cats is junior guard A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.), who was a second-team preseason All-America choice by Sporting News and a first-team All-SEC selection. Mathies needs 74 points to become the 28th member of UK’s 1,000-point club.
Additional returning letter winners include senior guards Crystal Riley (Memphis, Tenn.) and Keyla Snowden (Lexington, Ky.), one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in UK Hoops history, junior forward Brittany Henderson (Pasadena, Calif.), sophomore guard Maegan Conwright (Arlington, Texas), sophomore forward/center Samantha Drake (Bardstown, Ky.), sophomore guard Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.), sophomore guard Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) and All-SEC freshman team selection Bernisha Pinkett (Washington, D.C.). Kentucky also welcomes three talented freshmen to the roster in Bra’Shey Ali (Plainfield, N.J.), Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) and McDonald’s All-American Bria Goss (Indianapolis). Sophomore transfer Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) will add talent and depth to the UK front court. The Connecticut transfer will be eligible to play after the conclusion of the 2011 fall semester, per NCAA transfer rules.
The Lady Eagles, led by second-year head coach Tom Hodges, boast a youthful roster in 2011-12, with seven freshmen and five sophomores.
Morehead State was picked fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason poll, while senior Courtney Lumpkin and junior Ashley Harris were selected to the preseason All-OVC team.
This marks the 29th meeting between the programs since UK became a varsity sport in 1974-75. Kentucky leads the all-time series with Morehead 24-4, including a 7-3 advantage when playing in Morehead. UK has won seven in a row over the Lady Eagles, including an 82-48 win last season. The Wildcats forced 36 turnovers and Mathies scored a team-high tying 18 points on 6-9 shooting from the field.
Pre-Morehead State Quotes - November 10, 2011
Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
On the upcoming season…
“We are looking forward to getting the season underway tomorrow. It’s an exciting time of year and our team has worked extremely hard in preparing for this game and the 2011-12 season. I am really happy about our effort in practice up to this point. We still have a long way to go but it will be good to get to play a game tomorrow. (Morehead State) is a tough opponent, they have scored a bunch in their first two exhibition games, they are averaging 96 points a game and forcing a ton of turnovers. It looks like they are really trying to play a full court game, up tempo on defense and offense. We are going to have our hands full and should be a great way to get the season started off. We are certainly going to go over there and work hard in order to earn a victory.”
On Morehead State playing fast…
“Well I don’t know if I mind it or not, we’ll see. It depends on how well we’ll be able to do that. We are certainly going to try to play that way and we’re certainly going to try to do the things we have been working on. Early in the season I think it’s important to work on your identity and what you’re trying to become and what you’ve been working hard on in practice. There’s not a lot you know about these early opponents so you really need to focus on what you want to do. At Kentucky this season, we’re going to try to be a real up-tempo and fast-paced team.”
On playing Morehead State annually…
“We have a close relationship with Morehead. They gave me an unbelievable opportunity and I have a lot of gratitude for that institution and those people over there. It is a series that I will be interested in as long as it’s good for Morehead State too – as long as it’s good for both programs I think it is something we would continue with. I just have the utmost respect for everybody over there, and certainly their basketball team. They have a good basketball team this year. It’s a series that I enjoy having.”
On if he has a special suit planned for the game like Coach Hodges at Morehead wears…
“I made a big enough fool of myself over there at Midnight Madness dancing. Not to say Coach Hodges will look anything but dapper tomorrow I’m sure. But no, I will try to stick to more basic attire tomorrow.”
On A’dia Mathies’ game and how it’s improved…
“It is really good right now, and when A’dia Mathies is playing well, she is one of the best players I have ever been around. She is a very talented player. She just struggled at the end of last season and this summer and I was very concerned about her. She has, at this point, put all those concerns to rest as we head into the season opener. I just think she has gotten to a really good place right now, mentally and emotionally. She seems to have taken some steps forward in the leadership department and just the way she has carried herself gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow’s game. She has done a really good job on all the intangibles and that is something I have really stressed with her and that is important to our overall team’s health. She just has to be a really steady factor and influence for this team. She’s done that. Basketball wise, she has seemed to take on whatever roles we have asked her to take on and she just seems to be in a good spot.”
On the number of different players at the point guard position…
“I think it’s a good situation for us from a talent standpoint that we have a few players who can play that position. It will be interesting to see how it evolves. We would love for, and we believe that, Amber Smith will be a big, big part of that position and will do a good job. Crystal Riley is another player that has been a little limited and a little hobbled – she’s been dinged up a little bit. When she’s fully healthy she can run that position and can really help us. Having two players like Maegan (Conwright) and A’dia (Mathies), Maegan’s the starter right now just as Amber’s trying to work back. We just don’t know how it will all shake out as far as who starts and who comes off the bench, but I think that we have enough players on the roster who can do what a Kentucky point guard needs to do, and I would think by season’s end that would be a strength on our team. That’s how I see it evolving.”
On who is taking over the role left by Victoria Dunlap down-low in the post…
“I think this will be a little bit of a different team from last year – well I know this will be a different team from last year. But from the post position, I like our balance. Certainly, if you want to go out in practice and establish yourself as the cream of the crop and better than everybody else, that’s available every day. What I’ve seen in practice, and what I like, is we have some balance at that position. That’s not a situation where I’m going in tomorrow, just saying, ‘Hey, Brittany Henderson has to go put up huge numbers or we don’t have a chance to win.’ I think we can get balance from that position and that’s something that I tend to like. I don’t think we’re going to depend on just one person. I think it’s so easy to key on one person, and if you are depending on one person and they shut that one person down I think put your team in a bad position. While we loved have Victoria here, and she was a great player, I would always prefer to have two or three Victoria’s if we could. That’d be a better situation to have some balance there. I think our balance in the post position could be something that makes us real strong.”