UK Hoops Opens 35th Season Against Michigan

Nov. 14, 2008

LEXINGTON, Ky. -

UK Hoops opens its 35th season of varsity women’s basketball Saturday, Nov. 15 when the Wildcats play host to the Michigan Wolverines in Memorial Coliseum. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST and the game will be carried live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with Neil Price. Fans that show their football game ticket vs. Vanderbilt will be admitted free, while supplies last.

The Wildcats are coming off exhibition wins over Kentucky State (99-28) and Bellarmine (72-69) last week. Senior forward Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) carried the Cats in both games, averaging an impressive 21.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The 6-3 forward/center hit a combined 17-of-21 shots from the floor for an 80.9 percent clip.

Michigan, under the direction of second-year UM coach Kevin Borseth, is coming off a come-from-behind win in its only preseason game against Northwood. The Wolverines trailed most of the game and took their first lead with under five minutes left. UM went on to win 71-66, led by senior forward Carly Benson’s double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

“We are far from a finished product,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We are still working on becoming the team we expect to have this year but I am extremely pleased with how our players have prepared this week. I am really confident that they are aware of the challenge that faces them tomorrow. Michigan is a team we have a lot of respect for and I know Coach Borseth will have his team ready to play and Kentucky will have to play some great basketball. We will be looking for great energy, effort and enthusiasm to win the game tomorrow.”

UK returns 10 letter winners from last season’s team that went 17-16 overall, finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference behind nationally-ranked Tennessee, LSU and Vanderbilt, and advanced to a school-record fourth straight postseason tournament. The most notable returnees are seniors Carly Ormerod (Louisville, Ky.), Roddy, and unanimous All-SEC Freshman team selections Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) and Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.). The foursome represents the leading returners in both scoring and rebounding. Dunlap averaged 7.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season followed by Smith who averaged 6.7 points and 3.4 rebounds per game despite missing 12 games due to a knee injury. Veterans Ormerod and Roddy, averaged 5.3 ppg and 3.4 ppg, respectively, a year ago but combined to miss 29 games due to injuries.

Michigan returns three starters from last year’s team that went 19-14 overall, 9-9 (T-6th) in Big Ten play. The Wolverines also return their top three scorers in 6-6 center Krista Phillips (10.3 ppg), 5-5 guard Jessica Minnfield (10.0 ppg) and Benson (9.6 ppg). Phillips also led the team in rebounds last season with 5.8 rpg.

Saturday’s season opener marks the fourth meeting between the Wildcats and Wolverines. Last season, UK narrowly fell to the Maize and Blue in Ann Arbor, Mich., 63-59. With a minute remaining, Michigan broke a 57-57 tie and hit 4-of-5 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory. Kentucky last defeated UM on Jan. 23, 1981 in Lexington, 98-71.

UK is 27-7 all-time in season openers and 31-3 all-time in home openers. The Cats have won their last 10 season openers, dating back to the 1998-99 season.

Single-game general admission tickets are available for $5 adults/$2 senior citizens and children 6-18. Ages five and under are admitted free. UK students, faculty and staff also are admitted free with valid identification based on availability. For ticket information, log on to ukathletics.com or call the UK ticket office at 859-257-1818 or 1-800-928-CATS (2287).

Fans are encouraged to park in Parking Structure 5 located next to Kennedy’s Bookstore on Limestone Avenue. Parking within Parking Structure 5 will be available free of charge. A shuttle bus service also will be provided and begins one hour prior to game time until one hour after the game. Additional game day parking is available in the E lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum including the Martin Luther King Parking Lot and the Student Center Parking Lot.

Pre-Game Michigan Press Conference, Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement…

“After a little more than 20 practice sessions the beginning of the regular season is upon us tomorrow afternoon when we tip off against Michigan at 2 p.m. We are far from a finished product. We are still working on becoming the team we expect to have this year. I am extremely pleased with how our players have prepared this week. I am really confident that they are aware of the challenge that faces them tomorrow. Michigan is a team we have a lot of respect for and I know Coach Borseth will have his team ready to play and Kentucky will have to play some great basketball. We will be looking for great energy, effort and enthusiasm to win the game tomorrow.”

On playing Michigan…

“We played Michigan last year. They are a very difficult team to guard because they run a true 4-out, 1-in, sometimes 5-out player motion offense. A lot of the decisions they make happen are due to reads they are making in their offense so it is a difficult team to prepare for in some ways. In other ways, it is a good test for us early in the season.”

On Michigan’s size…

“Krista Phillips is a huge presence in the lane offensively and defensively. She is a very good shot blocker on defense and she can score in a variety of ways on offense. She can be a dominate force in the low post and has very good shooting range which makes her difficult to guard. Michigan has some very good athleticism in their front court which makes a very good combination for them. Their size does concern me.”

On UK’s free throw shooting…

“What we tried to do yesterday in practice was make it clear to the players how important it is to focus and make free throws. We had a period yesterday that we designated to free-throw shooting. They focused in and shot free throws very proficiently at practice yesterday. I think it comes back to what we are trying to do as a team; we are trying to become a team. We are just a collection of players right now playing for Kentucky. It is not a right that has been bestowed on us that we are automatically a team. I think we are still in that development phase. Free throws are a great indication of people being able to focus in and understand how it impacts everybody on the team to step up and be a good free-throw shooter. It is going to be vital for our success this year. It was an area that gave us some trouble last year that prevented us from being as good as we could have been. We are working hard in that area.”

On the status of the injured players …

The first person I would address would be Amber Smith. Her knee is good. There is no swelling after practice sessions or games, which is a positive feedback. It’s frustrating for Amber because she wanted to go from the player she was before injury and the day she was cleared she wanted to be back at that level. The injury is affecting her mentally more than physically. Eleia Roddy is doing great. The player that concerns me the most from a physical standpoint is Lydia Watkins. She is still trying to get back in to the swing of things and she is critical to our success. I think her stress reaction and the time she has missed is holding her back. From where our concern level was and where we are now, I feel good going into the game tomorrow.”

On if recruiting was easier in his second year than his first …

“Where we are and where we are trying to go I don’t think the word ‘easy’ will ever be associated with (recruiting). We are trying to recruit the kind of player who will understand what a great opportunity it is to come to this program. It was very difficult and hard. We had great effort from our coaching staff and our players as we brought kids on campus. I think we ended up with the right kind of players who will succeed here. I think every place has a niche. I think there is a certain type of player who is going to fit in here at Kentucky and I feel confident we got those types of players signed. Recruiting is very difficult and competitive. We will always approach it with a lot of effort and energy and I think we will continue to have great success in our recruitment.”