UK Hoops, Morehead Meet for First Time in 14 Years

Nov. 16, 2009

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – For its first road test of the season, the Kentucky women's basketball team travels to a place close to home but somewhat unfamiliar. The Wildcats meet Morehead State, located approximately 70 miles east of Lexington, Tuesday, Nov. 17 for the first time since 1995 and the first time in Morehead since 1991. Game time is slate for 7:07 p.m. EST and it will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network and the Wazoo Sports Television Network.

The game will be televised on Insight Lexington, Channel 524; Digital Channel WLEX 18.2; Access Cable, Channel 65; InterMountain Cable, Channel 256; Insight Louisville, Channel 432; as well as Digital Channel WHAS 11.3.

The one person that is quite familiar with the Eagles' program is third-year UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell. He served as the head coach at Morehead State from 2005-07, his first head coaching position. While at Morehead, he revived a declining women's basketball program by going 30-29 record (.508) - the third-highest winning percentage in school history. He led the Eagles from a 5-22 record a year prior to his arrival and to a 16-13 overall and 11-9 league record in his first season. His two-year MSU conference record of 24-16 (.600) marks the second-highest OVC winning percentage in school history and he was only the third coach in the program's history to post an overall winning record during his tenure.

“If they didn't have such a good basketball team it would mean more to me to be able to go over and enjoy the trip. It is a big game for us.” Mitchell said. “Morehead State was awfully, awfully good to me and they gave me an opportunity to be a head coach and I made some life-long friends there. We could talk a long time about what it did for me, Jenna and our family and the opportunities that it provided. We just need to go over there focused on what Kentucky needs to do and work hard to get a win.”

UK is 2-0 after defeating Boston (92-58) and Butler (87-66) over the weekend. The Wildcats scored 80-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time since 2006-07. Junior Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) dominated with consecutive double-doubles, including an impressive showing against Butler. The All-SEC forward scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed a career-best 18 rebounds in the win over the Bulldogs. She became the first Wildcat to score 33-plus points since 1987 and her 18 rebounds were the most by a Wildcat since 2007. It was her 15th career double-double, moving her to sixth on UK's career list.

“After watching the film of the Butler game, it was truly an impressive performance by Victoria Dunlap,” Mitchell said. “I was so impressed with her effort yesterday and you don't see a lot of days where a player scores 33 points and has 18 rebounds. That is not the most impressive part of her day either, her leadership and energy was just incredible. That was a good day for her and for our team.”

Dunlap leads three Wildcats in double-figure scoring, averaging a conference-high 28.5 points per game. Junior point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) follows with 13.0 ppg while freshman A'dia Mathies averages 11.5 ppg. Dunlap also is the leader on the boards with 15.0 rebounds per game. Senior Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) averages double-figure boards with 10.0 rpg.

Morehead, led by head coach Mike Bradbury, is 0-1 after falling to SIU - Edwardsville in its season opener, 67-64. The Eagles were picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference as four starters return from a squad that finished 17-14 overall, including an 11-7 mark in league play last season.

Junior guard Chynna Bozeman, who Mitchell recruited to Morehead, was selected as the OVC Preseason Player of the Year after earning first-team All-OVC honors last year. She was the only returning player in the conference this season to have earned a postseason All-OVC award last year. Bozeman tied the MSU single-season record with 95 three-pointers. She is the top returning scorer in the OVC this season and had a team-high 13 points and eight rebounds in the opener last week.

This marks the 27th meeting between the programs since UK became a varsity sport in 1974-75. Kentucky leads the all-time series with Morehead 22-4, including a 16-1 advantage when playing in Morehead.

This marks the first meeting between the schools since Feb. 15, 1995 and UK's first game at Morehead since Feb. 6, 1991. UK has won the last five contests against the Eagles with the last loss coming on Jan. 3, 1989 (74-80). UK is 76-16 all-time against teams from the current alignment of the Ohio Valley Conference. The Cats have won 22 consecutive games against OVC opponents.

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Press Conference Quotes

Opening Statement …

“After watching the film of the Butler game, it was truly an impressive performance by Victoria Dunlap. I was so impressed with her effort yesterday and you don't see a lot of days where a player scores 33 points and has 18 rebounds. That is not the most impressive part of her day either, her leadership and energy was just incredible. That was a good day for her and for our team. Tomorrow over in Morehead it is going to be tough test. They are picked to win their league and are extremely athletic and it will be a tough task for us to go over and win. We are excited about that opportunity and we look forward to playing the Lady Eagles tomorrow.”

On what he likes most about his team right now …

“The thing that I have been most happy with is how we have pushed the ball on offense, whether it is a missed basket or we just get the ball up the court and put pressure on the opposition to stop us. That is something that we worked very hard on in the preseason and that is probably the thing that I am most happy about. It takes a real commitment to run, and to do it relentlessly is great. That is something that we will have to continue to do all season.”

On A'dia Mathies

“I think that the most impressive thing about her is in her first two games she has been a double-digit scorer and a very impactful player and she hasn't played very well. I think that speaks to her gifts as a basketball player and her talent level. She is a really talented basketball player that I think is just going to get better and better. She wants to do well, too. She was upset with herself yesterday that she didn't play very well. Anytime a player cares about what she is doing it gives her a chance to be pretty good. Tack on that she is super talented, and it is a pretty good combination.”

On her not showing much emotion on the court …

“She is pretty stoic. She is just not a really talkative person. As we have gotten to know each other better she has a great personality and is one of the most intelligent basketball players that I have been around. We have her right now running one through four on offense and it is a lot to take in and she does it well. She is really smart and has a great personality but comes across a little quiet. She is a terrific student and player and we are glad that she is here.”

On Lydia Watkins' status …

“There is improvement (in her shoulder) but we are not sure. She is still day-to-day and we will have another look at her this afternoon. She was better yesterday than she was Saturday and she was better Saturday than she was Friday. It would really make a big difference is she was available tomorrow night. We are a little thin right now on the front line. If she is available it will help us tremendously. I think that we will improve the moment that she comes back. Not sure if she will play tomorrow night or not.”

On going back to Morehead …

“If they didn't have such a good basketball team it would mean more to me to be able to go over and enjoy the trip. I am not for sure how enjoyable the trip will be because we have been working so hard to get the win. It is a big game for us. We need to try to continue some positive momentum going forward. Morehead State was awfully, awfully good to me and they gave me an opportunity to be a head coach and I made some life-long friends there. We could talk a long time about what it did for me, Jenna and our family and the opportunities that it provided. The one thing is that I have remained very close with their athletic director and I am around so I am in tuned to what is going on over there and hopefully with us being so close I can stay connected to them. We just need to go over there focused on what Kentucky needs to do and work hard to get a win.”

On UK's fre- throw shooting …

“We are shooting free throws much better. If there were an art of science on coaching free throws then everybody would do it. I have tried a lot of different things. The first thing that has to happen is that the players have to get committed. They just have to get in the gym and work on it. We have tried to stress to them that if they make it a priority then they can get better. It is something that needs to happen for us. We are going to be an aggressive team and up-tempo team offensively. Some of our best offense yesterday was to drive the ball against Butler when they got in foul trouble. When you can couple that with going to the line and knock those down, that is good offense for you. You can't overstate the importance and we need to continue to shoot the ball well at the free-throw line.”

On Amber Smith and Amani Franklin taking some credit for Victoria Dunlap's free throw shooting this season …

“I think that they went in there and got her elbow straighter and worked on her follow through (jokingly). You are saying that Amber and Amani are taking credit for Vic's free-throw shooting? That is interesting. We will have to see what they did. They have done a fine job. We will give them a lot of credit (laughter from media). I don't know if she made 13 free throws all of last year and she did that on Sunday. In all seriousness, the commitment that Victoria has made is great. First of all, she was healthy throughout the summer for the first time and she really worked on her game. She is in phenomenal shape. She played 35 minutes yesterday and as I was watching the tape she was intense defensively at the end of the game. She hustled and got a runaway layup at the end of the game that showed her motor was still running. I give her a lot of credit for what she has been able to do with her game. I will investigate this thing about Amber and Amani.”

On if he has seen Victoria wanting to be more of a leader this season …

“That is a great question. Sunday morning when we came out for the shoot around, we have about an hour session there on game day, and I am always more in tune with their attitude and where they are. I told her last night that I was more proud of her on the effort that she gave to lead Sunday's shoot around. She is working hard and wants us to be good. One of the things that she has to do for us to be good is to be a leader. She is working at it and in the game yesterday on the bench while the coaching staff was getting stuff together to talk, she was talking to her teammates. She did a good job leading yesterday.”