UK Hoops Travels to Central Michigan

Nov. 21, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 13/9 Kentucky women’s basketball team will travel to Mount Pleasant, Mich., for its first road contest of the season when it takes on the Central Michigan Chippewas Saturday, Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. ET in McGuirk Arena (5,300). The game will be streamed live on ESPN3.com and broadcast on the UK Radio Network with Neil Price calling the action.

Gameday Central
Kentucky vs. Central Michigan
Saturday, Nov. 22 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | CMU Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
Radio: UK Sports Network
Live Video via ESPN3
Online Audio
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Tickets are available on Central Michigan’s website www.cmuchippewas.com or by calling the Chippewas’ ticket office at 1-888-347-3872.

The Wildcats (3-0) are looking to open the season at 4-0 for the second straight year and fifth time in the Matthew Mitchell era. It’s been a jam-packed week for the Wildcats as Saturday will mark their third game in six days. UK played host to No. 8/9 Baylor on Monday in the opening game of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon in Rupp Arena. Paced by 22 points from senior guard Jennifer O’Neill, including 18 in the final stanza, UK clawed back from a 14-point second-half deficit to upset the Lady Bears, 74-64, in front of the second-highest crowd in school history (22,075). Just two days later, the Cats welcomed intrastate foe Morehead State in Memorial Coliseum at 11 a.m. ET for “Class of 2021 Day.” Over 1,500 sixth-graders from local elementary schools visited UK’s campus and helped cheer on the Wildcats to a 91-62 victory and UK’s 15th consecutive win over the Eagles in Memorial.

“It’s going to be a very difficult game,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They’re a very fine team, well-coached. We had a heck of a game here last year in Memorial and they have a lot of experience back and they are an explosive team. They are going to try to spread the floor and really drive the basketball, put a lot of stress on our defensive positioning. We’re going to have to play a really clean game, going to have to be in the right spots and do a great job with on-ball defense. So we tried to work on that yesterday. We’re going to try to work on it today and really guard the ball well tomorrow night, but it’ll be a tough game and they are a very, very dangerous team and they’re really good on their home court. So this is a big challenge for our team to go on the road for the first time.”

UK has benefited from a very balanced scoring attack through the first three games of the season as eight players are averaging 5.3 points per game or better, including five in double figures. This marks the first time in the Matthew Mitchell era that five players have averaged double figures in the first three games. O’Neill leads the way with 18.7 points per game, while sophomore guards Linnae Harper and Makayla Epps follow with 13.7 and 12.3 ppg, respectively. Junior point guard Janee Thompson is dropping in 11.3 ppg, while senior center Azia Bishop rounds out the double-digit scoring column with 10.3 ppg.

Located in Mount Pleasant, Mich., Central Michigan is 1-0 after defeating UMass, 72-70, in its season opener on Nov. 16. Four starters return from last year’s team that finished 20-12 and won the Mid-American Conference West Division title last season. The Chippewas were picked to win the MAC West and the league tournament in the preseason coaches’ poll.

Senior Crystal Bradford, who was the 2014 MAC Player of the Year and MAC Defensive Player of the Year, has picked up where she left off last season, averaging a team-high 17.0 points per game.

This marks just the second meeting between the programs in school history. The teams met for the first time last season in Lexington with the Wildcats coming out on top, 96-74. UK is 31-4 all-time vs. teams from CMU’s Mid-American Conference. UK has won 11 straight games vs. MAC opponents.

Pregame Media Opportunity - November 21, 2014

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

On UK’s signing class
“What we try to do in recruiting is identify players who are very high-character and who want to come to Kentucky and really develop as players but also develop as people and I’m really happy with the four players that are joining us. Really high-character group, hard workers, very talented. All can really come in and contribute to our program. The two kids from Kentucky, Maci Morris is a very, very high-level shooting guard and has a great feel for the game. When you watch her play, you can just see her basketball IQ’s very high and she just makes what I call winning plays. She just can get the ball in the basket and is not afraid to take the big shot and actually wants the ball in critical moments. So I love that about her. Great, great family and they’re Wildcat fans and so it’ll be great having Maci here. Morgan Rich is a very explosive athlete. I think she is going to be able to come in and play our up-tempo style and help us defensively and offensively. Her game, she can score – and Maci can too – in all three ways. She can shoot the 3. She’s got a good mid-range game. She can get to the bucket. She’s a very explosive athlete and I’m real excited about her future here too. So two great players from Kentucky that we’re very happy to have join in our family. Batouly Camara is a really highly rated post player and I would characterize her as a power post player, very good athlete, can really move, can run and great explosive jumping ability, but real tough, really well put together. Very, very strong. Is very energetic on the court. Talks a lot, which is helpful on defense. When you can get your post players talking a lot, it really helps you. And so she is a low-post player with some power, can get out on the perimeter and really drive the basketball. Good ball-handling skills for a post player. So I think she can really develop into a great one here at Kentucky, so we’re excited about her. And then Taylor Murray is the last player I’ll talk about, but she’s certainly not the least member of our recruiting class. She is a Kentucky point guard. She wants to play defense first. She will get her nose up on the ball. Reminds me of those early really good teams we had when Amber Smith would really get up on the ball and harass the ball handler and start our defense. She is that kind of player. Very fast, very explosive end to end with the basketball, does not turn the ball over. That’s another thing that I love about her. Just makes the simple plays. She’s not the kind of point guard that’s trying to make real flashy plays and drives you crazy as a coach. She really, really plays with a high level of intelligence and values the basketball and so that’s terrific for us. I just think she is, as all four of these players (are), really, really high character people. Taylor’s a really high-character young woman and I can say that for all of them. So we’re excited about our recruiting class and looking forward to it.”

On Central Michigan …
“It’s going to be a very difficult game. They’re a very fine team, well-coached. We had a heck of a game here last year in Memorial and they have a lot of experience back and they are an explosive team. They are going to try to spread the floor and really drive the basketball, put a lot of stress on our defensive positioning. We’re going to have to play a really clean game, going to have to be in the right spots and do a great job with on-ball defense. So we tried to work on that yesterday. We’re going to try to work on it today and really guard the ball well tomorrow night, but it’ll be a tough game and they are a very, very dangerous team and they’re really good on their home court. So this is a big challenge for our team to go on the road for the first time.”

On emphasizing taking charges …
“We will need to because I really believe they’re going to want to drive the basketball. They run a lot of drive and kick stuff. I think charges will be available in the game. We just have to take them. We did a pretty good job against Morehead State. Against Baylor we bailed out on a few we needed to take so it’s hard. It’s hard to be the best charge-taking team. You really have to not mind the contact. What we were doing some in the Baylor game was we were bailing out the charge moving. We were in position and just didn’t, you gotta take that hit and let the officials know that you’re there. There can’t be a lot of moving. It will be important this game, there’s no question about it.”

On going on an early road trip …
“It’s difficult for us. We just haven’t had a lot of practice time. We need to practice. So going on the road against a really high quality team, a tough team to play we’re just trying to go and play some good basketball. Not a whole lot much else to do there. It’s a quick trip. We’re going up there tonight, and coming back tomorrow night. It’s important for us to try and really stay focused. We won’t have the home crowd on our side to bail us out any time we have lapses in energy.  You really have to focus in on going and playing good basketball here, because we are going to have to play well to win tomorrow night.”

On evaluating UK’s young players …
“It’s not too early to evaluate where they are, it’s too early to know what they are going to be. They are still growing. I think that they’re developing at a good pace. They are contributing and doing good things for us. That was, Monday night, was a pretty high-level game. All the young ones functioned well at times, they made plenty of mistakes, but I don’t think we would have won the game without their contribution. They are coming along, but they have plenty of room to grow. Lots to get better at there for them on both ends of the court, defense and offense. I like them, they’re going to be good players.”

On having three primary ball handlers …
“I think it’s important. And it’s an important advantage, because we are not the most explosive, dynamic post players. We have to be strategic when we throw it into the post against big players. We have to use technique. Our guards play, being able to get out and really stress transition defense. In the second half we started getting some clean shots against Baylor. And Baylor wasn’t bigger than us in post, so it was really good that we were able to get the ball to wide open spots because of our pace. I don’t know that we can go toe-to-toe every possession. We’re going to have to do it some, but some of the best teams in the country are going to be bigger than we are. Guard play gives us a chance to be really good, and it helps us overcome some of our offensive deficiencies.  It’s why we work every day on trying to be a really fast and up-tempo team and having people who can handle the ball allows you to do that. When you put all three people on the floor at the same time, like we had at the end of the Baylor game you can do a few things. If you can guard them with that group you can do some things offensively. Going back to the Baylor game, they really had one primary ball-handler, and she is so good, but if you can find a way to ware her down – it took us 38 minutes and 30 seconds, but we finally got that one turnover. We were up 1, and she finally turned the ball over, I think it was just fatigue. Most teams only have one primary ball handler. We are very fortunate to have three who can do it.”

On who has done well taking charges …
“Kyvin has taken the most. She’s done a very good job.  Alyssa Rice really wants to do it, and that’s so great for us. She is right there in between being big enough to block shots, but we just believe when we start playing people a little bigger, that the time we spend trying to take charges is worth more than trying to get in there and block some shots. She has done a really nice job. Often times it has to be post players, because they are the ones down there trying to rotate and help. Azia doesn’t particularly like to do it. She’s trying, and she’s getting there. Alexis did everything she could to try to get out of the way of one against Morehead State and she got run over. We were cheering for that. She just couldn’t get out of the way of it. I looked at her, and she’s still breathing. They are not fatal to you, if you’ll take them you will be alright. The post players need to do a good job because it’s great to have two of them that are really searching for them, and trying to get them done. I’m telling you it’s a key to our team. You have Jennifer taking them. Bria and Jenee is taking them. We have a lot of people in the act right now. If we can get everybody taking them it will make us a good defensive team.”

On NCAA Regionals at Rupp Arena …
“I think it’s exciting for a number of reasons. No. 1 I think it’s very smart by the NCAA because I think with this much time to prepare we can get the community and really get people behind it. I’ve always thought Lexington was exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a downtown arena, and I think the fans are really going to enjoy downtown Lexington. With it being three years in a row, I’ve always thought that was smart to try to build an event in the community, and try to get that community to buy into it no matter who’s playing. We certainly playing in regionals and we want to be there, but if you take the Kentucky part out of it I think it’s going to be a really great event.”