UK Hoops Takes Winning Streak on the Road to Middle Tennessee
Nov. 22, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The seventh-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team will put its 15-game winning streak vs. regular season non-conference opponents on the line when it travels to Murfreesboro, Tenn., Sunday, Nov. 24 to take on Middle Tennessee in the Murphy Center at 5 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on MyTV 30 in the Nashville area and on the CW in Lexington. It also will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and fans can follow Twitter updates on @UKHoopCats.
|Kentucky at Middle Tennessee State
Sun., Nov. 24 - 5:00 p.m. ET
Game Notes: UK | MTSU
Radio: UK IMG
Live Video via MTSU
Tickets are available by calling 1-888-YES-MTSU or online at goblueraiders.com.
The Wildcats (5-0) are looking to capture their first win in Murfreesboro, Tenn., since 1989 as the last five meetings have been decided by the home team. UK defeated MT last season in Memorial Coliseum, 68-46, but fell to the Blue Raiders on their home floor the previous season, 70-58.
"I think, clearly, Middle Tennessee is the most gifted team we've played to date," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "Middle Tennessee has some really good players and you know they are going to be well-coached. Rick Insell is one of the best coaches in the country and certainly one of the great coaches in women's basketball right now. They'll be well-prepared, they'll be talented and the environment will be hostile with a great, great crowd at Middle Tennessee. It's a tough place to play and a difficult place to win. We will have to prepare well to make certain we're ready to go down and earn a victory."
The Wildcats are coming off 116-49 rout of Lipscomb on Thursday in Memorial Coliseum. The 116 points are the most in the Matthew Mitchell era and second-most in school history. A school-record eight players scored in double digits, led by junior Bria Goss' (Indianapolis) 18 points in just 17 minutes of play. Sophomore point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago) followed with 16 points and career-high seven rebounds, while senior guard Bernisha Pinkett (Washington, D.C.) added 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Senior forward DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) scored 14 points all in the first half and senior Kastine Evans (Salem, Conn.) and freshman guard Linnae Harper (Chicago) netted 12 points apiece. Junior point guard Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) came off the bench for 11 points and senior Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) charted her second straight double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds, just one shy of her career high.
UK, which leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense, scoring margin assists and steals, has scored 90 or more points in four straight games for the first time since the 1990-91 season. The Wildcats have also dished out 20 or more assists in four straight games for the first time since the 1982-83 season.
Overall, Stallworth, an All-America Candidate, leads a very balanced scoring attack this season. She averages a team-high 15.0 ppg, while Evans follows with 12.8 ppg. Goss and Thompson also are averaging double figures this season with 10.8 and 10.2 ppg, respectively. Walker, who has posted back-to-back double-doubles, is the team's leading rebounder with 10.0 rpg.
The Blue Raiders enter the game at 1-2 after losses to Tennessee (67-57) and Arkansas (66-51), while defeating Miami (61-55). This marks the first season in the Conference USA for Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders were picked to win the Conference USA in their inaugural season as members of the conference.
Leading the way for the Blue Raiders again this season is senior forward Ebony Rowe of Lexington, Ky. The former Dunbar High School standout is the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder, averaging 20.7 points and 12.0 rebounds.
Sunday will mark the 16th meeting between the schools, the fifth consecutive. The Cats lead the overall series 11-4, but the series is tied at three apiece when the game is Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Media Opportunity - November 22, 2013
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
"I think, clearly, Middle Tennessee is the most gifted team we've played to date. Middle Tennessee has some really good players and you know they are going to be well-coached. Rick Insell is one of the best coaches in the country and certainly one of the great coaches in women's basketball right now. They'll be well-prepared, they'll be talented and the environment will be hostile with a great, great crowd at Middle Tennessee. It's a tough place to play and a difficult place to win. We will have to prepare well to make certain we're ready to go down and earn a victory."
On what the team has focused on in practice with a short turnaround...
"Today is just really all about preparation for Middle Tennessee and so you just cut down on some of the fundamental blocks that we have in practice. We just try to get right into game preparation. We'll try to give the players a good plan for what we expect to see from Middle Tennessee."
On how this will help the team get familiar with the turnaround that the team will see in conference play...
"It's a like a normal SEC game week, where you have a Thursday night game and then Sunday afternoon game, so I think it's a good opportunity to show this team what the routine is like for an SEC weekend."
On how much the coaches have to study film on Middle Tennessee since the two teams have played each other frequently...
"As far as what Middle Tennessee does, I think they are staying true to what their principles are and what's made them successful over the years. From a real broad sense, you do kind of know what they like to do, but each team is different. Their team is different, our team is different. They certainly have some very talented newcomers. I think Ebony Rowe is better than she's ever been and so you still have to look at this game, this team and you can't go totally by history. You can learn by history and have some knowledge of what you might expect down there. Watching them play this year and getting a feel for their team this year is very important. I just think they have some really high-level players that are very aggressive. I think this is one of the strongest teams I've seen them have, they have some really strong players. We'll have to be ready and we'll have to play well to earn a victory."
On Ebony Rowe...
"What I love about Ebony is that she's just gotten so much better, if you think about where she was as a junior and senior in high school and I watched her a bunch. To see where she's evolved today is just a really versatile, well-rounded player. She struggled with free throws early in her career and now she's making free throws, so just tells you she's the kind of player that got better every year. Coach Insell did a great job of having her in an environment where she could develop. She's just a great, great college basketball player. I think the world of her; she has a great family, great people. I'm glad to see her have the success she's had, but I'm going to try hard for her to not have any success on Sunday, but that's hard to do with a player like that."
On if he looks to the veterans to set the tone in a game like this where UK hasn't won at MTSU the last two trips...
"I look to the veterans a lot to set the tone in every game and Kastine Evans is a good one as far as knowing what we need to do mentally to prepare. She`s doing such a great job of that day in and day out in practice and in games. I feel good that we have some veteran leadership right now. I think it's always helpful when you have some experience to try to get yourself ready and then you can also help others get ready because some of the younger players haven't been in that environment. It will be loud and it will be tough, but that's good for this team. We've responded well on the road two times already, so I'm glad we have that experience under our belt too."
On the team writing points of improvement on the board during halftime...
"Earlier in my career here, one thing I wanted to improve on is to get more focused at halftime and having productive halftime meetings. Then giving the players some kind of ownership in that as well because the coaches, we would always huddle together and talk about the half. We just wanted to make sure that no matter if you are up or down or where you are, you will have some positive points and some points for improvement in the second half. That gives the players more of a focus while we're trying to get our thoughts collected. It's been really good to see that evolve to what the coaches talk about and we walk in and what the players have written down has really matched up well, which tells you the players are in-tune with what we need to be doing to be successful. It's something we came up with three or four years ago to try to have more productive halftime meetings."
#32, Kastine Evans, Sr., G
On last night's win and how the team is preparing for MTSU...
"Last night's win was really good for us. We played really well. Obviously, you could see that the scoring distribution was pretty well around the team so a lot of us have a lot of confidence going into this game. Middle Tennessee is a great team. They have a great player in Ebony Rowe. She's from right here in Lexington. She's always played really hard against us so I know it's going to be a great matchup for us and they're a great team and we're excited to go down there and play them."
On what she remembers about past games at MTSU...
"I'm a senior and I've played there twice. I haven't won there yet so this is definitely a game that I'm excited to play and really go down there with a lot of intention on winning this game. With former Coach Insell being here it was always a really high, competitive atmosphere so I'm expecting that again, just from the relationship that Coach Mitchell has with Coach Insell down there. Just going in with a lot of fire, a lot of confidence from the production that we've had offensively in making it a good road trip."
On whether this is the fastest team she has ever played on offensively...
"I think we always had the same type of athletic caliber teams. I think our offense is a lot different this year, where that's something that we're looking for more. We don't have a lot of offensive sets. We're really relying on our athleticism and pushing the ball and a lot of fast-paced up and down. I think last year we got in a situation where we were slowing the ball down a lot more so I think with the new offense that we have in and being focused on what we're trying to accomplish has helped us a lot this year."
On what she has seen from her two point guards sharing a position...
"I think it's great. It's hard having one point guard really play for 40 minutes or even 35 minutes so having both of them come in kind of split time. Both of them are very dynamic point guards: very quick, very smart. They make a lot of great plays on the floor for everybody else so having them come in and not have a drop down in level is really good for us."
On how important these early road trips are for long-term preparation...
"I think it's going to be really good for us. Especially in the next week and a half, we have Louisville coming up, which is a great team. This MTSU team is really dynamic. They always go to the NCAA Tournament so it's always a great opportunity for us, as long as we use it how we should."