UK Hoops to Participate in Paradise Jam

Nov. 25, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. -  The University of Kentucky women's basketball team will spend their Thanksgiving break participating in the Paradise Jam, Reef Division, Nov. 27-29 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The Wildcats will meet Illinois, Oklahoma and South Florida in the three-game event.

Gameday Central
Paradise Jam Island Tournament
Kentucky vs. Illinois
Thursday, Nov. 27 - 6:00 p.m. ET
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UI Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
Radio: UK Sports Network
Online Audio
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Live Video via Paradise Jam
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UK will tip off against Illinois in its first game Thursday, Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. ET followed by Oklahoma Friday, Nov. 28 at 6:15 p.m. ET and South Florida Saturday, Nov. 29 at 8:15 p.m. ET. All of the games will be streamed live on www.paradisejam.com and be broadcast live on the UK Radio Network with Neil Price.

Thursday will mark the sixth meeting between Kentucky and Illinois in the all-time series but the first since 1988. The Fighting Illini, who lead the series 3-2, have won the last three meetings, the last victory coming on Dec. 18, 1988 in Champaign, Ill., 84-71.

"We are off to a 4-0 start with some good results for us, but we really need to get better as a basketball team" UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. "We've got a tough week ahead of us with three games against some really quality opponents in three days. It will be a tough task. It's a great trip and a great tournament, and an opportunity for the players to experience some things that they've never experienced before. We're thankful to our athletic department for letting us have this type of experience."

Kentucky (4-0) is coming off a hard-fought, 71-68, road victory over last year's Mid-American Conference champions, Central Michigan. Despite an early 20-point first-half lead by the Wildcats, CMU put on its defensive clamps and pulled as close as three on two occasions in the second half, the final time with 40 seconds to go in the game. CMU attempted a game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds left but it missed the mark. Senior guard Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) led UK in scoring with 19 points after hitting a career-high tying five 3-pointers. Sophomore guards Linnae Harper (Chicago) and Makayla Epps (Lebanon, Ky.) added 12 and 10 points, respectively, while senior center Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds.

UK has had a very balanced scoring attack through the first four games as eight players are averaging 5.3 points per game or better, including three in double figures. O'Neill leads the way with 18.8 points per game, while Harper is second with 12.8 ppg. Epps follows 12.3 ppg, while junior point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago) and Bishop narrowly miss the double-figure mark with 9.3 ppg apiece.

This marks UK's second all-time appearance in the Paradise Jam. The Wildcats participated 10 years ago in 2004, defeating Duquesne (73-70) and falling to South Dakota State (57-55) and No. 17/18 Rutgers (75-60). Sara Potts was named to the All-Tournament team.

Pregame Media Opportunity - November 24, 2014

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement ...
"We are off to a 4-0 start with some good results for us, but we really need to get better as a basketball team. We've got a tough week ahead of us with three games against some really quality opponents in three days. It will be a tough task. It's a great trip and a great tournament, and an opportunity for the players to experience some things that they've never experienced before. We're thankful to our athletic department for letting us have this type of experience. We are really needing to improve defensively. You can be a really good defensive team if you give defensive effort. You're a great defensive team if you give consistent effort along with consistent fundamentals and technique. We are neither one of those right now. We are needing to try and get to the point where we are consistently giving the kind of effort that wins us games. In the Central Michigan game, we had good focus and caused a lot of disruption. In the second half we had very little attention to energy and very low-energy, and so that's my job as a coach to get that turned around. We certainly have the team that can do it, that can give energy that can be at the right place at the right time. We are very, very early in the season, and we have a lot of strides that we need to make defensively. Illinois, Oklahoma, South Florida are all excellent basketball teams with very good coaches and very good players and so this is a big, big week for us and we are going to go down there and see if we can improve. We really need to improve right now."

On if the defensive breakdowns are expected this early in the season ...
"It's expected that you're not going to be a finished product four games in, but there are some veterans that I would expect to be playing better defensively, and that's all a mental approach and a mental focus, and so you have to get that corrected. I believe that they have the type of character that when I show them on the film and you can make excuses, but we're not going to do that, but I don't think it's an unwillingness right now. It was four games in eight days and they were up 19 at halftime. We beat Baylor on Monday night because we were in better condition. I don't think that it was a clean game where we just out-executed them. We were just able to wear them down. Certainly in the other three games we were superior in talent, and that got us to 4-0. We can't take the approach of we beat Baylor, they're a highly-ranked team, and we just have to show up and take the floor. That's not our formula. Our formula is being honest with ourselves, working really hard, having some discipline, and I think once the players see that they have some visual evidence, they'll get it corrected. I certainly need to make sure that the atmosphere in practice gets it corrected as well. Part of that is on me as well, so I'm really, really hoping and I'll be working towards coaching them up here for this tournament. If we do nothing else, we will just be Kentucky tough and Kentucky tenacious, playing together and being the fastest, most disruptive, toughest team in that tournament. If we can accomplish those goals, the technique and the conditioning and those sorts of mistakes will start to work itself out, but right now the mentality has got to change from where it was on Saturday night."

On playing three games in three days ...
"Well, it can go either way. I think that if we can get really focused here for a couple of days and have some good practices, we have enough to win on Thursday. Thursday is the biggest game in my mind when you are playing three games in three days. If you look at our roster, and I haven't looked at the other two, but I assume Oklahoma and South Florida have some good depth, but we legitimately can go nine or 10 deep, and they're in excellent physical condition. We're not in the greatest mental condition right now because we need to make some better decisions on the court. But if we can get our focus to where it needs to be and we can really get after it on Thursday, then I think our style of play is difficult, if we use it to get ready for. You play a really different style of play on Friday night than you did on Thursday night and then the same thing on Saturday. It could work to our advantage, but we have to make it work to our advantage. It just can't happen in theory. We work really hard to be in the kind of shape to play three games in three days, so we will see. A lot of it has to do with how our players approach this week and I have to do a great job this week of making sure that we approach it the right way."