UK Hoops Battles WKU In Bowling Green
Dec. 3, 2008
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky women's basketball team travels to Bowling Green, Ky., Thursday, Dec. 4 to take on intrastate rival Western Kentucky at 8 p.m. EST in E.A. Diddle Arena. The game will be televised live on the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network / Fox College Sports Atlantic and broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.
Thursday's game marks the 29th overall meeting with WKU since UK's women's basketball team became a varsity sport during the 1974-75 season. It also marks the teams' first outing in Bowling Green, Ky., since 2003 when UK defeated the Lady Toppers, 76-63. UK is 15-13 all-time against the Lady Toppers but the series is knotted at six apiece when the game is played away from Lexington.
"Western Kentucky is another chance for us to take steps forward as a team and get better," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said "They're a good team which is off to a good start and they have a lot of weapons. As I look at them on film they seem to be playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. They will be a strong test. I think it's a tough game to go on the road with one day of preparation against a good team but we are excited about getting in the gym and getting better."
As of late, the teams have kept it close except for UK's 27-point win in 1999 and 13-point advantage in 2003. Five of the last seven games in the series have been decided by six points or less, including two in overtime. UK went 4-3 in those contests, including 1-1 in extra minutes.
The Wildcats (4-2), in the midst of playing three games in five days, look to put their shooting woes behind them and recover from a 67-44 setback at No. 23/21 Xavier on Tuesday. UK struggled to find the basket, netting just 44 points while shooting a season-low 21.0 percent from the field. Junior guard Amani Franklin (Stone Mountain, Ga.) was the only Wildcat to score in double-digits with 13.
"We did not execute when things got tough," Mitchell said. "We'll have to do a better job of putting them in adverse situations where they can still execute, because once we got into a bad rhythm there early, we started playing a lot of one-on-one stuff and we're not a one-on-one team. We really need to play a team offense, set screens, be in the right place at the right time and I feel like we just hit the panic button. In the maturation of a team, that's a stage you have to go through and we'll learn from last night, definitely."
Sophomore forward Victoria Dunlap (Nashville, Tenn.) is UK's overall leader in scoring and rebounding, averaging 12.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Franklin follows in the scoring column with 9.2 points per game while senior center Eleia Roddy (Columbus, Ohio) averages 7.2 rebounds a game.
Western Kentucky (4-2) is coming off a buzzer-beating 60-59 win at Louisiana Tech on Sunday. The Lady Toppers, members of the Sun Belt Conference, only losses have come against nationally-ranked Vanderbilt and Duke.
Sophomore Arnika Brown leads two players in double-digit scoring this season, with 17.2 points per game. She also averages double-figures in rebounding with 13.0 rpg. Kenzie Rich follows in the scoring column with 14.2 ppg.
For ticket information call the WKU ticket office at 1-800-5-BIG-RED or 1-270-745-5222 or go online at wkusports.com.
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
"Western Kentucky is another chance for us to take steps forward as a team and get better. They're a good team which is off to a good start and they have a lot of weapons. As I look at them on film they seem to be playing with a tremendous amount of confidence. They will be a strong test. Playing them down there, it will be tough. We look forward to practice this afternoon."
On the Xavier game...
"It was a combination of a lot of things. We did not execute when things got tough. We'll have to do a better job of putting them in adverse situations where they can still execute, because once we got into a bad rhythm there early, we started playing a lot of one-on-one stuff and we're not a one-on-one team, whatsoever. We really need to play a team offense, set screens, be in the right place at the right time and I feel like we just hit the panic button. In the maturation of a team ,that's a stage you have to go through and we'll learn from last night, definitely."
On if the team was tired vs. Xavier after a short turnaround...
"You really try not to address that as a coach because they're going to have a lot of tough weeks when they get out in the real world. We all have tough weeks and some weeks are tougher than others. That's the approach we take. Would we have done better had we had five days to recover? Maybe. But we can't focus on that because that would be getting into excuses and that's one thing we work hard with our players not to do."
On playing against WKU's Arnika Brown...
"We have a big challenge ahead of us of getting better as the Kentucky team. Our players are dealing with our own basketball issues so the opponent does not need to have as big an impact on us as our group trying to get better. The thing with Arnika, I would have to believe there's going to be some emotion there, that's just human beings playing against each other. I would believe that could possibly play a factor. We need to stay focused on what we need to do to beat Western Kentucky. We're not playing Arnika Brown, we're playing Western Kentucky. There are certain things that we'll have to do in that game to win. Some of that will involve guarding Arnika Brown. She's their best player, but we can't get into that kind of situation where that's impacting us in a negative way."
On Arnika Brown's legal situation...
"I'm not entirely familiar with her legal situation. I was really disappointed last season in comments Arnika made about the University of Kentucky because I was involved in recruiting her as a young player. Knowing her a little bit and knowing the opportunity she had here, I was disappointed that it was portrayed by her and her coach that somehow she did not receive the care or the type of support that she should have here at Kentucky. I know Dr. Lee T. Todd, Jr., (UK President) and I know Mitch Barnhart (UK Athletics Director) and I know Mickie DeMoss who was the coach at the time. I also know the players that were on that team (with Arnika at UK). It made me sad that she made those comments that somehow she didn't receive that support. Kentucky gave her an opportunity to go wherever she wanted to go to school. We easily could have said you can't go to a certain school. That's the only comment I have on Arnika Brown is that it made me sad to see her comments about Kentucky, a place that I think gave her opportunities a couple of times. I don't think I need to comment on her situation legally."
On if he expects the inside players to bounce back after a poor shooting performance...
"I absolutely expect a lot better from the inside players. That's one thing that we already have experience with, that's why we play a tough schedule. We bounced back nicely from a miserable performance earlier this year and went on to win a tough game against Cincinnati, who has gone on to play very well since then. We have a chance here to bounce back from another bad performance. As far as our post players went, particularly Eleia Roddy, Xavier's Ta'Shia Phillips is 6-6. She is a very tough and imposing figure and some of Roddy's shots went in and came out. She just has to climb back up on the horse and ride tomorrow night. I like a lot of our match-ups in this game and we are expecting our post players to play much better than last night because that was as poorly as we've played all year."
On if Xavier was UK's worst game so far...
"I would say so. From a shooting standpoint, I think it got very mental on our team. Like I said earlier, I think we panicked and then people stopped believing that we could make shots. It's hard when you get on the road and you're trying and shots won't go down. You have to be really mentally tough and strong enough to overcome that. Last night we weren't and that's what is great about tomorrow. We have another chance to see and we will have a lot more opportunities as the season goes on. I believe in this team. I really believe we have better shooters and better scorers than what the last two games have indicated and that's the belief I will take into practice today. We'll work on trying to get ready for Western."
On how practice will be today...
"I expect it to be very upbeat, very energetic. I told them last night before we got off the bus that these are the times where a lot of folks could have complained last night, a lot of folks could have made excuses and I was one of them. I preach to them all the time that we're going to be honest and work hard and we're going to have discipline. I told them last night that your coach is going to practice what he preaches. We're going to go to practice today and we're not going to make excuses and we're not going to complain about who missed shots and who turned the ball over. We're going to go in there and be upbeat and energetic. We have to. We have to play a good Western Kentucky team and the great thing about basketball is you have to put it behind you and go on in a positive way. That's a lot how I feel."
On if Western Kentucky is UK's toughest test so far...
"I think it's a tough game to go on the road with one day of preparation against a good team. Yeah, it's going to be tough. I don't know if they are the toughest. We've played some awfully good teams so far but I think it could be a very difficult game."