UK Hoops Meets Intrastate Rival Louisville Sunday in 47th 'Battle of the Bluegrass'
Dec. 3, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 8/9 Kentucky puts its undefeated record on the line when it travels to Louisville, Ky., Sunday to take on intrastate rival Louisville at 2 p.m. EST in the newly built KFC Yum! Center. The 47th “Battle of the Bluegrass” will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network with Neil Price and televised locally on the Wazoo Sports Network on Insight channel 524.
“Each game up to this point in the season has presented a unique challenge and this game certainly is unique because it’s the “Battle of the Bluegrass,” UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. “Our opponent will be very motivated to win and we are very motivated to win. I’m sure it will be a very challenging atmosphere for our team to go on the road and earn what I know will be a tough victory to get. We have a lot of work ahead of us on Sunday and we’ll continue to prepare to have our team in the best position to win.”
Fresh off wins over Murray State and Southern Miss in the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic, the Wildcats are looking for their second straight win over the Cardinals and first victory in Louisville since 1999. UK defeated the Cards last season in Lexington, 101-67, marking the largest margin of victory for the Cats since a 38-point win in 1975.
Kentucky brought home its 28th regular-season tournament title last weekend while improving to 5-0 on the season. The Cats are one of 32 teams nationally and one of just two squads in the Southeastern Conference (Arkansas is the other) currently undefeated.
The Cats’ impressive start to the season has once again been a direct result of their defensive prowess. UK has forced 24 or more turnovers in four of five games and double-digit miscues in 53 consecutive games, dating back to the 2008-09 season. The Cats lead the nation in turnover margin at +11.6 and are scoring 27.8 points off turnovers.
Three players are averaging double-digit scoring led by Louisville native and reigning SEC Freshman of the Year A’dia Mathies. She averages a team-high 16.0 points per game followed by All-American Victoria Dunlap and junior guard Keyla Snowden with 15.5 and 11.0 points per game, respectively. Dunlap is UK’s leader in rebounding (9.8), steals (3.3) and blocks per game (2.8).
Louisville (5-3) is riding a two-game winning streak after defeating IPFW (100-79) and Mississippi Valley State (96-37). The Cardinals are defeating their opponents by a +26.0 margin and are shooting almost 50.0 percent from the floor this season (.477). They also own a +7.5 advantage on the boards, led by 6-foot-2 center Keshia Hines’ 5.9 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Asia Taylor follows close behind with 5.4 rebounds per game. Offensively, junior forward Monique Reid and freshman guard Shoni Schimmel pace the Cards, averaging 15.9 and 13.0 points per game respectively.
“Louisville is statistically very tough defensively and they do an outstanding job of dictating what type of shots you take,” Mitchell said. “Their defense is structured to get you into a hurry, to not only turn you over, which they’ve done a good job of but force poor shot selection. So that takes a lot of discipline for a young team like ours.”
The Cats lead the overall series with Louisville 29-17 but trail 9-12 when the game is on the road. UK’s last win in Louisville was Jan. 20, 1999 (69-56) in Freedom Hall.
UK snapped a five-game losing streak to the Cardinals last season, winning 101-67 in Memorial Coliseum, the largest margin of defeat since a 38-point UK win in 1975.
The series between UK and U of L is the second-longest for the Cats. UK has met only Tennessee (53) more than the Cards.
For ticket information visit www.uoflsports.com.
Pregame Press Conference Quotes
Head Coach Matthew Mitchell
“Each game up to this point in the season has presented a unique challenge and this game certainly is unique because it’s the “Battle of the Bluegrass.” Our opponent will be very motivated to win and we are very motivated to win. I’m sure it will be a very challenging atmosphere for our team to go on the road and earn what I know will be a tough victory to get. We have a lot of work ahead of us on Sunday and we’ll continue to prepare to have our team in the best position to win.”
On if there are things he’s concerned about going into the Louisville game …
“There’s a lot to be concerned about. Louisville is statistically very tough defensively and they do an outstanding job of dictating what type of shots you take. Their defense is structured to get you into a hurry, to not only turn you over, which they’ve done a good job of, but force poor shot selection. So that takes a lot of discipline for a young team like ours. We have Victoria and A’dia who are outstanding players but the supporting cast is extremely inexperienced. A lot of times in a game like this, mental decision making and your mental focus are very important. The way they play defense puts a premium on making good decisions so that concerns me. I think they are a terrific rebounding team; it looked to me as I watched video to have stretches to be very powerful on the defensive boards and that’s been an issue for us. Just the atmosphere, its looks like it’s going to be a big crowd. All of those things concern me.”
On how he will prepare players for what could be a hostile environment …
“Hopefully we’ve been preparing them since individual workouts started this summer. I don’t think you can get a team prepared in two days to play a game like this. They better be ready now through all the preparation and all the drills you’ve run to build mental toughness. All that has to come into play so we’ll see where it is. I don’t really know where we are with that. I thought we had to be very tough mentally in the Notre Dame game but that was at home in a very friendly environment. Like I said, it’s a unique challenge, it’s a different challenge for this young team and we’ll see how it plays out.”
On the rivalry with Louisville …
“Ever since I moved here, whatever sport is playing, now that I’ve gotten to know all the coaches of the different sports, it’s always a big game. It’s just so much fun to be at a school like Kentucky where you can play in games like this that mean something. It’s not a conference game so it’s great. There will be different emotions in the game. Everything about it is great and we are excited to play and will have to play very well to win.”
On if last year’s game was a jumping point for their success last season …
“It was a very important game for us last season and when I think back to that game I was very impressed that what we had worked in practice and all the things we had talked to the kids about got to the floor that day and that doesn’t always happen. So that was the first evidence that possibly we were on to something last year because they executed so well in that game. That was much later in the season so this is a different situation. It’s a different situation this year as it is every year.”
On if Louisville will have a chip on their shoulder after how the game ended last year …
“I don’t know the impact of last year’s game on this because it can turn so quickly. We were beaten very badly the year before over in Louisville. I’m not sure how that had a lot to do with what we did over here. I know where you’re coming from in that line of thinking but I’m just not there. I think Louisville is a totally different team and I think we are a different team and so we’ll find out Sunday where everything shakes out.”
On Maegan Conwright and how she is doing as the point guard …
“Maegan is an impressive player. She really impressed me in the Note Dame game in how she controlled herself but she showed some youth at Southern Mississippi and didn’t handle the championship game as well. I thought that was all mental focus. It’s interesting with a freshman point guard. I guess they want to keep you on your toes as a coach. I love this about coaching, the moment you start to think you have it figured out you are humbled very quickly. Maegan has had some struggles in the last few days that concern me as it relates to going into this game but not in her future. I think she’s going to get it together, but you’re talking about the sixth game of her college career and you’re talking about a pretty loud place. Hopefully some Kentucky fans will show up but it is in their arena so I assume it will be a partisan crowd for them. So how does Maegan handle that? How does she work her way through the game mentally is what I will try to help her with over the next couple of days. She has developed well up to this point and I have a lot of confidence in her.”
On leading the nation in turnover margin…
“Do we? Well, that’s great. I’m so unaware that we’re leading the nation and that’s absolutely because a lot of freshmen are playing and I haven’t looked at a stat sheet. I’m telling you every day at 3:30 p.m. my hands are full going down to that practice court and I don’t mean that in a negative way but it’s just the facts. I had no idea we were leading in turnover margin. The one thing that has surprised me is that we haven’t turned the ball over that much. Maegan Conwright has made great decisions. I don’t think she had a turnover during the Notre Dame game; she had three assists and no turnovers. That is remarkable to me that those kids can function in that manner. Also, we don’t have a ton of live-ball turnovers. Ours have been charges or three seconds in the lane and things like that so our ball handling has been okay. The most surprising thing is that the athleticism we possess and some of the opponents we’ve played we can just speed people up and make them turn the basketball over. That would be a great thing to end the season with or if we can be in that plus-eight to 10 range by the end of the season when we start playing Southeastern Conference opponents then that’s more of my concern than right now.”