No. 13 Kentucky Travels No. 7 Louisville Sunday

Dec. 5, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 13th-ranked University of Kentucky women’s basketball team will take on seventh-ranked Louisville in the 51st “Battle of the Bluegrass” Sunday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. ET in the KFC Yum! Center. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3.com  and broadcast live on the UK Radio Network with Neil Price calling the action.

Gameday Central
Kentucky vs. Louisville
Sunday, Dec. 7 - 2:00 p.m. ET
Louisville, Ky.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | UL Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage
Radio: UK Sports Network
Online Audio
Live Stats
Live Video via ESPN3
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Tickets are available on www.ticketmaster.com.

The Wildcats (7-1) have won the last three meetings against the Cardinals, including the 2012 matchup in the KFC Yum! Center. UK defeated the Cardinals in thrilling style as point guard Janee Thompson (Chicago), who did not see action in the first half, hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 8.5 seconds to go in the game. Center Azia Bishop (Toledo, Ohio) also had a key play when she blocked a driving layup attempt by Louisville’s Bria Smith with just one second remaining to seal UK’s 48-47 victory.

Last season, UK trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and 36-27 at the break before using a 24-9 spurt in the second half and its signature pressure defense to take over the game. DeNesha Stallworth, who had just one point and two defensive rebounds in the first half, netted 15 second-half points and grabbed six rebounds, four of them offensive, to aid in the comeback. Jennifer O’Neill (Bronx, N.Y.) also hit a key jumper with two minutes to play, helping UK win 69-64 for its 16th straight game over the Cardinals in Memorial Coliseum.

“It’s a big game for us on Sunday,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “I am very impressed with U of L’s team. It’s a very, very strong basketball team with some great players that as usual, are very well coached. Their performance last night vs. Iowa was extremely impressive. It will be a tall order for the Wildcats on Sunday, but we will try and get ready here in the next couple of days and see what we can go over and do.”

UK has showcased a very balanced scoring attack through the first eight games as seven players are averaging 7.4 points per game or better, including three in double figures. O’Neill leads with 15.4 points per game, while sophomores Makayla Epps (Lebanon, Ky.) and Linnae Harper (Chicago) follow with 15.1 and 11.5 points per game, respectively. Bishop is the team’s leading rebounder and shot blocker with 7.6 boards per game and 13 total blocks.

Louisville enters the game at 8-0 as one of 26 teams still undefeated. A majority of the Cardinals’ wins have come at home this season as they are 6-0 in the KFC Yum! Center. The Cards have won those six home games by a +34 margin.

UofL’s leading scorer is 6-foot-2 freshman forward Myisha Hines Allen. She leads four players in double-digit scoring with 15.3 points a game. Fellow freshman forward Mariya Moore follows with 14.0 ppg, while dishing out a team-high 35 assists and shooting a team-high .429 (12-of-28) from the 3-point line. Returning senior starter Sara Hammond follows with 11.6 ppg and a team-high 6.6 rebounds a game, while Bria Smith, a senior guard, adds 11.4 ppg.

Kentucky leads the all-time series 32-18 but trails 13-10 when the game is played in Louisville.

UK’s last win over a top-10 team on the road was last season over No. 8 Tennessee (75-71) on Feb. 16, 2014.

Sunday will mark the fifth time in the series both teams have been ranked in the top 25 of the national polls and the third consecutive meeting both teams have ranked in the top 15. Last season, UK was No. 7 in the polls, while UofL was No. 4 in The Associated Press poll and No. 4 in the Coaches’ Poll.

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell Media Opportunity - December 5, 2014

Opening statement …
“It’s a big game for us on Sunday. I am very impressed with U of L’s team. It’s a very, very strong basketball team with some great players that as usual, are very well coached. Their performance last night vs. Iowa was extremely impressive. It will be a tall order for the Wildcats on Sunday, but we will try and get ready here in the next couple of days and see what we can go over and do.

“They’re just really big and athletic and they played so aggressive. They looked so cohesive and it was a very impressive performance to watch on tape this morning. It looked like they are really playing together. They are extremely explosive in transition, very disruptive on defense. They played a lot of man-to-man last night and gave Iowa a tremendous amount of problems. They have great numbers in turnover margin. They are really taking care of the ball and turning their opponents over, they’re a good rebounding team, so they’re very impressive.”

On what impressed him the most about U of L vs. Iowa …
“Two of their three leading scorers are post players and so that is clearly something that they like to do, and get in the paint and score in there. I think it will be a major test. I think this will be a major test for us all the way around. I think this is clearly the best team that we have played up to this point and it’s on their home court. They’re a really, really impressive team. We’ll have to guard well as a team. It won’t just be on the post players. We will have to do a fantastic job of team defense and we will have to play real hard.”

On what’s the key to beating Louisville …
“I told our staff today that for us, I just think the main thing for Sunday is we have to find some kind of way to get our mentality right because they are so aggressive, so physical and so big and playing so well that if we don’t match intensity and we don’t go over there really with a fighters mentality, it could be a tough day. They look like they’re some fighters and some scrappers and getting after it. I think intensity is going to be the main thing for us. We can’t do a whole lot in two days as far as sharpening some of the things that we need to sharpen. There are some things that we’re doing well. We are running the floor well, and we have some speed and can get up and down the court and try and stress a team by tempo and pace. We are capable of that, and we are sure going to try to see if we can get that done and play to our strengths until we can really get sharp.”

On free throw shooting …
“It’s a funny thing. Do you focus on it a bunch and make it a bigger problem or do you ignore it and not give them reps? Everybody has got an opinion on that. There weren’t a lot of things going great on Wednesday night, but there are a couple of kids, (Azia) Bishop and (Linnae) Harper, who are major players for us, where it’s just not acceptable to be shooting free throws the way they are shooting free throws. They’re talented players, they’re good shooters, so yesterday we just tried to play really up and down and then at certain times, try and shoot game-like free throws with those two kids. If we could get those two kids shooting free throws well, then I think the rest of the team is doing an okay job there.”

On Victoria Dunlap growing as a free throw shooter and transitioning that to Azia Bishop
“I’m sure there is something. We are searching for it. The problem is when you get Azia on the line to shoot volume free throws that are not game-like. We missed a bunch in the Virgin Islands, so we came back and tried to give the players some time in the practice structure that we don’t do usually. Just some time to get on the line and really groove your routine. I went with her specifically just to see if there was any problem, if there was anything that she was doing. I swear she made 25 in a row and it just looked like we were shooting a free throw video to sell to people on how to shoot free throws. Then she gets in the game, and it’s not close. I think it’s between the ears, and that’s a large part of it. I’m trying to work on that. Trying to give her opportunities in practice when she’s winded and things like that. I believe this – just going back to Victoria – she really, really worked at it. It was a priority to her, so she would get in before practice or stay after and if Azia wants to improve her free throw shooting, there is a great facility to get that done in.”

On the UK/UL rivalry and if it’s just another game or bigger than that …
“I don’t think it’s another game. When I was younger, and hopefully I’m wiser than I was when I started out, I was also a different person. I said some bad things about the rivalry to try and get it spiced up and everything. Over the years, you don’t have to do that anymore. The players understand that it’s a big game on our side. It’s a big game. I think that’s great that it’s a rivalry game and people get excited about it and I’m sure there is going to be a large crowd there, and so I think the games have been pretty tough. Both games have been successful, so I don’t see any changes that need to happen in the rivalry. I think it’s going to be an outstanding game. I just want us to go over there, have our minds right and play real, real hard against what looks like a real fine basketball team that U of L has.”

On if Louisville has taken a step back after Shoni Shimmel graduated …
“I certainly don’t think that they’ve taken a step back. This is nothing against Shoni (Shimmel), but after watching them last night, that was one of the most impressive performances that I’ve seen from them in now eight years. I was really impressed with how they played. They have a lot of different weapons. Mariya Moore is legit. She is really, really gifted and talented and so I don’t think they’ve taken any steps backwards. I think there is a chance this could be the best team that they’ve had there just because they have so many weapons.”

On Janee Thompson’s turnovers …
“She and I have a good relationship and we meet a lot. We are working together and she just makes some ill-advised passes and really has repeated the same mistakes a couple of times and we’re talking about how you have to do a better job with that. But, she’s throwing bounce passes in packed lanes diagonally, and it’s just a recipe for disaster. The funny thing about it is the moment it leaves her hand, she knows it was an ill-advised pass. She threw one Wednesday night that I don’t know who could have caught the ball. I don’t know if Willie Cauley-Stein could have caught the pass. She threw it so high and up in a crowd. We just have to keep working at it. She is so important to our team. She is shooting the ball great right now in practice and she wants to be a good point guard. We have to find some way to correct the turnovers, and that’s my job in practice. We have to find some way to make them understand how important ball security is and I haven’t done a good enough job with it, because we are turning it over at an alarming rate. It won’t serve you well, certainly in a game like Sunday. We need to find some way to take care of the basketball because they’re very disruptive.”