UK Hoops Plays Host to Samford in Final Home Game of 2011

Dec. 20, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 8/8 Kentucky looks to get back on the winning track when it plays host to the Samford Bulldogs on Wednesday, Dec. 21 in its final home game of 2011. Tip off in Memorial Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. ET.

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Weds., Dec. 21 - 7:00 p.m. ET
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The Wildcats (10-1) are coming of their first loss of the season at No. 3 Notre Dame on Sunday, 92-83. The setback snapped Kentucky’s 10-game winning streak which tied for the third-longest winning streak in school history. UK led by one point with five minutes to play before the Fighting Irish went on a 10-0 run to put the Cats’ upset hopes out of reach. Sophomore center Samantha Drake (Bardstown, Ky.) led four Wildcats in double figures with a career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Despite fouling out with 7:25 left in the game, junior A’dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) scored 17 points to go along with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Freshman guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) and senior point guard Amber Smith (Winter Haven, Fla.) followed with 14 and 13 points, respectively. In her UK debut, sophomore transfer Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) recorded seven points and seven rebounds in just 12 minutes of play.

“We have to move forward and we have to put it behind us and learn the lessons,” UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “It was painful to watch. Notre Dame has an outstanding team, and on that day, to beat them, Kentucky needed to be in tune and we were not and that’s disappointing.”

Kentucky has dominated at home this season, defeating opponents by a +33.8 margin while forcing the opponent into 35.4 turnovers per game. UK’s current 11-game home winning streak ties for the sixth-longest streak in school history. The Cats have also won 30 consecutive games at home vs. nonconference opponents. Samford will be no easy task as the Bulldogs rank 13th in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (13.8).

“We have a tough opponent ahead of us tomorrow,” Mitchell said. “I have known the Samford coaching staff for a long time, and coached against Coach (Mike) Morris when we were in the same league when I was at Morehead State. If there’s an offense that is constructed and devised schematically to beat pressure defense it’s the Princeton offense, and they run that and they do it well. They really do a good job with backdoor cuts and backdoor passes. They’re a great 3-point shooting team so we will have to be locked in and ready to go and ready to see if we can earn a victory tomorrow against a good Samford team, a team we have a lot of respect for.”

The Wildcats’ defensive pressure, often dubbed “40 minutes of dread,” has once again been their bread and butter as they lead the nation in turnover margin (+15.7) and rank third in steals (16.2). The Cats have forced a league-high 371 turnovers for an average of 33.7 forced turnovers per game.

Leading the charge is Mathies, who already ranks in the top 10 on UK’s all-time steals list. She averages a Southeastern Conference-high 3.9 steals per game to go along with her team-best 16.8 points per game. She has netted double-figure points in all 10 games she has played this season. Goss has also been a key contributor as she averages 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. Drake is the team’s leading rebounder with 6.5 rpg.

Samford (6-4, 1-2) is located in Birmingham, Ala., and is a member of the Southern Conference. The Bulldogs enter Wednesday’s contest coming off a 64-61 overtime victory over Western Carolina. Samford was led by senior guard Paige Anderson, who scored a team-high 19 points. Senior guard Jazmine Powers led the Bulldogs on the glass with eight boards, while also adding 11 points.

Anderson has led the Bulldogs this season in scoring, averaging 12.4 points per game. On the glass, redshirt senior guard Ruth Ketcham paces Samford with 4.2 boards and 9.1 points per game.

Fans interested in tickets can visit the Joe Craft Center ticket office, go to UKathletics.com, or call the UK ticket office at 1-800-928-CATS.

Single-game reserved tickets are available at a cost of $7 for all ages. General admission tickets for adults are also $7 while single-game general admission tickets for seniors and children (18 and under, 65 and over) are only $4. Age 5 and under are admitted free.

If not able to attend the game, it can be heard live on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price calling the action. Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game. A live video stream is available on the subscription video portion of www.UKathletics.com.

Women's basketball parking is available in the following surface lots and parking structures. Because of the Thanksgiving break, more parking is available in the lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum:

  • Student Center Lot - off Euclid Ave
  • MLK South Lot - between Lexington Ave and MLK Blvd. and south (towards Euclid) of the center drive lane. Note: Note: The residential (R1) lot in the northern portion of the MLK lot will also be available during the Holiday Break for games on December 21st, January 5th, and January 8th only.
  • Handicapped Parking (first come-first served until full) is located in the Northeast corner of the MLK South Lot, must have valid state-issued hang tag.
  • Joe Craft Center North E-Lot - large lot located north of the Joe Craft Center, and accessible via Lexington Avenue or Rose St.
  • Good Samaritan surface Lot - accessible off MLK Blvd
  • Parking Structure #5 - entrances off Limestone and S. Upper
  • Doors to the Coliseum will open one (1) hour prior to tip-off.
  • UK Athletics encourages women's basketball fans to arrive early to ease traffic and parking congestion around the Coliseum.
  • Surface event lots (i.e. Student Center, Hardymon, South MLK, Joe Craft Center North and Good Samaritan Surface Lot) typically reach capacity approximately 45 minutes prior to tip-off, at which point, vehicles should proceed to Parking Structure #5 (PS#5).
  • The PS #5 shuttle will begin one hour prior to tip and end one hour post-game. The PS #5 shuttle picks up on Administration Drive, accessible via the sky bridge located on the 3rd Floor of PS#5.

Pre-Samford Media Opportunity - Dec. 20, 2011

Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening statement…
“We have a tough opponent ahead of us tomorrow. I have known the Samford coaching staff for a long time, coached against Coach (Mike) Morris, when we were in the same league when I was at Morehead State. If there’s an offense that is constructed and devised schematically to beat pressure defense it’s the Princeton offense, and they run that and they do it well. They really do a good job with backdoor cuts and backdoor passes. They’re a great 3-point shooting team so we will have to be locked in and ready to go and ready to see if we can earn a victory tomorrow against a good Samford team, a team we have a lot of respect for.”

On what he’s learned from the Notre Dame game after having gotten a chance to watch film…
“We have to move forward and we have to put it behind us and learn the lessons. It was painful to watch. Notre Dame has an outstanding team, and on that day, to beat them, Kentucky needed to be in tune and we were not and that’s disappointing. A game of that magnitude, you’re not upset about losing if it’s just getting beaten because you are not as good as that team. Notre Dame’s fantastic. I felt like we could have done a lot better job and possibly impacted the game and had a chance to win – we still had a chance to win. I guess that has to be some silver-lining there, but we just, for whatever reason – it’s one of the mysteries of coaching, you spend all week and you believe they’re ready to play and for whatever reason we were just out of sync. Maybe it was the road, there’s a litany of excuses we could go through. The important thing is, we’ve looked at it, we see areas – so many areas – where we can improve, and now it’s time to go about the business of improving them and putting Notre Dame behind us, getting our sights focused on Samford and what this team can become and not what we were on Sunday.”

On if it is encouraging the way they competed against Notre Dame…
“It’s hard to look at it from my perspective like that. I think there are a lot of people who know a lot about basketball who would say that that is a positive sign. It was just so painful for me to watch us not show up and do our best, and that’s all we’ve really focused on this season, is trying to get the players to understand the importance of giving your best effort in practice every day and each game. I’m more concerned with that, with us not showing up and doing our best. Does that reveal something that’s in the character of our team? And if so, we need to repair that and we need to improve that. But, I will say this, I am in 100 percent belief that we have a talented team, and if we can get it together, there is not a game that we should go into feeling like we don’t have a chance. The team is clearly, even on a day where we didn’t play our best, we had a chance. You can say that’s positive, it’s hard for me to say that right now.”

On if everyone didn’t play their best Sunday, or just a few select players…
“Well, I’m saying that the problem we had, is we had too many players in between. We had some people who were bad. But then we had too many people who really didn’t play their best. To me that’s a failure when you don’t give your best effort. A’dia (Mathies) had 17 (points). If you look at a stat sheet you say, ‘A’dia was productive in the game.’ I didn’t think A’dia played well, and I told her that and we’ve talked about that. That’s what I mean. For us to really function in a high-level game like that, we need everyone mentally ready to go. We didn’t have that, so that is a great teaching point and a great teaching tool. If we had had a total systems failure it would have been 25-30 points because Notre Dame had a great day and played really, really well. It was not a case of us having a complete let down, we just didn’t play with the kind of intensity, or the kind of focus I would have liked to have seen in a game of that magnitude.”

On junior guard A’dia Mathies’ ankle and if she’s playing at 100 percent right now…
“I don’t know. I bet you she’s not at 100 percent. Functionally, it’s 100 percent. What it was, was a bone bruise, so that’s painful. No structural damage, she has full range of motion and all strength tests check out. Now you have to deal with some discomfort. I don’t even know if it’s at the level of pain. I need to talk to her about that. She was able to make enough plays in the game (against Notre Dame), that I don’t think the ankle was that much of an issue.”

On if there is an update to the injury status of sophomore guard Jennifer O’Neill…
“We are getting an X-ray tomorrow, so we will know more.”

On if there is a point in the season where he would decide to redshirt O’Neill…
“There would be a point. You would get to a point in the season, where I think a meaningful contribution to an SEC season. So, that could be 12 games. If she’s back at full strength and she could be in 12 games, or 10 games depending on how the conference race is going, and then a meaningful run in the NCAA Tournament – there’s no cut off like, ‘Hey, if she’s not ready at the 14th game we’re going to redshirt her.’ What we will do is if she can have a quality experience this year – in her mind that’s the case and in my mind she can give us quality minutes. She wants to help this team win. She wants to play this year, but if it is a situation where we’re in the first week of February and she’s not going to be full speed in two more weeks, I would really talk to her about a redshirt at that point in time. That’s a decision – as long as you don’t play her – that’s a decision you make after the season. We will give a lot of thought to that, on how it impacts her teammates, our team, and also her future too. There’s a few things going on there we’ll have to work through.”