Kentucky Starts Four-Game Home Stretch with Morehead State

LEXINGTON, Ky. – On the heels of an impressive road victory at highly ranked Arizona State over the weekend, the No. 13/13 University of Kentucky women’s basketball team looks to continue its winning ways when it plays host to in-state foe Morehead State on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. 

“We have a quick turnaround from our trip out to Arizona State and the players had yesterday off so really one day to prepare for a very explosive Morehead State team,” UK head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They have scored over 100 points in both of their games and they really like to push the tempo and really attack the basket. The things that are giving us trouble right now as we become a better team are some things that they do well that we are not doing great at on defense. So it will be a real challenge to go out today and try to get better and try to improve. We really need to do that and make sure we are ready for a good challenge tomorrow night against Morehead State.”  

Gameday Central
Morehead State at Kentucky
Wednesday, Nov. 18 - 7 p.m. ET
Lexington, Ky. - Memorial Coliseum
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | Morehead State Get Acrobat Reader
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Season tickets and single-game tickets for the 2015-16 season are on sale now through Ticketmaster. Season tickets (including Rupp Arena games) are available for $65 online at UKathletics.com/tickets or by calling the UK Ticket Office at (859) 257-1818 or (800) 928-2287. Single-game reserved tickets are $9 for all ages, while adult general admission single-game tickets are $8.  For those aged 6-18 or 65-and-over, general admission costs are $5 per ticket.  Children age five-and-under are admitted free in the general admission seating area, and UK students, faculty and staff are admitted free with valid identification.

The game will be live streamed on the SEC Network+ with Jeff Piecoro and Christi Thomas calling the action. SEC Network+ is available through WatchESPN. The game can also be heard live on the UK Sports Radio Network with Neil Price calling the action for the 11th consecutive season. Fans in Lexington can hear Price’s call on 630AM WLAP. 

Complete parking information is listed below and available online at www.ukathleticsgameday.com/hoops along with answers to many other game-day questions for fans. 

Kentucky (2-0) is coming off a big road win at then-No. 15 Arizona State on Sunday when the Wildcats erased a 12-point second-half deficit to claim a 68-64 overtime victory. The win was Kentucky’s 78th all-time against a ranked opponent, including the 37th under Mitchell. The comeback tied the 10th-largest comeback in the Mitchell Era. 

Junior guard Makayla Epps was the star for Kentucky, scoring 20 points – all after halftime – including eight in overtime. Epps made big play after big play, hitting two free throws to tie the game with 30 seconds to go in the fourth period before two more free throws tied the game again with seven seconds to play in regulation. In overtime, Epps hit the game-winning jumper in the paint with 38 seconds remaining before getting a defensive rebound and hitting two clutch free throws with three seconds left to clinch the victory.

Two other Wildcats scored in double figures in the game with senior guard Janee Thompson scoring 11 points with four assists in 42 minutes and freshman forward Batouly Camara going for a career-high 10 points and three rebounds. 

So far this season, Kentucky has had seven different players score in double figures, including all four newcomers. Camara had 10 against ASU, while guard Taylor Murray had 12 vs. Rice and freshman guard Maci Morris and junior college transfer Evelyn Akhator had 16 vs. Rice. 

The win at Arizona moved the Wildcats up five spots in both the USA Today/Coaches Top 25 and Associated Press Top 25 to No. 13. The ranking marks the 116th consecutive week Kentucky has been ranked inside the top 25 – the longest stretch in program history. 

UK is scheduled to face several teams also ranked in both major polls, including No. 2/2 South Carolina (twice), No. 4/5 Tennessee, No. 16/16 Louisville, No. 9/14 Duke, No. 11/10 Mississippi State and No. 12/12 Texas A&M. Kentucky is also scheduled to face Florida, Arkansas and Missouri, who are all receiving votes in one of the two polls.

Morehead State (1-1) started the year by falling to Marshall in the season opener before taking down Kentucky Christian most recently. The Eagles have had strong offensive outputs in their opening contests, averaging 111 points per game. MSU lost to the Thundering Herd on Friday, 104-101, before breaking the school scoring record with a 121-91 victory over the Knights in Saturday’s matchup with KCU.

Junior transfer Kay Kay Tate is leading the Eagles in scoring this year with 21.5 ppg, fueled by a 31-point effort against Marshall.  Junior forward Shay Steele is averaging 20.0 points per game, more than six points higher than her average last season, along with 10.0 rebounds per game.  Steele led the team in the win over KCU with a double-double of 34 points and 13 rebounds, both career marks for the junior forward.  

Three other players are averaging double-digit scoring figures in freshman guard Miranda Crockett (19.0), junior guard Aaliyah Wells (18.0) and sophomore forward Eriel McKee (16.5).  McKee also leads the team in rebounding, pulling down an average of 10.5 boards per game, and steals, with 15 total after a then-career-high seven swipes against Marshall before bettering that mark with eight against Kentucky Christian.

The Eagles are shooting at a .470 clip, but are also allowing opponents to shoot at a .457 success rate. Morehead State also holds the statistical advantage in rebounds per game (52.5-44.5), blocks (13-4) and steals (40-19), while also committing 20 fewer turnovers in its two games combined.

Kentucky holds a 27-4 lead in the series against Morehead State, including winning 10 straight games in the series dating back to 1990. Kentucky leads the all-time series in games played in Lexington, 17-1. The two teams met last year in Lexington on Nov. 19, 2014 with Kentucky taking down the Eagles 91-62. Current Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell started his head coaching career at Morehead State. Mitchell coached the eagles for two seasons before taking the head job at Kentucky.

For more information on the Kentucky women’s basketball team, follow @UKHoopCats on Twitter and Instagram, or like Kentucky Women’s Basketball on Facebook. 

Spectator parking is located in the following areas:

  • All E-lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum are off control beginning 3 hours prior to tip.  This includes the College of Education E-lots, located off Scott Street.
  • The South Limestone Garage (PS#5, adjacent to Kennedy's Bookstore) and the Rose Street Garage (PS#2) are available 2 hours prior to tip-off. 
  • Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage is available after 5 p.m. ET on weekdays and all day on weekends.
  • When parking in the Transit Center, pull a yellow token from the dispenser and keep in your vehicle.  See the event staff attendant at the entrance near Lexington Avenue/High Street to receive a free parking voucher before the game.  When exiting the garage after the game, place your yellow token in the machine, then scan the barcode on your free parking voucher to exit. 
  • Disabled parking is available in the E-Lot (Employee Lot) north of the Joe Craft Center, adjacent to the metered spaces running along the front of the Craft Center with a valid, state issued disabled hang tag.  These spaces are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis until full.

Please note: parking is prohibited in any R-lots (Residential). Vehicles parked in Residential lots without a proper permit, along yellow curbs, grass spaces, or other non-specified and unapproved areas may be subject to ticket and/or tow.

Shuttle Information:

  • Free shuttle services are available beginning 2 hours prior to tip off from the South Limestone Garage located off Limestone and Upper Street and the Transit Center Parking Garage located off High Street and Vine Street.
  • The Parking Structure #5 shuttle (blue route) picks up/drops off on Administration Drive, at the end of the pedestrian sky bridge accessed from the 3rd floor of the parking garage.  The pickup/drop off point near Memorial Coliseum is at the Euclid entrance.  
  • Transit Center Parking Garage (green route) picks up/drops off near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King.  The pickup/drop off point near Memorial Coliseum is near the Ticket Office at the Lexington Avenue entrance. 
  • Shuttles will start back up at halftime and continue until 1 hour post-game to return guests to their parking areas.

Game day Information:

  • Doors to Memorial 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 lots (i.e. Joe Craft Center North, Rose Street lot and the Alumni Center lot) reach capacity approximately 1.5 hours prior to tip-off, at which point vehicles should proceed directly to the South Limestone Garage (PS#5), Rose Street Garage (PS#2), the E-lots near the College of Education or the Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage near High Street and Lexington Avenue.

For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visit ukathleticsgameday.com/hoops.

Head Coach Matthew Mitchell 

Opening statement …
“We have a quick turnaround from our trip out to Arizona State and the players had yesterday off so really one day to prepare for a very explosive Morehead State team. They have scored over 100 points in both of their games and they really like to push the tempo and really attack the basket. The things that are giving us trouble right now as we become a better team are some things that they do well that we are not doing great at on defense. So it will be a real challenge to go out today and try to get better and try to improve. We really need to do that and make sure we are ready for a good challenge tomorrow night against Morehead State.”  

On the win vs. Arizona State …
“It was good for our team to get that result. We have a really long way to go and you should this time of year. It takes time to be a good team. On that day to find a way to win was really good for our team and at the end of the year the computer won’t know when you played it. So you will get credit for a really, really good win because I think Arizona State will have a fine season. I was very happy that we found a way. After I went back and watched, it was hard to believe that we found a way because there were so many things that we could have done better. But I am sure that Arizona State feels the same way too. It was a tough game early in the season and Makayla (Epps) had a really good fourth period and did a great job in the overtime. We were a happy bunch of Wildcats flying back from Arizona.”  

On if Makayla Epps got everything from the suspension he hoped she would …
“That remains to be seen because I want it to be a permanent change for her and she still has the rest of her junior season and senior season to grow. I think the early results look like it was beneficial. I think she looks at life a little different than she did five or six months ago, so that is good. But we are really at the beginning of a journey and trying to make sure that this is a meaningful experience for her to be here at Kentucky. We want it to be something that stays with her for long after she is gone and that was always the goal for her and for every student that comes through here and plays basketball at Kentucky. That is what we are trying to do is make this very meaningful. But I have seen some exciting changes in her as a person and I think she has every opportunity to become really successful in life and that is what my hope will be for her and all of our players.” 

On what the things are the team needs to improve on …
“We just need to get much, much more fire in our feet on the defensive end. We just need to be much more tenacious. I think that they have done a good job of figuring out where their position needs to be and closer to understanding what needs to happen on the defensive end. So I don’t know if it is just they are thinking so much about where they are supposed to be that they are not thinking about the little things like being in a stance and being tenacious. I have always wanted to make it seem like you are playing against six or seven people because the intensity is so great. We are not there yet. I don’t think that we really have a great understand of that. I have to do a good job this week or making sure they understand how hard we need to play on defense. We had some really good moments and got some key stops. But also we made some buckets down the stretch and they missed a few. It really wasn’t use stopping them. We need to get a lot better defensively. And then our attack of the offensive glass is just non-existent and that will never serve you well in the Southeastern Conference. We need to address that as a coaching staff in practice and make sure we are paying attention to people. You just have to make them go to the boards if they are not going and set a standard in practice that it won’t be acceptable if you don’t go. Those are the two big things on my mind from a team perspective. Then our three freshmen are such good kids and good people and great young women. We have to really spend some time with them now to try to accelerate their development a little bit. I think all three of them can play major roles for us but they just don’t know what is going on right now. We just need to spend some time with that group so we can get better. My goal is to hopefully tomorrow looks better than Sunday and then next Sunday looks better than the last Sunday and next Wednesday looks better than the last Wednesday. Just trying to really explain to them that we need to see some progress over the next few weeks with this basketball team.” 

On this team being coachable …
“Yeah, I think this team is very coachable. I think that is why I go back to what we need to do as coaches. I think they will give us what we want, we just need to do a really good job of telling them what we want and making sure we set a standard in practice every day to get that done and give them the resources, atmosphere and environment so they can be successful. This team has a lot of potential. What we have to understand is that we are talented but not so talented that we can just show up and it doesn’t matter how we play. It really, really matters how this team goes about their responsibilities in a game. If we can get there we have a lot of weapons. Evelyn (Akhator) is still trying to find her footing and she is not going to turn it over seven times in a game for very much longer. You just cannot imagine how much she wants to succeed and how hard she is playing. She gets in the middle of an offensive possession and just kind of blanks out because she wants so badly to get the ball in the basket. She is going to be fantastic. Makayla is a next-level singular talent that is great for a basketball team. Janee Thompson is going to be a good player as she continues to get better and she is still trying to work through her injury and I am excited about the freshmen. But really anybody that we have now can make a contribution and everyone did on Sunday. We needed every point. Kyvin (Goodin-Rogers) had two points and we needed those two points to get it into overtime. It is the making of a group that I think likes each other and cares about each other and we just need to do a good job coaching them. I am very high on what we can become but there is a lot of work that goes into that. It is not just going to happen, you have to make it happen.” 

On the coachability of the current group compared to past teams…
“There are different levels of coachability from year to year.  It’s pretty simple.  Do you believe what the coach is saying?  Do you believe the coach has your best interest at heart?  Do you assume positive intent that what you’re being told is going to benefit you as a person and as a player?  And so, do you believe in the plan and the message?  What I’ve tried to explain to this particular team is that we can’t be ‘cafeteria Wildcats.’  We can’t go through and pick out, you know, ‘I like this part of the program and I like that part of the program.  But I’m gonna stay away from that.  I don’t quite like to eat my spinach.  So I’m just gonna load up on mac and cheese and all the stuff that I like.’ So it’s embracing everything that’s going on here, and sometimes you get teams or players on teams that like some of the benefits of being here in this environment but don’t particularly like everything about it.  And I think the more you can get the team on the same page, and it’s like, ‘yes, the practices are going to be hard.  He’s going to hold me accountable to play defense.  He’s going to get after us about rebounding. All these little things that he talks about all the time.’  The more they can embrace that, and the less they go back to the locker room and chirp about that, this isn’t good, that isn’t good, that’s what leads to coachability.  And this group that we have here, through their actions every day is coachable. So Maci Morris seems to be coachable because she screwed up plenty on Sunday. I mean, a lot.  But I’m going to show her exactly what she did and I already believe that when I show her that, she’s just gonna go, ‘I got it.  And I’m gonna go out and try to do better.’  Batouly’s the same way, Taylor’s the same way.  Those things are important for the team to be coachable is for you to take it in.  Because sometimes the criticism is in a constructive way, but it’s still criticism.  And so, all of us, if we want to grow and get better, have to understand that we have to get feedback that is instructive.  And it may not always be, ‘Hey, you’re doing a great job.  You have to correct this, you have to change that.’ So this team so far, we just have had no issues with people not listening to the message and trying to go out and get better.”

On the timeline for Alyssa Rice’s return…
“I think we’re in the neighborhood of two weeks away.  I think we’re feeling that in two weeks we might be in a good spot.  She is getting out of the boot some.  She’s been in the boot all the time, so now her foot is starting to feel better.  It’s starting to come around and so we’re excited about that.  And so she’ll wear the boot.  I can’t remember when she’s wearing the boot and when she’s not, but it’s progressing.  So I asked Courtney Jones, our trainer, what she thought.  Alyssa, Courtney and I were all standing around before practice a few days ago.  And she thought two weeks is kind of what we’re shooting for.”

On if Rice is doing exercises to stay in shape…
“Yes, she didn’t just go cold turkey, no cardio.  She’s on the bike, she’s in the tank.  So it won’t be basketball shape, but she will not have lost (her basic conditioning). Ricey is a really hard worker and she’ll get it back going, I would say, quicker than probably some.”

On the opportunity that Morehead State has coming in to play at Kentucky…
“Well, I’m sure they’ll be excited.  I owe a huge debt to Morehead State.  A huge debt.  Brian Hutchinson, the Athletic Director, gave me an opportunity when no one else seemed real interested in giving me the opportunity to be a head coach.  Because I interviewed at different places and he believed in me enough to give me that opportunity.  And it was really two of the greatest years of my life, and Jenna and I are real grateful that we started our married life there in Morehead and made such great friends.  And people are still so great to us from that community.  I just went back over for their Hall of Fame induction this fall, and it was great getting back over there.  It’s a place that means a lot to me and I’m real grateful that I was a part of that institution and still remain a part of that family.  I really, really love Morehead State.  I think from a basketball standpoint, Greg (Todd) is one of the first people I met when I came to the Commonwealth as an assistant at Kentucky, and he was doing such great things at (Lexington) Catholic (High School).  I’m not surprised that they’re doing well at Morehead State, and he’s gonna do a great job there.  I think when you come in here, it’s a great opportunity.  It’s a ranked team, we’re very young and inexperienced.  And I have to believe they feel like they can come in here and win the game.  So we have to stay really focused on getting better today and playing our hearts out tomorrow night because this is a really important game.  And our team right now, where we are, we can take absolutely zero for granted.  And this is a really important game for us.”

On the positive impact playing an in-state school can have for basketball in Kentucky…
“Sure, I mean any time that you can get people in the building excited about women’s basketball in Kentucky, I think it’s great.  And I think it’s very good for the game.  So hopefully we can win the game tomorrow night and it can be a positive experience for everybody.  But we need to win the game.”

“One injury update is Kyvin (Goodin-Rogers) got an elbow to the head in the Arizona State game.  So she is out tomorrow with a concussion.  And so she is in the concussion protocol, so we’ll hope that she can get back Sunday for the Colorado game.  But I’ll keep you guys updated on that.”