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Kentucky-Arkansas Postgame Quotes




Jan. 26, 2014

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Kentucky Head Coach Matthew Mitchell

Opening Statement …
“Well, we are happy to win a really hard fought game and I thought Arkansas really played hard and competed and we were finally able to find a group that would get in and compete in the second half. Coming from down 10 back to winning by 10 was a really great performance there in the last 17 and a half minutes. Really proud of the players to finding a way to gut out a win that we clearly needed.”

On Jennifer O’Neill’s play …
“Yeah, we just tried to put Thursday behind us. You will never be able to figure that one out and why players did what they did on Thursday night. But, my job was to come in and make sure the atmosphere was such that that was not acceptable the way that we performed. I just had a conversation with her and this morning we were dragging around like we were feeling sorry for ourselves and the weight of the world was on us. What is going to happen from here on out is that people are going to compete in practice every day and they are going to fight for Kentucky every day and if they are not they are going to be really, really unhappy. So Jennifer was in that boat and had to step up and she is a very talented player and you could see today she was the best player on the floor. That is how she has to play and she made things happen today and I am so proud of her defense. She just has to have her mind right. That is my job to make sure the atmosphere is such that you have to step up and play that way. I am really happy that she played that way but she has to back it up game after game. But really, really pleased with her today.”

On DeNesha Stallworth’s limited minutes and if it was due to injury …
“She is 100 percent healthy. She is healthy. Her knee is in great shape. The doctors have done a great job. Courtney Jones (UK athletic trainer) has done a great job. DeNesha has done a great job with her knee being physically ready to go. Her knee is fine.”

On the starting lineup change and playing zone to start the game …
“Well, partly me trying to help the team a little bit. Arkansas, just looking at the stats, they haven’t shot the ball great and have a very low field goal percentage. Historically they have done such a good job against our trapping ball screens and I thought it would maybe be able to get the game started off well and would confuse them some and I just thought that getting off to a good start was important and it got off to a good start. Really our inexperience in it showed by leaving No. 00 (Jessica Jackson) and she was 3-for-4. Other than that they only scored 32 points in it so it wasn’t like it was terrible. We just had some breakdowns and if we hadn’t had some of those I thought it was pretty effective. We didn’t have a lot to start the second half. We were going to go out and play man-to-man and try to get some stops and we couldn’t coming out and they went 5-for-5 out of the gate and it was a nightmare the first two and a half minutes. What the players did was a good job at ball-screen defense. They really pressured the ball and they kept Arkansas coming out higher and higher on the floor to set it and we were able to get over and under it instead of letting it get down to where they really wanted to operate. Ball-screen defense was probably the best we’ve probably ever had against Arkansas in the second half. Last year, we went to a zone because we couldn’t guard them in the ball screens at Fayetteville. They are a very challenging matchup for us each and every year. And Tom (Collins) is a great coach and does a great job.”

On the post players power play around the basket …
“The post players didn’t make many shots today and didn’t play very powerfully in the first half. We really were bailed out with five made 3s, it really helped us. The post players were not working. When a team packs the lane with a zone you have to work really hard the entire possession and just like our last bucket there with Azia. It was one second on the shot clock and they finally just worked it and she was able to get it at the rim and lay it up. You can’t be impatient and you can’t be really stagnant and standing around against these zones people are playing against us. We have a ways to go there and if we can get our post players playing with the kind of fire that Jelleah (Sidney) and Azia play – they didn’t play great offensive but they gave us some energy and effort and they looked like they didn’t want to lose there and really got us going in the second half. Our post players didn’t finish today very well.”

On if he is worried about this team’s focus …
“I am 100 percent focused on making our practices as competitive as possible and we have a very good team with some really good players and all I need to do is make sure the atmosphere is right in our practice every day and competition will be the focal point of each practice. That is where we are headed.”

On how his team fought in the second half and the play of the team in front of the alumni that were present …
“With the way we have been acting and feeling sorry for ourselves that was a critical juncture down 10 with no life whatsoever. So you give credit to those kids that went out there and flipped that 20-point swing and I did need to see that. That was huge and really, really big. What we have to do is get everybody feeling that way and everybody working like that. Really happy with the freshmen on the bench, playing three minutes apiece, but they were exuberant and happy after the victory, that is what we need. We need to really play together and work hard so I was very happy to see that happen. Then the alumni, what a special day for them. They just came back yesterday and today for a two-day event and had a great time. They just brought such great positive energy and talked about how grateful they were for the experience. I thought it was really good for our players to spend some time and after practice we just went in there and had a lot of time we were able to spend with different people. That was very special and I am ecstatic we were able to honor them with a victory.”

On if Arkansas having a 10-point lead was a crossroads for the season …
“Yeah, it was a very critical juncture for this team. I wish I could explain to you how in the world we all of a sudden got so fragile with our mentality, but a lot of that is me with practice construction. I have been trying to work on the finer points of the game and make it really pretty and us execute and everything. We just haven’t handled that very well. The first person and main person that is responsible for what is going on right now is me and we have to get that straightened out. You would have found some way, the season isn’t over and you have to play Thursday night against a good Georgia team. But that would have been a really, really tough one to bounce back from. I am not saying we are out of the woods yet. We have a lot of work to do. We have to find a group that wants to fight and show up every day and play and once we do that we will be fine. We have always been really good with a situation like that. Whether that is shortening the bench or people rising up and playing like we know they can play. You all have seen them, you know that are good players and can play. That was a very critical juncture and we need to build on it.”

On changing his mentality since Thursday’s game vs. Alabama …
“No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more telling them how everything is going to be all right. With this team, Crystal Riley is on my staff, and she played for us here. She just helped me out tremendously. She said, ‘Coach I’ve never seen you work harder at trying to make people feel good about themselves and build them up and stuff.’ It just has not worked. They have not responded to that. Every team is different, and all I know is they are giving us unbelievable resources to be successful here. You couldn’t have a better boss than Mitch Barnhart and all the folks that just bend over backwards to make women’s basketball great here. So I’m just telling you we’re not showing up and playing like we played Thursday night. That’s an embarrassment, and that’s nothing against Alabama. They deserved to win the game, but we’re just not going to do that. I’m in charge of that, and so my mentality is going to be we are going to play like a Kentucky team. We’ve worked hard to build this program to be known for something, and that’s what we are going to do, or if we don’t it’s not going to be comfortable around here. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to make sure this thing gets to where it needs to be. I take as much of the blame, the majority of the blame has to lie with me because I’ve let the situation get to where it is right now.”

On urging on the crowd in the second half…
“Well, we were finally playing worth cheering for. They hadn’t had a lot to cheer for here lately. So it was very important, and we have the best fans in the world and they just show up faithfully every game. I was surprised anybody showed up after Thursday night. It was incredible to watch us drag around. I’m very appreciative of that, and that was a big moment. I thought we really got Arkansas back on their heels today there in that second half. It was critical. So then when the crowd brings the thunder here in Memorial Coliseum, I think it affects the team. We need to play with that kind of energy so they can get into it.”

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#3 Janee Thompson, So., PG

On if they realized the importance being down 10 in the second half …
“I don’t think we realized that at that moment. We were just really trying to play hard for each other. We did realize that we weren’t playing to our capabilities, especially on defense where we let them get some easy buckets. We kind of felt like things could just keep going the same way that things had been going for us. We really wanted to change that around, so we really wanted to just get back out there on defense and get some stops and try and create some offense out of that.”

On Matthew Mitchell calling the team’s status as ‘fragile’ …
“I do think he was being a little light on us and trying to stay positive. His mentality is now better because it kind of lights a fire under us at times and it makes us play harder and that showed in the game today.”

On her big second half …
“I was just trying to be aggressive. Actually, seeing my teammates do well and seeing (Jennifer O’Neill) knock down all of those shots, seeing Bria (Goss) do so well got me excited. That made me play harder. Just the energy and the atmosphere on the entire bench was different and there was no room for anybody to be low-energy today.”

#00 Jennifer O’Neill, Sr., PG

On if they realized the importance being down 10 in the second half …
“It was extremely important because that’s something that we’ve been struggling with for the past few games. The biggest thing was, when we were down 10, we played with poise. We didn’t panic and we didn’t look to rush things. We played with poise and a sense of urgency.”

On Matthew Mitchell calling the team’s status as ‘fragile’ …
“I wouldn’t say that people got fragile. But like Matthew (Mitchell) said, his mentality has changed from Mr. Nice Guy to intense and that’s going to reflect on us and I feel like you guys will see that in the games from here on out.”

On her outlook before the game…
“I just spoke with Matthew before the game and I told him that ‘I need to know what you want me to do’ before games. It’s something that he did before and he stopped doing it, but I told him it was helping me, so we went back to doing it and he said he was going to continue to do it. I guess I was more focused because he told me exactly what he needed from me.”

#13 Bria Goss, Jr., G

On what the practices have been like the past couple of days …
“It kind of reminds me back in my freshman year of what we’ve done the last couple of days. It’s been what we did my freshman year, and we were very successful winning the SEC championship. It’s good to see him have that fire back.”

On the differences between the first part of the season and the past practices …
“There was just a lot more up and down competing. If you didn’t win, you had to run the line. Not so much going through things. There were times where we were going up and down, but I can so vividly remember a lot more times when we were going up and down and getting in each other’s face. With the rules changes, we can’t let that be a factor, so we have to keep practicing.”

On Matthew Mitchell calling the team’s status as ‘fragile’ …
“I’m not what I used to be as far as being energetic. You just get old. But, you can’t let that be an excuse that you use. You just go out there, get treatment, get what you have to have done to your body and take care of your body.”

Arkansas Head Coach Tom Collen

Opening statement…
“First you have to give Kentucky credit. They obviously came out of the locker room and they changed their strategy a little bit. They got out of their zone and went back to their pressure man-to-man, which has been really good to them. It sped us up and got the crowd in the game. I have played here enough times and when you get them sped up, they speed you up and the crowd starts roaring. Before you know it, it slides away from you pretty quick. I thought that was a key decision on their part. They got a much needed win and we let one slip away that maybe we could have had.”

On how surprising it was to face Kentucky’s zone defense…
“Well we had a bye week and I’ll tell you we never practiced against the zone the entire week. We had no anticipation or thought that they would do it. We watched them play a little bit of zone. We watched them do that against Alabama. I look at them and Matthew (Mitchell) talks about them getting back to their style and getting hungry and getting after people. Nowhere do I see zone fitting into that role, but that’s what they did. I thought that allowed us to stay with them. We shot the ball pretty well. Jessica Jackson did. The game didn’t go up and down. The tempo was pretty well controlled, so that really gave us a chance to stay in the game. I thought we were prepared coming out of the locker room. I warned them and told them, you are not going to see that zone for the rest of the game and we didn’t see it. For everything we practiced on, we got to some shots, but they take you out of offense and bottom line is, when they do that to you, you have to stick the shots that you get. We just didn’t do that.”

On the performance of freshman Jessica Jackson…
“I think she is one of the best freshmen in the country. I can tell you I started recruiting her when she was in the eighth grade. She was a must-get for us. I’m glad that we’ve got her. I think she continues to get better game in and game out. Until you see her actually play in person, you don’t realize how talented she is. I’m proud of her. I thought today she got tougher too. She had a couple collisions there. Got hit in the nose one time and came back in the game. She got hit in the head late and stepped up and stuck a couple free throws. The more experience she gets in this league, the stronger and tougher she gets. I think she is probably a star of the future in the SEC.”

On the change in momentum after leading by 10…
“Well I think we came out of the locker room pretty confident. We were feeling like this is our game to win and we stuck shots. Basically that was probably the key. I know that is an easy thing for a coach to say, but at the end of the day a lot of times you can look at the shooting percentage. You know it’s going to be a hard battle to be able to beat them on the boards, so you have to make the shots that you get. So when we came out, we made shots the first three or four minutes of the game. We stayed even with them probably for the first 10 and then kind of faded away after that.”


 

 

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