Jan. 2, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The sixth-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team opens its 32nd season of Southeastern Conference basketball when it plays host to the Florida Gators on Thursday, Jan. 3 in Memorial Coliseum at 7 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live on SportSouth, FS Southwest, Sun Sports and Fox Sports South. It also will be available on ESPN3 and the UK IMG Sports Radio Network with Neil Price.
Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
Single-game reserved tickets cost of $9 for all ages. General admission tickets for adults are $8 while single-game general admission tickets for seniors and children (ages 6-18, 65 and over) are only $5. UK faculty, staff and children ages five and under are admitted free in the general admission seating area, while supplies last.
Kentucky (12-1), the reigning SEC champions, was picked to win the title again this season by the coaches and media in the preseason polls. Florida (11-3) was picked to finish eighth and ninth, respectively by the league coaches and media, and has been a tough opponent for the Wildcats over the last few years. The Cats own a five-game winning streak overall and a four-game winning streak vs. the Gators in Lexington, but UK's last four wins have been by a combined 13 points and an average win margin of +3.25. UK won last year's matchup in Lexington, 57-52. This marks the first time UK has opened league action at home since 2008. The Wildcats also met UF last season in their SEC opener, escaping with a 59-56 win in Gainesville, Fla.
"We are really looking forward to starting the conference play," UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I just think it's a real honor and privilege to be able to compete in the Southeastern Conference. We have a lot of respect for this conference being members of it and I just think over the course of time historically it's just the toughest conference in the country. We're excited to be a part of that and to start conference play. We'll have a very difficult and tough opponent in Florida. We have a great amount of respect for Florida. It's always a tough game with them. They're always well coached and well prepared and very physical. We've had some really, really tough battles with them over the last few years, particularly last year. We'll have to be ready to go, have to be sharp, focused and aggressive to have success against them and we'll have to work hard to earn a victory."
The Wildcats are currently riding a school-record tying 11-game winning streak and a 29-game home winning streak after a 78-56 win over Marist in their regular season non-conference finale on Sunday.
UK's 29-game home winning streak is the second-longest in school history and ranks tied for second nationally with Ohio State. The school record is 30 set from Feb. 12, 1980 - Jan. 31, 1982.
Leading the way for the Wildcats this season is preseason SEC Player of the Year A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.). She averages a team-best 13.3 points per game and has hit a team-high 22 treys. Against Marist, she scored 10 points to become the highest scoring guard in UK Hoops history and the fourth-leading scorer overall with 1,608 career points in 117 games. She also moved up to No. 4 on UK's all-time steals chart and needs just 35 more to tie the school record.
In the front court, junior post players DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) and Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) are giving Kentucky a dynamic inside presence this season. The duo combine to average 22.3 ppg and 13.5 rpg and both are shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
The Cats' defense, often dubbed "40 minutes of dread", continues to dominate as they have held all but one opponent (then top-ranked Baylor) to .444 percent shooting or under. The Wildcats lead the nation in turnover margin at +12.9, having forced at least 21 turnovers in all 13 games this season, while committing only 15.8 per game.
Florida enters Thursday's game on a six-game winning streak after defeating Holy Cross on Dec. 28, 81-50, in its final regular season non-conference game. The Gators finished non-conference play with an 11-3 record.
Overall, senior forward Jennifer George leads the team in scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.1 rpg). The preseason SEC first-team selection has scored in double-figures in 11 of UF's last 13 games. She is the SEC's active career leader in double-doubles with 24, her most double-double outing coming in UF's last game vs. Holy Cross (21 points / 10 rebounds). Freshman Sydney Moss, a native of Union, Ky., and former standout at Boone County High School, returns to her home state as the Gator's second-leading scorer and rebounder with 11.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Spectator parking is located in the following areas:
- All E-lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum beginning 3 hours prior to tip-off
- Parking Structure #5 (adjacent to Kennedy's Bookstore).
- Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage (new for the 2012-13 season).
- The Lexington Parking Authority Transit Center Parking Garage, located between High Street and Vine Street, is available for parking after 5 p.m. ET during the week and all day on the weekends. Additionally, a free shuttle service will pick up in the LR Cooke Lot near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King beginning 1.5 hours prior to tip.
- Handicap parking is available in the E-Lot (Employee Lot) north of the Craft Center, adjacent to the metered spaces running along the frontage of the Craft Center with a valid, state issued handicap tag. These spaces (typically 20-30 stalls) are available on a first-come, first-serve basis until full.
Please note: parking is prohibited in any R (Residential) lots. Vehicles parking 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. Also, due to new dorm construction, the Good Samaritan hospital employee parking lot is no longer available for use.
- Shuttles are available beginning 1.5 hours prior to tip off from Parking Structure # 5 located off Limestone and Upper Street and the Transit Center Parking Garage located off High Street and Vine Street.
- Parking Structure # 5 (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.
- Transit Center Parking Garage (green route) picks up/drops off near the corner of High Street and Martin Luther King.
- Shuttles will start back up 1.5 hours after tip-off (to return guests to their parking areas).
Game day Information:
- 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, Joe Craft Center North and LR Cooke lot) typically reach capacity approximately 45 minutes prior to tip-off, at which point, vehicles should proceed to Parking Structure #5 (PS#5) or the Lexington Authority Transit Center Parking Garage.
For more information on parking around Memorial Coliseum and other game-day questions visit www.ukathletics.com/wbbgameday
Media Opportunity - Jan. 2, 2013
"We are really looking forward to starting the conference play. I just think it's a real honor and privilege to be able to compete in the Southeastern Conference. We have a lot of respect for this conference being members of it and I just think over the course of time historically it's just the toughest conference in the country. We're excited to be a part of that and to start conference play. We'll have a very difficult and tough opponent in Florida. We have a great amount of respect for Florida. It's always a tough game with them. They're always well coached and well prepared and very physical. We've had some really, really tough battles with them over the last few years, particularly last year had some real tough games with them. We'll have to be ready to go, have to be sharp, focused and aggressive to have success against them and we'll have to work hard to earn a victory."
On opponents game-planning for Samarie Walker and DeNesha Stallworth …
"I talked to Brian Giorgis from Marist and he is a good friend of mine and we just talked after the game. He just said that that was a big focal point for them was to try to shut down the inside. They just felt like they had to get that done and try to do a good job with the outside shooters. I think that anytime you have really good post players that score around the basket, I do think you see some game-planning toward that. A lot of people in our conference are really good at doubling post players and rotating out of that. And so I think that's clearly something – when you have our personnel – that you have to prepare for and we try to work on that a little bit every day in practice. It's a good problem to have, to have post players that need to be double-teamed because it means you have talented players that can make plays. So it's hard to know exactly. I think all of us probably head into conference play with a little bit of apprehension of 'Are we ready to go?' We just know how tough it's going to be and Florida will have a great game plan for us. The Marist game was really good to see that. If Florida in fact does that, we should be prepared for it because Marist did a really good job of making our post players make good decisions."
Do you need more from A'dia Mathies since teams focus on the post?
"We just need A'dia to play the way she's capable of playing in-conference and I know she will. I'm really excited and I know she's excited to get conference play going. I think the non-conference for her—I've always said she's a very cerebral player and smart player and I think she was just getting a feel for what needs to be done and how the team needs to come together. And she did a really good job of helping us get to a spot where I feel real confident about people understanding their roles and what we need from them. I'm real confident A'dia understands what we need from her. We need her to be real aggressive and be a part of what we're trying to get done. The great thing about A'dia is she can impact the game in so many different ways. She doesn't have to score, but when a game was in question on Sunday, she really asserted herself at the end and looked good. In conference play, we'll need a real steady performance from her each and every game and making sure that she's involved."
On whether there are any residual effects from Mathies' injuries on Sunday …
"She's looked really good and I do think that took her out of rhythm in the game a little bit. They were two pretty tough injuries. The bump to the head took her a little bit to clear that up and then her hand just stayed numb for a while when she got hit on the funny bone. For that afternoon, it sort of took her out of it until the very end and you could see that she really asserted herself in the last 10 minutes and did a good job. But she's had no residual effects and she's practiced great and looks really good. We're looking for her to be full speed tomorrow night."
On his concerns heading into league play …
"Well, for us, I have liked what our team has done since coming back from Christmas. They have been pretty focused and their maturity level has been good as far as being focused and handling the scouting report and execution wise. My concern is can we just stay focused because I really have a lot of confidence in our talent and our players. I think now, for us, it is a real mental game of can you really fall in love with practicing every day and getting into this routine of every Tuesday and Wednesday getting ready for that Thursday opponent and every Friday and Saturday can you get ready for that Sunday opponent? Those are the kind of things I am trying to talk to the team about now is mental and emotional preparation. Just making sure they are sharp when the ball goes into the air each and every game. I love our team and our talent level and how hard they play. So for me, as coach of Kentucky, I am just concerned about doing everything I can do as a coach to help them stay mentally sharp as we go through this conference schedule."
On being the defending SEC Champion and if it makes this conference slate more challenging …
"We are not approaching it as being the defending champion because it is a different team and a different year. That is sort of my view on it. I think people have different views on how that goes. I just try to treat every year as being special and unique. So we don't talk about defending the championship. Now, we clearly want to win the SEC Championship. That is something we absolutely talk about. We do talk about what the program has become. Through the strong effort of players that have played before them, and it is some of the players on this current team, Kentucky has changed their profile over the last three seasons. So you do need to expect a great effort from each opponent, you do need to understand that people know what they are going to get when they play us so they are going to raise their level to try to match the intensity that we bring. So you need to be ready in the Southeastern Conference. There are 13 other teams that want to win the conference title as well. I just try to talk to them about the responsibility they have to try to exceed the other team's intensity level each and every time they go out."
On the team's bench scoring …
"I just think it is how each individual game goes. I don't think there is a real pattern there. Some teams that don't handle the ball as well we can play a lot of different players and affect them with our depth and athleticism. Sometimes you play a really smart, sharp team like Marist and you have to go sometimes with more of the starters because they handle things maybe a little bit better. It just depends on how the game unfolds. I am really excited about how our starting five is playing. They are doing a great job. I think the bench doesn't need to necessarily do a huge part of the scoring load. They need to make sure they come in and play great defense when we substitute is really what I am looking for."
On the point guard position …
"I think we are progressing. We are not where we are hoping we will end up. As a coaching staff we are going to do everything we can to make sure we end up in the right place. But I do see them progressing. I think Jennifer O'Neil is really working hard in practice and trying to do a better job. In the second half on Sunday, I thought she did a better job with defensive energy. That is the big thing with those two kids that are playing the point for us now. I need them in practice every day to just be really, really tough on the defensive end and that is what we are focusing on."
On the challenges Florida's Sydney Moss presents…
"Absolutely, she is their second-leading scorer and a player we have tremendous respect for. I told the players when we were going through Florida personnel, she is someone we actively recruited and offered a scholarship to and we wanted her to play here and that tells you what we think of her as a player and she chose to go to Florida and I know it's going to be a short drive for her family and friends. We can expect her to play with a really high level of energy. That is what I have seen from Sydney Moss since I've watched her, that's one thing, she is a tremendous competitor, has a great motor that's why we wanted her to come here. She is an outstanding player and clearly one of Florida's best players, so if you add in the extra motivation of playing in front of some family and friends you need to be ready for a really, really tough player taking the floor. Whether she starts or comes off the bench, she has done both, we will have to be ready for her. She definitely has our team's attention."
On what he's been most pleased and concerned about so far with this team…
"Well, I have just been really pleased with the progress we have made in becoming a really solid team that's not just talented and good here and there. I think we have shown some consistency with some really talented players. Talented players, especially big kids, sometimes for some reason seem to get by on that talent and maybe have some ups and downs. Our two starting post players have been pretty solid with their effort and their consistency effort throughout practice and games. I just think we have some talented players that play pretty hard. That's been something I've enjoyed seeing develop. Our inexperience and our youth at point guard that I think is improving but we are going to have to really play a lot better in the conference than we have played in the non-conference. But we should, Janee's (Thompson) getting more experience every game and every practice. I think Jennifer (O'Neill) is getting more comfortable, although she is really a junior, a redshirt sophomore, I think she just now is sort of believing that she can run this team. The point guard position was my biggest concern but I see that coming around too, so I'm really happy with where we are headed into conference and now we just have to go out and go about the business in getting some W's here and those are always hard to come by in conference play.
On having such a deep roster full of unselfish players…
"That's something that we talk about, if you look in the SEC stats right now, we don't have a lot of kids that are leading in a lot of areas and I really quite frankly, rarely look at those things. We tell them all the time in recruiting that our number one goal is to recruit a lot of talented players because we want Kentucky to be successful. If you are looking for yourself to be getting all-league honors or player of the week honors or player of the year honors, that will never be something that we really push or are interested in. It's great recognition when those things happen but that's not anything that's really exciting to me. What's exciting to me is winning a SEC championship. I think we have a team that's capable of that. If they just stay really committed to each other and work really hard and stay focused on what our core principals are, then all the recognition will take care of itself and we think that's what happens in life too. I don't give a lot of thought on how many players we are going to have on the postseason awards, the only one we're really focused on now is trying to win a championship."
On how nice it is to have teams not really focusing solely on her with such a balanced team…
"It's great to not have all the pressure on me and have other players they have to put focus on in their scouting reports. I think it's great to have a well-rounded team even more so this year than in the past."
On nobody on the team really at the top of the SEC statistical leaders…
"Nobody really cares that we are on top of any individual stats as long as we are on top of the team stats. I think we are doing pretty good in that category and that's all we really worry about."
On the ultimate goal of the team…
"The ultimate goal isn't to be the SEC Player of the Year and National Player of the Year, it's to win an SEC Championship and a National Championship and that's what we're pushing for."
On if the team thinks about having a target on their back being the SEC defending champions…
"I don't think so really, we just take it one game at a time and focus on each and every team because you saw last year we can lose to any team on any given night. Just taking it one game at a time has been the main focus."