Jan. 12, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. – After winning its school-record 31st straight home game on Thursday, the sixth-ranked Kentucky women's basketball team will put its school-record 14-game winning streak on the line when it travels to Missouri for the first matchup between the teams in Columbia, Mo., on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 1:30 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live on ESPNU and carried on the UK IMG Sports Radio Network and WatchESPN.com.
Fans can follow the UK Hoops team on Twitter at @UKHoopCats and use #UKHoops to comment on the game.
The Wildcats (15-1) are 3-0 to start Southeastern Conference play for the second straight season after a thrilling 65-62 win over No. 20/21 Texas A&M on Thursday in Memorial Coliseum. UK rallied from a six-point half time deficit using its tenacious defense and the hot shooting of reigning SEC Player of the Year A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky,.) and redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill (Bronx, N.Y.). Mathies, a candidate for all of the major awards for the nation's best player, hit three of her four 3-pointers in the second half for 11 of her season-high 23 points. O'Neill added 15 points on 3-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc and dished out a career-high eight assists. Junior center DeNesha Stallworth (Richmond, Calif.) contributed 12 points, junior forward Samarie Walker (West Carrollton, Ohio) grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds and sophomore guard Bria Goss (Indianapolis) had seven points. After shooting a blistering 58.6 percent in the first half, UK held the Aggies to 25 points and 32.3 percent shooting in the final stanza. The Cats also scored 17 points off 21 forced turnovers.
"We are on the road this Sunday in a very tough environment," UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "Missouri is undefeated at home this year and anytime you have the capability to make 3s the way Missouri can, they are a very dangerous team. These Sunday road games are tough, especially after a tough, tough game on Thursday night. The players will have to stay tremendously focused, take in our information for the scouting report and be ready to play a tough Missouri team, so a big challenge awaits us on Sunday."
Missouri is 12-5 overall, 2-1 in SEC play and looking to rebound after an 84-39 loss at No. 9/9 Tennessee on Thursday. The Tigers are dangerous offensively as they lead the country in 3-pointers made per game, averaging 9.9. Mizzou has made at least 13 3-pointers in six games this season, including a school- and SEC-record 18 treys vs. Auburn in its SEC home opener. Sophomore guard Morgan Eye is the key catalyst in the impressive long-range shooting as she currently leads the nation in 3-pointers made per game with 4.1. She also ranks No. 11 nationally in 3-point shooting percentage, hitting .455 percent.
Like Kentucky, Missouri is undefeated at home this season with a perfect 11-0 record. The Tigers are 86-52 in eight seasons in the Mizzou Arena.
The Wildcats' "40 minutes of dread" defense has them leading the nation in turnover margin (+10.3), limiting the opponent to 36.8 percent shooting, including 28.4 percent from beyond the arc, averaging 12.1 steals and 5.4 blocks per game.
Overall, Mathies lead the team in scoring, averaging 14.6 points per game. She also has a team-high 37 assists and 33 treys. She currently ranks in the top 10 of 12 career lists at UK, including No. 4 in scoring (1,645) and tied for third in steals (278). Walker and Stallworth lead the way on the boards, averaging 8.6 and 6.2 rebounds per game, respectively.
This is the third all-time meeting between Kentucky and Missouri, the first since 2000. The series is tied at 1-1 as UK won the first matchup 102-84 in Lexington on Nov. 25, 1989 and fell to the Tigers 86-51 on Nov. 25, 2000 in the first round of the Pepperdine Classic in Malibu, Calif.
Sunday begins "We Back Pat" week in the SEC. During the week of January 13-20, SEC member institutions will support the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund during their home basketball games. During the week, various efforts will be made to increase awareness of the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund. UK's "We Back Pat" game is Jan. 20 vs. Auburn.
Media Opportunity - Jan. 11, 2013
"We are on the road this Sunday in a very tough environment. Missouri is undefeated at home this year and anytime you have the capability to make 3s the way Missouri can, they are a very dangerous team. These Sunday road games are tough, especially after a tough, tough game on Thursday night. The players will have to stay tremendously focused, take in our information for the scouting report and be ready to play a tough Missouri team, so a big challenge awaits us on Sunday."
On Missouri hitting 18 3-pointers in a game this year…
"Last Sunday at home against Auburn, 18 3s and it's really impressive to watch. Great shooters, they play great at home, no one has beaten them yet so it will be a big challenge for us and we have a very good team, very talented team but something I tell them all the time is the 3-point stripe and the free throw line are great equalizers. If you don't hustle and you foul a bunch and you get a team on the free throw line, they can make those shots and then the 3-point line is a big, big equalizer. We will have to play tough defense, we just have to go over there and be committed to playing our real aggressive man-to-man defense to see if we can slow them down and earn a victory."
On if missing some key free throws late in the Texas A&M game raises concern…
"If it were to persist it might be. You know what I've found out, there is no benefit with being concerned about it. We have been shooting great from the free throw line. I would say for this team that that was an anomaly last night, but they made enough to win and it would have been you know a little bit more comfortable ending had they made some but we haven't had a big struggles at the free throw line so I wouldn't say that it's a huge concern. We shot better from the 3-point stripe than we did from the free throw line so go figure. I don't know how that happens but that's what happened last night."
On how Jennifer O'Neill has evolved since her freshman season…
"Boy, she's really come a million miles from when she showed up here, and I really have a lot of admiration for her and a lot of respect for her because it was a real difficult transition. She was the first McDonald's All-American and she just couldn't function really with us. She couldn't understand the importance of practice and the detail in practice and she couldn't understand the importance of defense and she really fought us for a long time on that. But to her credit, I tell you what, Jennifer is a very caring person. She's always cared tremendously about the people here, she's always loved Kentucky and she finally made up her mind she was going to be the player she could be and got her body in great shape, she's really transformed herself physically and right now, she's showing a lot of mental toughness and really getting after it. She was terrific pushing the ball and we said going into the game, this was going to be a tough game, just the matchups are tough, and they are a real athletic team. (Kelsey) Bone is so powerful. But we really felt like if we could keep pushing the tempo and that starts with the post player having a sense of urgency to get the ball out of the net or to get the rebound and its absolutely on Jennifer to catch the ball on the run and push and she did that last night and she absolutely did it Sunday. Really proud of her and her progress, she's transformed herself since she stepped on campus."
On if O'Neill's redshirt year was a step in the right direction for her…
"Yeah I think so, because I think what happened, you know, when you are so consumed with playing, you put all your focus on what you need to do on the basketball court and sometimes you miss the things that really need to happen for you as a person. The poor play on the court is just a symptom of something that's happening with you as a person, I'm a big believer in that. Really, that gave her time to work on some things personally as far as what kind of player does she really wants to be. Does she want to be an all-around basketball player that could be dependable and counted on and part of that equation that Kentucky is playing on the defensive end of the floor and being in great shape and being really mentally tough where you could play in a game like last night when you feel like you are exhausted? The other team is exhausted but you just find a way to push through that, that's Kentucky basketball. So did she want to be that or did she want to go somewhere else that's different than that? Those are the things she had time to work on without the pressure of, 'I have to get on the floor and play,' so I do think it was really beneficial for her and it's worked out well."
On Samantha Drake and Brittany Henderson's role while Azia Bishop is out…
"I tell you, those two players were terrific and last night is the definition of a total team win. We needed everybody's contribution. We needed every single ounce of effort that everyone gave and Brittany Henderson really was the person I pointed to at halftime and said this is the only person that resembles a Kentucky basketball player right now with the way, just her mindset and her aggressiveness and she has practiced so consistently well. Her attitude is so great, I think that that is a powerful statement to make and that wakes up people like Samarie (Walker) and DeNesha (Stallworth) who may not be giving everything that they have and I think they respect Brittany. She is a real valuable part of our team although she's not playing tremendous minutes but they are very valuable. I thought Samantha was really good last night. She didn't have a lot of stuff that showed up on the box score but she battled (Kelsey) Bone and that was the key last night. We had to make her work and you saw she missed two or three there at the end that were really big and maybe that's because we made her work all night long. It was big contributions from those two and it seems like they are in a good spot with their attitude right now and willing to come off the bench and play hard."
On the depth of this team compared to teams in the past …
"In past years, we needed to turn you over a bunch and we needed to go shoot layups because we weren't that great offensively. We spent a lot of time doing that, and we were normally four guards and one undersized post player. So, it's a very different team. All five players are capable of double digits. I think in two of our last three games all five have been in double-figure scoring. You just go down the line of that starting five and you have to guard all five of them. There isn't anyone you can say 'Hey, this kid, we really don't have to account for.' That is what you really need if you want to be a really good team. I think that is important. In years past, I think we had players people could help off of or not pay that much attention to, so it's clearly the most balanced team offensively, we can do more with them. Also, our post players are versatile, they can move, they can handle the ball out there on the court, which makes us a lot more versatile as an offensive unit. So, you can do some more things with our offensive unit right now that are tough to guard. It's really important for our players right now to stay committed to practice and how focused they need to be in their preparation because right now I think it's a more mental than emotional game for our team. We have a lot of the pieces that we need offensively and defensively to be successful."
On A'dia needing to take the most shots on the team …
"We started that last season and just how that would get her in the right frame of mind. Sometimes she maybe didn't understand how important it was for her to be aggressive offensively. Last season, her production was strong. I haven't said it to her specifically how important she is. One night, if DeNesha (Stallworth) has 14 and (A'dia Mathies) has 13, I'm not going to make a big deal out of that. But, she can't go and have six or seven (shots). She can't do that, and she hasn't. She understands that. If I were explaining it to you, I just want her mindful that she is a very important player offensively because she can score in so many ways and so she needs to put the ball up and get some shots and that's a good mindset for her to be in."
On A'dia Mathies' play picking up for SEC games …
"I think that she used some games early where she had clear advantages talent-wise to maybe figure some things out, experiment a little bit and see what other players could do. Her scoring wasn't that far off considering she had more people to take some of that responsibility from her. But, from the tip of the Florida game, it was visible. I am excited for her and what she can do in this conference season. She was terrific last night."
On Samarie Walker's defense with Kelsey Bone last night …
"I think she took a big responsibility early to do a good job on defense. She got a little discouraged there and she and I talked at the end of the half and I said you seem a little bit down and she said 'Well, I let her score there three times in a row.' I just told her that that was the wrong mindset and she was battling in there and the guards, which they did a great job, needed to make it difficult for them to get the ball in there. You just can't guard her with one person. So, I thought she battled and then she finished some possessions. That is something that Samarie Walker just does so great, is she can go up with two hands and really get the ball up off the rim or off the backboard and finish a defensive possession with a great rebound. She was huge there last night. Her tip-in was just a huge play in the game. It was just a really aggressive, athletic move right there at the rim and she just tipped it in. It was just a huge play in the game. We just needed every little bit that everybody gave us and what a tremendous effort that the players gave last night."